By Karen Zautyk
This past Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of an act of self-sacrifice, heroism and, above all, faith, which resonated around the world but has special meaning for Kearny.
On Feb. 3, 1943, the U.S. Army transport ship Dorchester, sailing for Greenland, was torpedoed by a Nazi submarine in the North Atlantic.
Among those on board the Dorchester were four chaplains: a rabbi, Alexander D. Goode; two Protestant ministers, the Revs. Clark V. Poling and George L. Fox; and a Catholic priest, Father John P. Washington, who had been a curate at St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, from 1937 until 1942.
While the ship was foundering, with 902 souls on board, the chaplains directed the men to lifeboats and distributed life jackets. When the supply ran out, the four took off their own life jackets and gave them to those in need.
As the Dorchester sank beneath the icy waves, the four chaplains were last seen standing on the deck, their arms around each other, praying together.
There were only 230 survivors; 672 men died.
Every year, St. Stephen’s holds a Mass to honor the chaplains, and on Sunday, the church was filled to capacity. Presiding at the Mass and delivering the homily was the Most. Rev. Timothy Broglio, Archbishop of the U.S. Military Services, who had flown in from Hawaii.
This year, the anniversary was also marked by the dedication of a monument to the four heroes, created by sculptor Timothy Schmalz. The impressive memorial now stands on the corner of the church property on Kearny Ave.
Stop by to see it. Say a prayer. And remember the chaplains, the Dorchester victims and the enduring power of faith.