KEARNY — When the Parish Community of St. Stephen’s gets together Feb. 2 at noon for the annual Father Washington Mass, also known as the Mass of the Four Chaplains, a special celebrant will on hand for the liturgy.
The entire community is invite to meet the Rev. Matthew Pawlikowski, a graduate of Jesuit high school St. Peter’s Prep, and an Army chaplain, who will celebrate the Mass that marks the 77th anniversary of the sinking of the U.S.S. Dorchester, in which four chaplains died, including the Rev. John Washington, who at the time was a parochial vicar (assistant pastor) at Kearny’s Cathedral, St. Stephen’s.
Father Matt is the youngest of seven children — five boys and two girls. He was raised in Jersey.
He graduated from West Point in 1986 and was commissioned an Infantry officer. He served at Ft. Benning, Georgia; Uijongbu, Korea; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina (home of the 82nd Airborne Division).
He transferred to the Reserves upon entering Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. As a co-sponsored chaplain candidate, he worked with Seton Hall’s ROTC program. He also did summer military training in Bamberg, Germany; Fort Monmouth; the US. .Disciplinary Barracks (i.e. federal military prison) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and as a deacon at Most Holy Trinity Parish at West Point, New York.
Ordained a priest in 1997, he was assigned for three years to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Bloomfield, a vibrant and active parish of 4,000+ registered families. There he was chaplain to the parish grade school of 400+ kids, the high school youth group, the “September Club” for senior citizens and the Filipino Prayer Group.
He also served as chaplain to the Bloomfield Police Department and liaison to the town’s Ecumenical Pastors Association. He created and taught a year-long course called “Catholic Basic Training,” giving an overview of the entire Catholic faith, covering Biblical history, church history, the documents of Vatican II, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its entirety.
He re-entered active duty as an Army chaplain and immediately returned to Fort Bragg. While serving in Sinai, Egypt, as part of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force, he led over 50 pilgrimages to Mount Sinai, Cairo and Israel.
He was an ethics instructor and regimental chaplain at the Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; a Catholic pastor at West Point, New York; assisted with Operation Unified Response after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; and he participated in a NATO training mission in Kabul, Afghanistan.
While assigned to Kaiserslautern, Germany, he led congregations to the International Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes (twice), a pilgrimage to Poland (once) and hiked a personal pilgrimage on the final 70 mile portion of the Camino de Santiago de Campostella in Spain.
At Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he was the command chaplain and senior priest for the post; he led soldiers in 60 mile pilgrimages to Pilsen, Kansas – the hometown of chaplain (Capt.) the Rev. Emil Joseph Kapaun, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War and currently being considered for canonization.
Since June 2015, he has been assigned to West Point as the senior chaplain, the first Catholic to ever hold the position. He also serves there as chaplain to the Army Football Team.
Father Matt has been awarded the Bronze Star, is a senior parachutist and ranger qualified.
The Rev. Joseph Mancini, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church, and the reason why St. Stephen’s is America’s Sanctuary to the Four Chaplains, is very excited to have Father Matthew presiding at this year’s celebration of the Father Washington Mass.
“Our parish is very happy to welcome Father Matthew Pawlikowski as the celebrant and homilist of the annual Mass in honor of Father Washington and the Chaplains,” Father Joe said. “He is a faithful servant of God and country. The men and women who have been called to protect the freedoms that we enjoy in this country are blessed to have Father Matt as a spiritual father.
“It’s important to our parish that we never forget the bravery and sacrifice of Father Washington and the Chaplains. This annual Mass is one way we carry out that challenge. Having priests and bishops from outside our community come to celebrate, preach and give witness to the Chaplains’ heroism is another way. All of us, no matter our age, our beliefs or our situation in life, can still learn much from the Four Chaplains.”
The Observer’s Kevin Canessa may be reached at email@example.com or @kevincanessa on Facebook and Twitter.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.