May 28

Thursday, May 28th

Good morning, Good morning,

In the year of our Lord 1981 this foolish priest was the only candidate of the diocese to stand before the bishop for ordination.  Bishop Thomas J. Welsh was one of my heroes in priesthood.  He had wit, wisdom, charm, and courage in a generation where the Washington Post writer, Margery Heyer, would roast him because of his traditional, ante-diluvian, ante-bellum attitude on Faith and Morals.

Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, on the Severn River, across from the Naval Academy

I remember saying to Bishop Welsh I was going to be first in my class.  And, with glimmer in his eye, he said, “No, you’ll be last in the worst class we have.”  He was great.

As I was the only candidate the question of my preordination retreat became an issue.  Someone recommended me to the Jesuit retreat house, “Manresa,” in Severn, Maryland, across from the Naval Academy.  The director for my retreat was a wonderful Jesuit named Fr. Frank McGauley.  McGauley had just returned to the States from a thirty one year duty in India.  He was one of the old pillars of the Society.  Those were the days when you said good-bye to your parents at the dock in Baltimore, with no expectation returning from the missions.  That all changed with Vatican II.

During the retreat time the Jesuits had a regional meeting of the Society’s best.  But what did I know, I wasn’t even a rookie at that point.  Fr. McGauley invited me to sit in for a few conferences with the confrers.  He pointed out Fr. Avery Dulles SJ, author of “Models of the Church.”  I read his book.  And he pointed out another named Jake Laboon, completely unknown to me at the time.  That would change.

Laboon was a legend in the Navy community across the river where he had served as chaplain to the Academy students.  They should have made a movie about him.  And maybe they will one day.

He was bigger than life.  “Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 11 April 1921, John Laboon attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology for one year after high school. In 1939, he entered the United States Naval Academy, where he excelled in both athletics and academics. In 1942, he was a member of the All-East Football Team, and in 1943, “jumped ship” to college lacrosse, where he was selected for the Intercollegiate National Championship Navy Lacrosse Team, defenseman on the All-American Lacrosse Squad, and participated in the North-South All-Star game. He also served as president of the Newman Club, a Catholic campus ministry group.”In his service as officer in the submarine fleet he earned a silver star.

After accelerated graduation in 1943, he trained as a submarine officer at New London, Connecticut, and upon completion, was assigned to USS Peto (SS-265). During his tour, Laboon served as Communications Officer, Gunnery and Torpedo Officer, and Executive Officer.

“Lieutenant Junior Grade Laboon was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions on Peto’s tenth war patrol. Following pick-up of a downed American pilot near Honshū, the crew searched for his wingman. The second aviator was soon spotted, but the water was shallow and mined, preventing Peto from maneuvering closer. To make matters worse, they were under intense enemy fire from a Japanese shore battery. The submarine’s commanding officer called for a volunteer, and without hesitation, LTJG Laboon dove off the submarine. Swimming through the mined waters, he rescued the pilot.”  They should have made a movie about him.

Following World War II he entered the Jesuits and was ordained around the time I was born.  He entered the Navy chaplain program and spent the next twenty-two years running through the ranks of the Navy.  He even served in Vietnam and was “awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” for his fearless actions as battlefield Chaplain with the 3rd Marine Division in April 1969.”  That was soon after the great Tet Offensive.  They should have made a movie on the “Chap” who would become an admiral and chief of chaplains.

USS Laboon, DDG-58

They did better than that… they named a ship after him.  An Arleigh Burke Class destroyer, DDG-58, USS Laboon.   This done, much to the chagrin of some of the confrers who were not happy the formidable war machine was named after a Jesuit.

Through my early years of priesthood I would stop in to the Jesuit retreat house on the Severn when passing through, to get my wings dusted.  When Fr. Laboon found out I had been named vocation director for the diocese he pulled a book off his shelf and gave it to me for my new duties.  It was written by the famed English theologian and author, Fr. Ronald Knox,  The book was on  the Priesthood.

I leave you a clip on Knox, a very good presentation by noted Catholic Historian, Fr. Charles Connor.  I highly recommend it.  Connor and I are old friends from our EWTN days and I would highly recommend anything he ever wrote, or spoke upon.

The Chap was very kind to the foolish vocation director and most encouraging.  I was truly blessed to have known him.  They should have made a movie on him.

And now, allow me the rest of the story on the DDG’s.  The Arleigh Burke was once called a, “Smart Ship.”  It was truly a twenty first century project.  It was fast, agile, and required a small crew because of its automation.  The slanted mast was to offset any radar identification features for the ship.  A very dear friend of mine, Captain James E. Baskerville was one of the designers and project managers of the DDG-51.  It was built in Bath, Maine.  He invited me to the dedication of the ship, in Norfolk, Virginia, and I actually saw Admiral Arleigh Burke and his wife sitting on the deck.

Capt. James E. and Teri Baskerville USN (ret)

Jim and his lovely wife, Teri, with three daughters set a great impression on my priesthood.   They were high school sweethearts at Joliet High School back in Illinois.  He was the baseball pitcher, sought after by the New York Yankees and she was the cheerleader. They were Catholic, patriotic, Catholic, family oriented, Catholic, youth directors for the parish, and did I mention… Catholic.  I was godfather for the third child, confirmation sponsor for all three, and married all three.  Living a thousand miles from my eight siblings I very much enjoyed watching the Baskerville kids grow up.  Fr. Jake Laboon gave James instructions on becoming a Catholic when he was a midshipman at the Naval Academy.

Years later, the good captain was placed in charge of the David Taylor Model Basin across the River from McLean in Bethesda, Maryland.  The DTMB is the Naval test facility for ship designs.  There are two large tanks of water in the facility.  One about a mile long that tests speed capabilities for the models of the newly designed ship hulls.  The second Model,  circular in shape that allows the engineers to test wind velocities and weather patterns such as tsunami’s on the ships.

On one occasion, a long time ago,  I called up to check on the new director of the Model Basin.  The secretary answered the phone and I immediately jumped into my Southern drawl and informed her my name was, Rev. Cecil B. Turner and I was from the First Federated Baptist Church in Arlington.  And I informed her that my good friend, Fr. Jim Gould, who was Catholic Priest told me I could call the captain to see if I could use his water tank to baptize a bus load of Mexicans who just arrived from South of the Border.  She said, “Oh my!”  And I knew the hook was in.

I told her it was now getting to be late November and we couldn’t just take the busload of Mexicans down to the Potomac and baptize them.  I reiterated, that Fr. Gould was my friend and he was a Catholic priest.  And he said the captain could help.   Again, I am left with, “Oh my!”

The good lady went into the board meeting with Captain Baskerville, Senator Barbara Mikulski, various Naval leaders and members of the corporate world and announced the call waiting for Rev. Cecil B. Turner and his busload of Mexicans recommended by the Catholic priest.   They howled and the good captain informed her that was the caller was really… Fr. Gould.  Such a day.

Years later when James was retiring from the Navy the retirement service took place at the David Taylor Center.  I was asked to give the invocation.  A few of the folks just wanted to meet … Rev. Cecil B. Turner.  In the invocation I mentioned I was from the organization that floated the first ship… and it was not a “Smart Ship.”  I then gave the measurements of the Ark.  The prayer followed.  Let us pray for one another.

Chancery Response to Pastors, May 27th

Dear Brother Priests,

Governor Northam announced yesterday that the Northern Virginia jurisdictions that remained in Phase 0 will enter Phase 1 on Friday, May 29, which means that all parishes and campus ministries in the diocese are permitted, not mandated, to offer the public celebration of the Mass according to the directives and guidelines attached (previously provided).  One point of clarification regarding the use of a facemask/face covering is a reminder that the faithful are expected to wear them.  According to Bishop Burbidge, it is also expected that priests, deacons and seminarians use face coverings during the distribution of Holy Communion out of an abundance of caution and consideration for our parishioners.

Since the practical practices of applying the Bishop’s directives will slightly vary from parish to parish, I encourage you to share with each other how you are approaching these public celebrations.

Since Bishop Burbidge continues to dispense the faithful from their Sunday obligation, please continue to live stream the public celebration of the Mass if possible.

Be assured of my continued prayer for you and your priestly ministry.

Fraternally in Christ,

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