These words were included in the Medal of Honor citation offered posthumously in January, 1969 to Vincent Robert Capodanno in recognition of the selfless sacrifice which ended his life in Vietnam during the war there. Thirty some years later, in 2002, the cause of canonization for this Staten Island native was officially opened.
Lieutenant Capodanno, a Maryknoll priest, was a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, the third chaplain in the history of our nation to receive the Medal of Honor.
At the time of his heroic death, Father Capodanno was assigned to the Military Ordinariate now known as the Archdiocese for the Military, USA. Except for those families with members in the Armed Services, few Catholics in the United States are aware of this ecclesiastic entity. As its website states (www.milarch.org), the archdiocese was created by Pope John Paul II in 1985 to provide the Church’s full range of pastoral and spiritual services to U.S. military personnel. A Roman Catholic priest cannot serve as a priest in the U.S. military without the express endorsement of this archdiocese. In 2008 there were 285 Catholic priests serving in this capacity, on “loan” from their dioceses of incardination or their religious Orders for the duration of their tours of duty.
Unlike conventional dioceses, the Archdiocese for the Military has no parishes or churches. The chapels in which its services take place are property of the United States government. It receives no funding from the government and derives all of its financial support from the generosity of its chaplains, its donors, and men and women in uniform.
There is some irony in the fact that this archdiocese is not better known. It has 220 installations in 29 countries, serves 153 V.A. medical centers, and has representatives active in 134 countries (as of 2008). What’s more, it ministers regularly to one and a half million men, women and children connected in some way with the Armed Forces. When one considers the active, global dispersion of American service personnel today, a great number of whom are Catholic, one recognizes the sacrifice and commitment the men and women who staff the Archdiocese for the Military make both for their faith and their country.
It is a reasonable deduction that, like Lieutenant Capodanno, those men and women who enlist for this important ministry are individuals bestowed with an above average quotient of ‘gallantry and intrepidity’? How fortunate we are that they participate in the advance of the Kingdom.