October and “Fall” are now here! Good news is that College football is back – and good luck figuring out what teams currently constitute your favorite “Football Conference” – or what the Conferences will be in the next year or two.
But, now is also a great time for your Council or Assembly to think about our military Veterans. One way to continue our Knight’s long standing support to our nation’s great Military men and women is by planning/ supporting a VETERANS MASS at your Church on/ around 11 November. You can achieve a great level of attendance along with increased Parish awareness of the Knight’s by taking advantage of the 6 weeks or so from now to the second week in November. Advertising the Veterans Mass for several weeks prior in your Church’s Weekly Bulletin is very effective, as well as Pulpit Announcements, Church School newsletter information and with local Veteran organizations. Other items to consider for enhancing your Church’s Veterans Mass would be inviting a local Boy Scout Troop to conduct a “Flag Folding Ceremony” either immediately prior to, or following the Mass; Printing a one page Flyer of Program for your Knight Ushers to hand out at Mass that explains the History of Veterans Day/ and also has information about the Knights; and, importantly, ensuring all know that the Veteran Mass is open to all – not just Knights or Veterans.
I hope your Church will have a VETERAN MASS – and I would look forward to hearing from any Council or Assembly about such an event (and pictures) from their local Parish.
MILITARY CHAPLAINS: Each month I try to provide information on one of our heroic Catholic Chaplains – the Catholic men who serve, and sometimes suffer, alongside the men and women to whom they so selflessly provide spiritual support. This month’s focus is US Navy Chaplain Father Thomas Conway born in 1908 in Waterbury, Connecticut.
After graduating from Niagara University and Seminary - he was ordained a Priest in the Diocese of Buffalo, New York. Once World War II started, Fr Conway enlisted in the US Navy – becoming a Lieutenant (LT), Chaplain Corps in 1942. After various assignments, Fr Conway was assigned to the USS Indianapolis (CA- 35) in August 1944.
Shortly after his arrival on board the USS Indianapolis, the ship was struck by a Japanese Kamikaze-piloted plane during the Battle of Okinawa – killing 9 crewmen. Fr Conway conducted the Funeral Service on board the ship for those 9 Sailors; and when the ship arrived stateside for repairs – he took a personal trip (at his own expense) – to visit the families of all 9 Sailors killed off the coast of Okinawa.
Back in the Pacific after the ship repairs – the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, going under in a matter of minutes. Fr Conway was one of the Indianapolis’ 900 Sailors who made it into the water. He spent the next 3+ days swimming from group to group, ministering to his fellow Sailors, as well as giving Final Blessings. After three and a half days of exhausting efforts with no food or water, Chaplain Fr Thomas Conway succumbed to perils of the sea.
POSTSCRIPT: For many years, the survivors and friends of the USS Indianapolis waged a campaign for recognition of Fr Conway’s heroic efforts in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific Ocean. Those efforts were rewarded on January 8, 2021 when LT (CH) Conway was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross (Navy’s second highest award for Valor) by Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception – his home Parish prior to the war. Some excellent information about Fr Conway is available online/ Facebook.
As always, I look forward to working with Brother Knights on various Veterans Affairs projects. One item that you will hear more about in the coming months is a planned “State Convention Breakout Session” about “Military Chaplains”. It should have information of great interest to many of our Hoosier Knights!
Indiana State Veterans Affairs Chairman
PGK/ FDD/ US Army (R)