MEDITERRANEAN SEA – Sailors and Marines of the Roman Catholic faith aboard USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) were given the opportunity to give confession and participate in Mass when the crew was visited by Roman Catholic chaplain Lt. John Kelly, Mar. 11.
Kearsarge does not have a Catholic priest permanently assigned to its command religious ministries department, but Kelly has been visiting ships of Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and various other Navy vessels operating nearby since the deployment began last August, as part of the Surface Forces Ministry Center.
“There is a shortage of Roman Catholic Priests everywhere, including the Navy,” said Cmdr. Brian Stamm, Kearsarge ARG command Chaplain. “We want to try and get Catholic coverage on every ship if it is at all possible. There are three chaplains aboard Kearsarge, but there are many more denominations on this ship and every other ship. As chaplains, we learn that it isn’t always about our faith group; what matters is that the faith needs of the crew are always met, no matter what they are. Getting Chaplain Kelly here is what we have tried to do to meet the faith needs of the Roman Catholics aboard Kearsarge and the rest of the ARG.”
Kelly regularly visits every ship in the ARG, as well as other ships in theater that have had the needs of a Catholic priest, including USS Kauffman (FFG 59), USS Cape St. George (CG 71), USS Mason (DDG 87), and ships that belong to Destroyer Squadron 50.
“I was assigned from the Surface Forces Ministry Center to basically travel around the ARG and attend to the needs of the Roman Catholics aboard those ships,” said Kelly. “As of right now, there are only approximately 75 active duty Roman Catholic Chaplains, so it is impossible to have one stationed on every ship. I am attached to Amphibious Squadron Four, and temporarily assigned to USS Ponce (LPD 15), but I spend much of my time traveling, be it by MV-22 Osprey, Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), or even by the rigid-hull inflatable boat.”
Many Roman Catholic crewmembers express their gratitude to Chaplain Kelly for the time he puts into ensuring their Catholic service needs are met.
“Bringing Chaplain Kelly aboard really shows that Kearsarge cares about taking care of its Sailors, despite what their religious beliefs are,” said Senior Chief Gas Turbine System Technician David Luther, one of the many Roman Catholics aboard Kearsarge. “The chaplains here do a great job in making sure we all get the services we need, and I am very grateful to Chaplain Kelly for making the trip here as often as he does.”
For Kelly, the opportunity to provide Catholic services to the ARG is a welcomed one.
“I’m extremely happy to come aboard and provide what I can for the crews of the various ships in the ARG,” said Kelly. “It’s also always nice to see those I served with while stationed aboard Kearsarge. The crews have been very accommodating with both the space and time to be able to provide Mass services, counseling, and confessions to those aboard. That’s what I joined the Navy to do.”
The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.