The event will first pay tribute to the group universally known as the Four Chaplains — Lt. Alexander D. Goode, a rabbi; Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Lt. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister; and Father Washington — with a presentation of colors involving bagpipers and veterans groups from throughout New Jersey. Archdiocese of Newark Auxiliary Bishop Gregory J. Studerus will then preside over a Mass celebrating the heroes’ selflessness. Finally, Boy Scout troops from as far as Ohio will receive special Four Chaplains patches after completing an educational program designed by St. Stephen’s Boy Scout Unit 305 for the anniversary.
L “The Four Chaplains did something without hesitation that a lot of us would at least pause to think about before doing,” said Father Joe Mancini, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church. “They selflessly acted out of faith in God and a need to help others. They were true heroes, and it’s important to look to them at a time when so many people are only thinking about themselves. That’s the goal of this Mass and everything else we do at the parish — we want to keep the Four Chaplains at the forefront of people’s minds even 80 years later.”
Relatives of Father Washington, Rabbi Goode, and some of the soldiers and civilians who died on the Dorchester will attend the Mass to honor their loved ones’ memory.
Mark S. Auerbach, a cousin of Rabbi Goode and longtime champion of the Four Chaplains’ legacy, will be among them. In addition, Auerbach will display a large collection of Chaplain artifacts in the church for visitors, including historic photos, commemorative stamps from 1948, and replicas of the medals the men received posthumously. He will also be on hand to answer questions from those interested in learning more about the heroes’ bravery. “I made a promise to my father when I was five years old that I would always keep the Four Chaplains’ legacy alive, and I’m still keeping my word 70 years later,” Auerbach said. “And I’m blessed to be doing that with Father Joe and everyone else at St. Stephen’s. They’re the greatest group of people you could ever meet. I’m proud to be part of this Mass, and I look forward to educating everyone about one of the greatest yet least known stories to come out of World War II.”
St. Stephen’s Church — which the Archdiocese designated as the official Sanctuary of the Four Chaplains in 2016 — has a long history of paying tribute to the World War II heroes. Beyond celebrating an annual Mass in their name, the parish dedicated its Boy Scout troop and a scholarship program to the Four Chaplains so their legacy will be passed on to future generations. Additionally, in 2013 St. Stephen’s immortalized the Chaplains’ sacrifice when it commissioned internationally renowned sculptor Timothy Schmalz to create a 12-foot, 2,000-pound bronze monument as a testament to their heroism. The statue stands outside the church building, along with a plaque detailing the Four Chaplains’ story.
“The parishioners of St. Stephen’s have a great appreciation for what Father Washington and the other chaplains did,” said Nancy Waller, coordinator of the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass. “It’s an ageless story of heroism and patriotism that everyone should learn about. It benefits your soul to know there are people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for their fellow man. And, hopefully, people will leave this Mass feeling inspired to give of themselves like all Catholics are called to do.”
To learn more about the Four Chaplains and St. Stephen’s Church, visit https://ststephenkearny.com/father-washington.