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‘For Whom the Bell Toll!’

.. act of supreme WWII bravery will be remembered at St. Mary’s Sunday

A bell will ring, and a candle will be snuffed out four times. This will happen during the 10:30 Mass at Bluffton St. Mary’s this Sunday, Feb. 4. All are invited. Sponsored by the Bluffton American Legion, this will be part of a Memorial Service to commemorate a tremendously spiritual act of WWII heroism regarding the famous “Four Chaplains.”

It was the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1943, in the North Atlantic. There were 904 men aboard the USS Dorchester (an American troop transport ship). The ship was coming out of St. John’s Newfoundland. In silence, an enemy submarine slid in behind the Dorchester. It fired.

A torpedo exploded into the engine room. The sea rushed in. The men ran to their stations, but it was too late. It shortly became apparent that the massive ship was going down in frigid arctic waters. Certain death.

Amidst the panic and terror, reports indicated some of the men remained steadfast, purposely moving through the ship trying to calm the others. They helped some put on life jackets, and moved them toward the limited number of lifeboats.

Some of those men wearing life jackets were four chaplains: a Methodist minister, a Reformed Dutch minister, a Rabbi, and a Catholic priest. The chaplains moved about the men, praying for them, consoling them, trying to instill in them a sense of God’s peace amidst the extreme turmoil.

At one point, a young man, eyes wide with panic, approached one of the chaplains and cried out, “Padre, I’ve lost my life jacket. And I can’t swim!” This chaplain, never hesitating, tore off his life jacket and gave it to the frightened young man. The other chaplains, in turn, took off their life jackets and gave them away as well. When the lifeboats were all away, and the ship was majorly listing and about to go down, these chaplains linked arms and prayed out loud forcefully, amidst the gathering.

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