Celebrate Clergy Appreciation Day

Published 12:01 am Sunday, February 15, 2009

On Feb. 3, 1943, the USS Dorchester was pushing through the treacherous waters of the North Atlantic. With 905 American servicemen aboard, the Dorchester left its convoy a few hours short of its destination. A German submarine, stalking the ship undetected, took this opportunity to fire a torpedo straight toward the ship’s stern. The torpedo struck amid ships and exploded in the boiler room. Many on board died instantly, and some were trapped below deck. Others jolted from their bunks, half asleep, clambered to reach the decks of the stricken vessel. The ship, taking on water rapidly, began listing to starboard. Because security reasons prevented use of distress flares, escort vessels, still close enough to assist, pushed on into the darkness, unaware that the Dorchester was sinking. Overcrowded lifeboats capsized; rafts drifted away before anyone could reach them.

On deck, amid confusion and terror, Army Chaplains George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington moved about calming frightened men, directing bewildered soldiers to lifeboats and distributing life jackets with calm precision. Soon, the supply of jackets was exhausted, yet four young soldiers, afraid and without life vests, stood waiting. Quickly the chaplains stripped off their own life jackets and forced them upon the young soldiers.

The four men of God (one Catholic, one Jewish and two Protestant) had given away their only means of saving themselves in order to save others. Men rowing away from the sinking ship in lifeboats saw the chaplains clinging to each other on the slanting deck, arms linked together and heads bowed as they prayed to the one God whom each of them loved and served. The Dorchester sank beneath the icy waters of the North Atlantic, carrying with it the four chaplains and 675 servicemen.

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It is this moment which Civitans annually pause to remember, and in so doing, pause to say thank you to the clergy of their communities.

On Thursday, the Civitan Club of Natchez will be celebrating Clergy Appreciation Day at the Eola Hotel at 11:45 a.m.

Therefore, we will be honoring the clergy of our area and hope that you will attend. Please contact me at 601-807-5533, Ms. Billy Bunch at 601-446-8835 or Carolyn Couch at 601-442-2125.

Glenda Wilson is a member of Civitan.