WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With the permission of the Vatican, the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services has begun an inquiry that could lead to the canonization of Maryknoll Father Vincent R. Capodanno, a U.S. Navy chaplain who died in 1967 while serving with the Marines in Vietnam.
Msgr. Roland A. Newland, chancellor of the archdiocese, made the formal declaration of the opening of Father Capodanno's cause May 21 during the 12th annual Memorial Day Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.With the declaration, the New York-born priest also receives the title "servant of God." A tribunal set up by the Archdiocese for the Military Services will gather information about Father Capodanno's life and virtues for eventual presentation to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes.
Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, head of the military archdiocese, was the main celebrant for the Mass, attended by more than 1,500 people.In his homily at the Mass, Father Louis V. Iasiello, a rear admiral who is chief of Navy chaplains, said Father Capodanno "is more than a person of extraordinary military accomplishment. ... He is also a Christian who lived an exemplary life of extraordinary virtue, a person who, through the testament of his life, offers all believers a model of faith to inspire them to live, more deeply, their own Christian vocation.
"Father Iasiello said it was fitting that the chaplain's canonization cause be opened around Memorial Day, when Americans "take time and honor their dead with flowers, flags, memorial speeches and, of course, with prayer.""It is no mere coincidence that today, at yet another time of national emergency, and at a time set aside to honor America's heroes, that at this particular time, the church would single out one of these heroes and celebrate their unique
contributions to both their country and to us, the people of faith," he added.
Although many veterans left Southeast Asia "with physical, psychological and spiritual wounds," Father Iasiello said, others left "with some positive memories, especially the loving memory of having known a very special chaplain and priest, one who day and night, both in and out of combat, reflected the love and mercy of God in their midst."
Born Feb. 13, 1929, on Staten Island in New York, Vincent Robert Capodanno studied at Maryknoll seminaries and was ordained to the priesthood June 7, 1957. He served for the first eight years of his priesthood as a Maryknoll missionary in Taiwan and Hong Kong.Commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Dec. 28, 1965, Father Capodanno asked to serve with the Marines in Vietnam and joined the 1st Marine Division in 1966 as battalion chaplain.According to a biography on the Web site of the military archdiocese, "Marines affectionately called Chaplain Capodanno the 'grunt padre' for his ability to relate well with soldiers and his willingness to risk his life to minister to the men." "Grunt" is slang for a member of the U.S. infantry.He extended his one-year tour of duty in Vietnam by six months to continue serving with his men.
Fatally wounded by enemy sniper fire Sept. 4, 1967, he was posthumously awarded the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty."Memorials to Father Capodanno include chapels, a boulevard, military buildings, a scholarship fund and the USS Capodanno, commissioned in 1973 for anti-submarine warfare and decommissioned 20 years later.