By Tim Harfmann
An emotional Father Mark Bristol was sworn in as the Navy’s newest chaplain on Sunday, May 26. The ceremony took place at Saint Anastasia Church in Douglaston, Queens, where the priest has been assigned. “I feel moved,” said Father Bristol. “Moved spirituality, moved physically — brought to tears.”
Father Bristol is no stranger to the Navy. The Brooklyn native enlisted in 2002 at the age of 17. He was deployed throughout the Mediterranean on the U.S.S. Mount Whitney, the flagship for the sixth fleet. During his naval service, he heard God calling him to become a priest. Now, he’s returning to the sea to meet a need. “Currently, there are less than 47 priests in the military; and many of our sailors, marines, and coast guardsmen go out to sea without the ability to go to Mass or receive the sacraments,” said Father Bristol.
“Think about the military: the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Marine Corp.” said Father Daniel Mode, a friend of Father Bristol’s who presided at the commissioning. “If you put all that together, that’s about 600,000 persons who are deployed throughout the world. Of that, 20-to-25 percent are Roman Catholic.”
Father Bristol is returning to active duty on July 1. He’ll be stationed on board the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, patrolling the pacific for two years. He’ll minister to nearly 6,000 service members of all faiths. “I’ll be meeting their spiritual needs, providing care for those not of the Catholic faith, of any faith; and also advising the commanding officer on issues of moral and ethics,” said Father Bristol.
Henry and Mary Macchiaroli, parishioners at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church in Ridgewood, have known Father Bristol since he was a seminarian. They said he makes a perfect fit to be a chaplain; “He’ll do a fine job. We all love him. He’s a very charismatic priest. He works very, very hard. He cares about all types of people.”
And as he leaves the Brooklyn diocese, Father Bristol described how he feels towards the men and women who have been instrumental throughout his vocation; “A tremendous amount of gratitude because you formed me to be the priest that I am today; and no matter where I go in the world — I will always be a Brooklyn priest.”
A Brooklyn priest — serving God and country.