Following this press release from EWTN, is a brief account of an amazing trip I took to Vietnam in June 2013 to the places where Fr. Capodanno lived and died. I re-count here, but only very, very briefly, some of my adventures as I wrote about them in my daily blog. I’d have done Facebook Live but it wasn’t around then! However, I posted a lot of videos on youtube.com/joansrome and many, many photos each day. I hope you enjoy this!
EWTN DOCUMENTARY HONORS FR. VINCENT CAPODANNO 50 YEARS AFTER DEATH
Tonight, Wednesday, August, at 10:00 p.m. (EDST), EWTN will premiere an all-new film about Vietnam War hero and U.S. Navy Chaplain, Father Vincent R. Capodanno, M.M., Servant of God. The 90-minute film, Called and Chosen – Father Vincent R. Capodanno, explores the life of the Maryknoll missionary-turned-military-chaplain, who died at the age of 38 in Vietnam’s Quế Sơn Valley, administering the sacraments to embattled U.S. Marines and pulling the wounded to safety. Father Capodanno received the Medal of Honor posthumously on January 7, 1969, and the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints is now considering whether to recognize him as a Saint.
EWTN will broadcast encore showings of the new film on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 3:00 p.m. (EDST), and on Monday, Sept. 4, at 3:00 p.m. (EDST).
Called and Chosen was filmed in New York and California under the direction of Mr. James Kelty, who has written and directed a number of films for EWTN, including the award-winning Kateri. Mr. Kelty will be among guests interviewed in the special EWTN Live which airs at 8:00 p.m. (EDST) the night of the premiere. Other special guests will be Mr. George J. Phillips, USMC (Ret.), Chairman of the Board of the Father Capodanno Guild, who served with Father Capodanno and whose testimony is also in the film; and Mrs. Mary Preece, Vice-Postulator of Cause of Father Vincent R. Capodanno. EWTN will air encores of this program on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 1:00 a.m. (EDST), and on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 9:00 a.m. (EDST).
“Not only was Father Capodanno a hero, he was one of those people who had charisma while still being a very humble person,” Mr. Kelty said. “People just wanted to be around him — everyone who knew him told me that.” According to EWTN, Called and Chosen is most riveting in the last hour of the film, which intersperses the testimonies of Marines who served alongside Father Capodanno with realistic battle scenes that put viewers in the heart of the action. Viewers see a Military Chaplain who went into battle – even though it wasn’t required of him – armed only with the weapon of his faith.
The premiere comes as the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), prepares to observe the 50th anniversary of Father Capodanno’s death in 1967. On Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m., His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, will celebrate the annual Mass on the anniversary of his death at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Avenue, Northeast, Washington, D.C. The Mass will be concelebrated by dozens of priests from the AMS. Many of the surviving Marines who served with Father Capodanno, including Mr. Phillips, will participate, along with current senior military leaders and active-duty personnel.
GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM! FINDING FAITH IN A FARAWAY LAND
There are some journeys that, when you start to write a diary or some account, the opening words come easily.
After what I had hoped would be an uneventful flight from Rome to Frankfurt and then an overnight flight to my final destination (I experienced a 24 hour delay that I wrote about in a separate blog), I decided to introduce this trip and open this column with just the three-word title of a 1987 movie entitled “Good Morning Vietnam!”
It is Monday morning, June 10, 2013, and it is a beautiful day as I near Vietnam at the start of a journey that really is a pilgrimage, a journey to some very sacred places in this historic and magnificent Asian land. It is also a spiritual journey to places associated with Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll priest and missionary who, in his brief life as a priest was also a much loved chaplain who was affectionately called “the Grunt Padre” by “his” marines in Vietnam ……
FINDING FAITH IN A FARAWAY LAND
I have been in Vietnam for two and a half days and have had enough adventures to last a lifetime. In those brief days I have met some of the loveliest people ever, the warm, hospitable, generous – and always smiling, it seems – Vietnamese. The expression “they would give you the shirt off their back” is so true here.
Each day has seemed like two days, given the miles traveled, the people I have met, the events and Masses and so many things that fill the hours. Starting to write a travelblogue at 9 pm or later leaves little time for the length and depth I would like to offer about each place and person, so what I am unable to cover this week, I will bring you next week on these pages.
In the meantime, the best way to follow my daily adventures, to be at my side as I travel through the countryside, visit a shrine, see a UNESCO World Heritage site, attend Mass in a private home in a Vietnamese village or the DaNang cathedral, is to follow my YouTube page. The videos tell the story, in the order in which I experienced events. They are brief and to the point and, I feel, allow you to share the culture and people I am experiencing.
To recap a bit: Monday, June 10 I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, met my friend Ted, a volunteer to promote the cause of canonization of Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno, and we flew to DaNang in central Vietnam where we were met by a driver arranged by Bishop Tri (his own driver, to be honest). We drove to the Shrine of Our Lady of LaVang – a long drive not because the distance was great but because the speed limits here are very low, often not over 50 kilometers an hour. LaVang is the national shrine of Our Lady in Vietnam (more videos!).
We attended Mass, ate dinner at a small, local café-cum-souvenir store and stayed the night in the guest house, leaving at 5 am on Tuesday, June 11 for DaNang, passing through Hue, the fourth largest city in Vietnam where we stopped for breakfast at the lovely and historical Hotel Morin.
The rest of the day included checking in the hotel, lunch with Bishop Tri, visiting the cathedral, a nearby school, and other church property.
Wednesday, June 12, was a very long, very beautiful and faith-filled day. Ted and I visited a new church in a small village southwest of DaNang whose pastor said Mass in a home in another very small village near the battlefield where Fr. Capodanno died on September 4, 1967. Very often a priest can only come once a month to small villages to say Mass and today was a bonus for the visitors as the Mass was a special one to commemorate Fr. Capodanno, who is known by everyone here.
Mass was followed by an incredibly abundant lunch prepared and offered by the 68 faithful who came from neighboring villages.
The man in the middle knew Fr. Capodanno:
After Mass Ted and I were taken on motorbikes and then walked a bit to within a few hundred feet of the field where Fr. Capodano was killed on September 4, 1967. I did a video of that as well.
On our way back to DaNang, we stopped again at Xuan Dhanh parish to drop Fr. Andrew off, then proceeded to DaNang for our late afternoon meeting with the bishop and Sr. Catherine of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres to talk about the liturgy for the Mass on Friday to commemorate Fr. Capodanno. I attended a very special Mass in the cathedral where the altar boys were marking the feast of their patron saint, St. Dominic Savio.
That was followed by a visit to Sr. Catherine’s convent, then back to the hotel for a quick meal before chatting with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly get-together, but at 8:40 DaNang time.
”AND THE LORD WAS WITH US THIS DAY”
As I write these words, it is 9 am on a hot Friday morning, June 14, in DaNang and I am in the courtyard of Sacred Heart Cathedral where the gates have been opened to welcome the bus loads of pilgrims from nearby and from far villages who have come today for Mass at 10 that Bishop Joseph Tri has organized to celebrate Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno.
June 14th was the day, 55 years ago, that Vincent Capodanno was ordained to the priesthood in the Maryknoll order, a missionary order that sent him abroad during his short life as a priest. Eventually he became a chaplain and died giving the last rites to solders in Vietnam, not far from DaNang.
The courtyard is huge but I know it will soon be filled by scores of motorbikes and bicycles in addition to the buses – probably not a single car! For a while I sat on a stone bench next to a lovely sculpture of the Holy Family, listening to the hustle and bustle and horns of DaNang traffic outside the complex that comprises the cathedral, bishop’s residence, school rooms, church halls and the convent.
I videoed the Mass as well as taking a ton of photos.
With the terrific young choir who sang every song in English:
Following Mass, the cathedral offered a buffet lunch for about 400-500 people. It was astonishing hospitality and prepared by a group of women in the parish!! It was a ton of fun and I could have stayed and spoken to the people for hours, especially the wonderful, joyful, enthusiastic young people! I wanted to charter a plane and bring them to Rome!
This is not even the tip of the iceberg of what I wrote about Vietnam and all the places I visited while in this land. My final days were spent in Ho Chi Minh Ville (former Saigon). I’d love to have more time to post photos of the beautiful people of this land, of the scenery, the historic places, the flowers, the temples and churches, the food –but mainly the people.