CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Roman Catholicism is said to be one of the most widely practiced religions throughout the world. On a smaller scale, Catholicism in the military is overseen by many men of the cloth; but one man in particular.
The reverend Edwin F. O'Brien, Archbishop for the Military Services, visited here Nov. 10 to hold mass with the parishioners and to christen the St. Francis Xavier Chapel here.
According to O'Brien, the renovations were substantial enough to ask for it to be blessed again.
"It was just like any mass," said O'Brien. "But we took time to bless the walls of the chapel and its people."
O'Brien currently holds a position where he is the overseer of Catholicism in the military throughout the continental United States and all military installations overseas. According to him, his position is one where a lot of hard work and effort was done to get there.
O'Brien grew up in the Bronx where he realized he wanted to be part of the church at an early age.
"I knew ever since I was young that I wanted to be part of the priesthood," said O'Brien. "Everything where I'm from revolved around the church, so I was around it for a long time before I made my decision in 1965 to become a part of it."
O'Brien requested assignment with a combat Army unit and was transferred from the Archdiocese of New York to become an Army Chaplain. He then went to Vietnam as a captain in 1971.
"I went to Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 1st Cavalry Brigade," said O'Brien. "It was a sad time because I was marrying lieutenants in June and burying them the following April."
After returning from Vietnam, O'Brien held a number of roles throughout the Catholic community.
In late 1972, he became the post chaplain at Fort Gordon, Ga.; the Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese of New York in '76 and held that position until '81 when he became the director of communications. Elevated to Monsignor in '86, he performed various duties in both New York and Rome until he was named archbishop for the Military Services Aug. 12, 1997, upon the acceptance of the resignation of Archbishop Joseph Dimino by His Holiness Pope John Paul II and has been doing it ever since.
The Archbishop is currently on his way to the Balkans and the Middle East to spend some time with United States troops over this holiday season.