By Tim Harfmann
The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend was an emotional one for Father Mark Bristol as he was sworn in as the U.S. Navy’s newest chaplain.
“I feel moved,” Father Bristol said at the ceremony on May 26 at St. Anastasia Church in Douglaston, where Father Bristol has been assigned. “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, who was ordained a priest of the Diocese in 2016.
“Think about the military: the Navy, the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps,” said Father Daniel Mode, a friend of Father Bristol’s who presided at the com- missioning. “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 will return to active duty on July 1, and will be stationed on board the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt air- craft carrier, patrolling the Pacific Ocean for two years. He will minister to almost 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,” Father Bristol said.
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’s 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,” Henry Macchiaroli said.
As he prepares to leave the Diocese, Father Bristol said he feel grateful to the people here.
“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,” he said.