Monday, March 19, 2012

Father Jake: The Underwater Jesuit

USS LABOON is the eighth ship in the ARLEIGH BURKE class and the fifth ship in that class built by Bath Iron Works.
About the Ship’s Name, about Captain John Francis Laboon:

Fr. "Jake" Laboon, S.J.
USS LABOON honors the distinguished career of captain John Francis "Jake" Laboon, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy. Known to most simply as "Father Jake", he devoted his life to service to God, Country and the Navy. A Football star at the National Championship Lacrosse All American, Laboon Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy as a member of the class of 1944. Assigned to the submarine USS PETO (SS 265) then Lieutenant Junior Grade Laboon won the Silver Star for bravery for diving from his moving submarine to rescue a downed aviator under heavy enemy fire. At the close of World War II, Lieutenant Laboon left the Navy to become a Jesuit priest. In 1958 Father Laboon returned to the Navy he loved so much as a member of the Chaplain Corps. Over the next 21 years, he served in virtually every branch of the Navy and Marine Corps. His assignments included tours in Alaska, Hawaii, Japan and Vietnam. As Chaplain with the Marines in Vietnam, Father Laboon earned a Legion of Merit with Combat "V". In addition to his heroic service in two wars, Father Laboon became the first chaplain for the Polaris Submarine Program and later became the Senior Catholic Chaplain at the Naval Academy.
The Naval Academy has honored Father Laboon by renaming the Chaplain's Center in his honor. When he retired in 1979, Captain Laboon was the Fleet Chaplain, Atlantic Fleet. When his naval career ended, Father Laboon returned to Annapolis as the house manager for the Jesuit retreat facility, Manresa-on-Severn.
His final tour of duty was as pastor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Church in Woodstock, Maryland. When he passed away in 1988, Father Jake left behind countless service members and their families whose lives he had touched with his compassion and understanding. His courage and genuine concern for all his shipmates was then, is now, and will forever remain an extraordinary example for young sailors and marines everywhere.

Link (here)

Read more about Fr. John Laboon, S.J. (do not miss this link) (here) in the article entitled, The Underwater Parish in Time Magazine (May 4th, 1959)


Anonymous said...

Fr Laboon was an inspiration to me from my first encounter with him at a Communion Breakfast at St Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia) to my short visits with him at Manresa while I was a student at the Naval Academy! Truly an incredible man.

Anonymous said...

Father Jake kicked my butt up around my ears back when I was a High School reprobate probably headed for jail. Read me the riot act and folks let me tell you, one listened when Father Jake got that look in his eye and tone in his voice! I've known Marine Sgts Major who could learn a thing from listening to his 'technique'.

I can only imagine the number of sailors, Marines, and their families whose course he altered for the better.

He is very dearly missed by my family and I.

He knows who I am.
LtCol, USMC (Ret)

Anonymous said...

In the mid '50's, Father Laboon served as the camp chaplain at Camp St. Martin's in Stevensville, Md.
He remains to this day, the nicest "tough guy" I've ever met. Everybody in the camp looked up to him.

Anonymous said...

A tough but fair man, Fr. Laboon married my wife and I 42 years ago at NAS Saufley Field in Pensacola. He was our base chaplain and allowed my non Catholic wife's minister to assist in the ceremony. Something that was unheard of at that time. It must have stuck because we are still married today.

CTOCM, USN (Retired) Charles (Chuck) Maack said...

Father Laboon always had s smile. My family and I were "members of his flock" while stationed the Naval Station and headquarters of the Commander, Alaskan Sea Frontier, in Kodiak, Alaska in the mid-60s. In fact, we were on the airplane together while he and I were transferring out of Kodiak in 1966. Truly loved by everyone stationed on Kodiak during his tour there whether Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or other. He was "special."

Anonymous said...

My name is Stephen D. Wilson, and I was trained as an altar boy by Father Laboon while living in Kodiak, AK as a Navy dependent. When I heard of a ship with his last name, I always wondered if it was named for him. Finally looked it up today on a whim and was floored! What a gentle giant he was! Will never forget serving midnight mass, Easter 1966;we had a beautiful Pascal candle, the likes of which I've haven't seen since! Father Laboon picked me to serve for the Archbishop of Alaska when he visited Kodiak-something I'll always be proud of and honored by! Had no idea I was serving mass with a war hero! Thank you and God bless you Father!