Ensign Alexander J. Roman, an officer assigned to the guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), receives ashes during March 5 Ash Wednesday services conducted by Father Dick Kuhne during the workday.
Visiting Chaplain Conducts Ash Wednesday Services aboard USS Mobile Bay
By Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Bloodgood, USS Mobile Bay
SAN DIEGO – Sailors assigned to the guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) were able to take part in traditional Ash Wednesday services during the workday March 5 in San Diego thanks to the assistance of a visiting Catholic priest.

Father Dick Kuhne, a Roman Catholic priest contracted by the Navy to preside over Catholic services at the Naval Base San Diego chapel, visited the ship so that Sailors could take part in the Ash Wednesday service and commence the observance of Lent.

“Ash Wednesday ushers us into the Lent season, in preparation of Easter for 40 days,” said Kuhne. “Everyone is encouraged to say extra prayers, alms-giving and fasting during this time.”

Ash Wednesday's name derived from the tradition of placing ashes, which are blessed during the service, on the forehead of Christians. The act echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ashes over one's head to signify repentance before God. The practice of marking foreheads with ashes is common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Episcopalians.

Lt. Stephen Brown, Mobile Bay’s command chaplain, said his faith-group does not participate in Ash Wednesday or perform Catholic sacraments, so the ship has to rely on visiting chaplains and lay leaders to perform these types of worship services.

“Having lay leaders and access to chaplains of various faith-groups ensures a Sailor’s right to practice their religion,” said Brown. “Being able to provide the Ash Wednesday service to our Sailors is a reminder to all of us of our freedoms, especially the freedom to practice religion.”

Brown said offering an Ash Wednesday service is part of an effort to ensure that crew members have access to religious services while the ship undergoes the current maintenance period at the BAE shipyard. The complexities of the shipyard prohibit convenient access to many of the religious services normally offered on board Naval Base San Diego.
Mobile Bay Sailors said they appreciate the opportunity to take part in the services.

“As far as I know, this is the only ship on the shipyard that had an Ash Wednesday service, which speaks to me about the devotion of the crew and the motivation of the religious ministry team, for which I’m grateful,” said Quartermaster 3rd Class Albert Zaloga.

Mobile Bay is currently undergoing a CNO’s Selected Restricted Availability in the BAE Shipyard San Diego after returning from a deployment in April 2013 and completion of eight months of follow-on sustainment operations. The ship is assigned to Commander, Carrier Strike Group Three as part of the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Carrier Strike Group.
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