Not all ships in the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) have chaplains aboard, so the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt’s (CVN 71) Command Religious Ministries Department takes to the skies to deliver spiritual support to the strike group’s Sailors.
The operation, dubbed “Holy Helo” gives embarked Sailors the opportunity to attend religious services provided by a chaplain, an uncommon event aboard destroyers and cruisers. The Holy Helo program extends beyond the TRCSG to any allied ship within 100 nautical miles.
“I’m the only priest embarked with the [TR] strike group,” said Chaplain Lt. Eduardo Amora. “Everyone on the TR has the opportunity to see me, but our other Sailors don’t get this chance as often.”
Amora, along with Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Michael Judge, recently traveled to the
guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton
(DDG 60) to deliver a Catholic Mass to the congregation on board.
Amora and Judge received a welcome reception by the Sailors, and both were appreciative of the opportunity.
“It’s a lot of work getting everything together for this, but it’s worth it,” said Judge. “I love getting the chance to talk to everyone on the other ships and learning about how things are there. This is my second time doing the Holy Helo and I’m really glad I got to fly off again.”
During the Easter holiday weekend, Sailors assigned to ships of the TRCSG received a visit from Amora during the first Holy Helo mission of the deployment.
Lt. Brian Strong, a native of Long Island, New York, attended Amora’s service onboard the Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99).
“I was very grateful to have Father Amora onboard,” said Strong. “Sundays away from my family are difficult but having him on board to celebrate the sacraments helps unify our Catholic community and strengthens our underway family.”
Quartermaster 3rd Class Sabrina Garcia, assigned to the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile Cruiser USS Normandy said that the Holy Helo visit was an important moment for her and her shipmates.
“It really speaks to how well we are taken care of,” said Garcia. “I think everyone is glad we got the opportunity to have a chaplain [aboard] and it meant a lot for the chaplain to come out to our ship through the Holy Helo.”
With two successful Holy Helo missions completed, TR’s religious ministries department continues to plan future ministerial visits.
“It is our desire to ensure that every ship close to us has the ability to meet with a chaplain,” said Cmdr. Kim Donahue, TR’s command chaplain. “We’re here to make sure their spiritual needs are taken care of and they have the ability to speak with someone with full confidentiality.”
Unfortunately TR’s chaplains can’t always tend to the spiritual needs of the entire strike group. Luckily, Holy Helo is not a one-way operation. Chaplains from any ship or shore command in the area of the separated ships can be flown out to meet Sailors’ needs.
Donahue said it was the responsibility of chaplains to be there for Sailors. She summed up their role by citing Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben’s, Navy chief of chaplains, favorite mantra, “…where it matters, when it matters, with what matters.
Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 99) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).