Father Joseph T. O’Callahan
Number 5 in my series on Great Jesuits of American history. A hallmark of the Jesuit Order has always been utter fearlessness. The Order founded by that Basque soldier turned saint, Saint Ignatius Loyola, had as little use for fear as it did for doubt. The “black robes” of the Jesuits in New France were typical of the Jesuit soldiers of Christ in their almost super-human courage in disdaining the torture and death they exposed themselves to as missionaries to warlike tribes.
Firmly in this tradition of courage is Joseph Timothy O’Callahan. Born on May 14, 1905 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, he attended Boston College High School. He joined the Jesuits in 1922 and obtained his BA from Saint Andrew’s College in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1925, and his Masters in Philosophy at Weston College in 1929. Ordained in 1934, he served as a professor of Mathematics, Philosophy and Physics at Boston College until 1937. He then spent a year as a professor of Philosophy at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, before becoming head of the Mathematics department at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
On August 7, 1940, Father O’Callahan was appointed a Lieutenant JG in the United States Navy. His decision to join the Navy as a chaplain shocked some of his friends, one of them remarking, “Let someone younger help those boys. You can’t even open your umbrella!” Nothing daunted, Chaplain O’Callahan served at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida from 1940-1942. From 1942-1945 he served as chaplain at Naval Air Stations in Alameda, California and at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It was almost at the end of the war when he was assigned to sea duty and reported aboard the Franklin, an Essex Class Fleet Air-Craft Carrier on March 2, 1945. The Franklin was the fifth ship in the United States Navy to be named after Benjamin Franklin, and had seen a lot of combat during the War. It was about to see more. Continue reading