The video above depicts Father Michael Quealy saying Mass in Vietnam. The video has no sound, but without words we can see the fervor with which the priest is saying Mass. That was all Father Quealy. Whatever he did in this world he did 100%.
Born in New York City on September 11, 1929, he dreamed as a boy of being a missionary in Asia. He would go to Asia, as a priest, but as a Chaplain in the Army. A graduate of Seaton Hall University and Maryknoll Seminary, he had served as a priest in the diocese of Mobile Alabama, before joining the Army as a chaplain in 1965. He did so to bring the sacraments to soldiers on the battlefield in Vietnam. As much as it was in his power, he wanted no soldier to die fighting and go into eternity spiritually unarmed.
Assigned to the third brigade of the First Infantry Division, the Big Red One, in June 1966, he quickly began hitching rides on medical evacuation choppers. They would be going to where the fighting was, and as far as Chaplain Quealy was concerned, that was where he needed to be. He would land, help with the wounded, usually under fire, and give the Last Rites to the dying. He did not check to see if the dying were Catholics, reasoning that the sacrament would do no harm to non-Catholics, and might do them an infinity of good. Troops began to talk about this Catholic Chaplain who was fearless.
Eugene Tuttle, a soldier with the Big Red One, recalled Father Quealy:
My battalion was near Father Quealy’s the day he was killed in Tay Ninh province on Nov. 8, 1966. The terrible news reached me the next day, He had heard my confession in Lai Khe about a month earlier. Young men dying was bad enough, but it seemed like a sacrilege for a priest to be killed while providing comfort to the wounded and dying. I had met him months earlier on my first full day in the field, when before boarding our tanks and APCs, to be sent out as “bait” until reinforcements could rescue us, Chaplain Quealy invited the Catholics among us to join him. He told us that reconnaissance had just confirmed the VC were dug in and waiting for us in the bush. He then draped his stole over his shoulders, reminded us that an Act of Contrition could substitute for confession when one was in immediate danger of death. It was an unforgettably dramatic moment, and the chaplain was an unforgettably kind man. I regret just learning of this opportunity now to pay long overdue homage to him. God bless his soul!
On November 8, 1966, Father Quealy heard about fighting near Tay Ninh and rushed to get aboard a medical copter. A staff officer tried to dissuade him, saying that it was much too dangerous a situation. Father Quealy did not even slow down, but shouted over his shoulder, “My place is with them!”
The first battalion, twenty-eight infantry was under such intense fire that the helicopter Father Quealy was on board had to circle for an hour before it could land. When it did, Father Quealey charged into action. Here is a report of what happened next: (more…)