'A Gentle Giant'

“During the bloody battles and the long still days of war, even the toughest Marines need some help. Lt. Cmdr. Paul J. Shaughnessy is there to provide it.”

That’s how an article in today’s Worcester Telegram & Gazette describes the ministry of Jesuit Father Paul Shaughnessy, a local priest who is currently on his fourth tour of duty as a Navy chaplain in Iraq.

Like the Telegram & Gazette, we think that highlighting Father Shaughnessy’s military service is a great way to call attention to Veterans Day.

The priest is the sole Catholic chaplain for 5,000 sailors and Marines at the Al Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province.

Father Shaughnessy reports that the intervention of U.S. troops has succeeded in bringing peace to the previously restive Anbar region and in improving conditions generally for the Iraqi people.

“It’s very secure, very quiet,” he said. “The country seems stabilized. People are in the marketplace. You see kids playing soccer. There’s quiet confidence in the progress. … It’s kind of amazing.”

Father Shaughnessy has ministered in the military since 1994 after learning of the need for chaplains while studying at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. He says the work has granted him an insight into the selflessness that’s embodied by those who serve in America’s military forces.

“It’s been great,” he told the Telegram & Gazette about his years as a Navy chaplain. “There’s a lot of idealism… that idealism, which is very unique.”

Lifelong friend James Joyce says Father Shaughnessy reflects the same qualities himself.

“He’s an amazing guy. He has no fear,” said Joyce, who is a lawyer in Worcester. “He’s one of those gentle giants, tough and quiet. He always protects people.”

— Tom McFeely