Veterans’ Day holds an important place in the hearts of Viatorians, as they reflect on the
men who went before them, and fought in the trenches and prayed with soldiers and sailors as chaplains.
One of those was Fr. Charles C. Riedel, CSV, who at the age of 30 said the first Mass on the island of Saipan after it was liberated during World War II.
Mostly, Fr. Riedel is remembered for his evangelization efforts and retreats he led across the country — especially for priests — during his 27 years as a Viatorian. However, his ability to reach people spiritually stemmed from his years spent during World War II, as a chaplain to Marines serving in the Pacific.
It was Fr. Riedel who said an open-air, memorial Mass after the Battle of Tawara in November, 1943, where more than 1,000 Marines lost their lives. The photo of Fr. Riedel, leading Marines in prayer after one of the bloodiest battles of the war, was captured in a photo that ran in newspapers across the country.
His work as a chaplain was recognized by Col. Evans Carlson, who famously led “Carlson’s Raiders” in Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. In a 1944 newspaper interview, he described observing Fr. Riedel administer the last sacraments to the dying, aid the wounded and bury the dead, “under the most adverse battle conditions on Saipan.”
Viatorians have served in the military for more than a century, from the Spanish American War in 1898 and the two world wars; to the Korean War, in Vietnam and the Mid-East conflict in the 1990s.
It is just another way Viatorians live out their mission, which is to announce Jesus Christ and his gospel, and raise up communities where faith is lived, deepened and celebrated.