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World War I and the Viatorians

April 6, 2017

It has been 100 years since the United States entered World War I, which would become known as the “war to end all wars.”

Military tactics on the campus of St. Viator College, circa 1917

Viatorian priests played prominent roles as chaplains during the war, however nowhere was the war effort felt more prominently than at St. Viator College in Bourbonnais. Its students would go on to serve in every branch of the military and the college itself would become a military training facility.

Ultimately, more than 400 students would serve in the war and more than 25 would be either wounded or killed in action.

Decoration Day celebration on campus

A lasting legacy would be the Viatorians who served as military chaplains. More than 20 graduates of St. Viator College and four Viatorian priests — Fr. William Stephenson, Fr. J. Francis Moisant, Fr. William Bergin and Fr. John Maguire — served as chaplains, meeting soldiers’ spiritual needs both home and abroad, and accompanying them during some of the most harrowing moments of their lives.

Their work did not go unnoticed.

According to the Viatorian newspaper at the time, “Their faithful discharge of duties, the fatherly solicitude and kindness exercised toward soldiers, their devotion to the wounded and the dying has time and time again been remarked upon and praised. Soldiers with whom they came into contact characterized their work and deed as worthy of the greatest praise and distinction.”