For fifteen years Terence Cardinal Cooke served as
Military Vicar of the United Sates. Over two million members of
our country's military personnel were under his care.
As shepherd to those in the armed services, Cardinal Cooke visited
the far corners of the world. Despite public criticism at
home, he journeyed to Vietnam to be with the troops on Christmas
1968. Knowing that his flock in New York was well served by his
priests and auxiliary bishops Cardinal Cooke felt he was called to be a
true father to the young men and women who were far from home, facing danger in the service of their country.
Throughout the rest of his life he never wavered in this conviction.
health, he spent Christmas 1982 with American troops in war-torn
Less than a month before his death October 6, 1983, Cardinal Cooke
asked that a message from him be delivered to the Military Chaplains'
meeting in San Antonio, Texas. It read, in part . . . "Many people
do not know, as I have come to know, the special sacrifice you make in
bringing the love of Jesus into the lives of so many who reach out to
you for help. Sometimes your flock is small and far from home,
very young and confused by dramatically changed circumstances which the
cause of peace demands of them. For these, your title of Father,
assumes a very special significance, a significance not always
appreciated in other priestly apostolates." In closing . . . "I
rejoice that through, with and of the Eucharistic Christ I am able to
serve God's People in the Military Vicariate in sickness as I have in
health. I offer my suffering and my prayers for you and for all
whom you serve so faithfully."
On April 5, 1984 Cardinal Cooke was posthumously awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan: "A saintly man a great
spiritual leader, Terence Cardinal Cooke inspired his countrymen with
his dedication to his Church, devotion to his flock, and service to his
country. As the Military Vicar to our Nation's Armed Forces,
Cardinal Cooke worked tirelessly on behalf of those who serve their
country in uniform. As a patriot and national leader, he preached
the love of country and championed the cause of human freedom. He
will live in the memory of his countrymen as a man of compassion,
courage, and personal holiness."