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    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Seelbach | Lt. Cmdr. Michael Matson, a chaplain assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78)...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Julie Matyascik 

    USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)     

    Bells have been thought to bring blessings and good luck; a way to announce a special event. For hundreds of years their functional and ceremonial uses have made them a symbol of significance to U.S. Navy warships. They have been used for signaling, time keeping, providing alarm, and ... baptisms.

    On Aug. 18, 2021, in a place of activity normally used for mooring and anchoring evolutions, USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) fo’c’sle became the place of a sanctuary event literally etched into the ship’s history.

    ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ recited Lt. Cmdr. Michael Matson, as he began the sacred rite of baptism, delicately pouring Atlantic seawater from the ship’s bell onto the forehead of an 8-week-old baby girl dressed in a white gown.

    Matson, a chaplain assigned to Ford’s command religious ministries department (CRMD) and a native of Minneapolis, has been baptizing babies for the U.S. Navy for more than 10 years. Most of his naval career has been attached to the U.S. Marine Corps. This is his first time serving aboard an aircraft carrier.

    “It is wonderful to be on a warship and still see how faith and dedication in our military community can come together,” said Chaplain Matson. “A baby’s baptism in the ship’s bell is symbolic of not just being welcomed into their own families, but into a Navy family. It is always a joyous occasion.”

    “This was a particularly unique situation,” he said. “Because, the requests came from two officers in the same department and they didn’t individually know the other had put in a request for a baptism.”

    Both officers are assigned to the ship’s reactor department, Lt. Cmdr. Nicholas Detweiler, Ford’s reactor control assistant, and Lt. Matthew Dennis, Ford’s prospective maintenance propulsion assistant. They work in the same office – their desks only feet apart.

    “Chaplain Matson asked if I would be willing to do a baptism with another family,” said Dennis, a native of Elkton, Maryland. “When he told me who it was, I couldn’t believe the coincidence. We work 10 feet from each other.”

    Dennis said his 10-month-old son was born in Hawaii, but because the ship he was assigned to was in a maintenance availability, he was unable to have his son baptized at that time. Fortunately, Ford’s CRMD was able to offer him, what he described as ‘an awesome experience’ to not only provide his son a baptism, but he and his family were able to share the spiritual occasion with a colleague and his family.

    Detweiler, from Reading, Pennsylvania, already knew the experience would be extraordinary because more than two years ago he had his son baptized onboard the destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) while assigned as the ship’s operations officer and stationed at Naval Station Rota, Spain. He wanted the same experience for his 8-week-old daughter.

    “We wanted our daughter to be baptized on a ship, just as my son was on Porter,” said Detweiler. “It’s been an honor, and my family and I are so grateful for the crew’s effort to make it a memorable occasion. It’s something we’ll always cherish.”

    The custom of baptizing infants aboard ships dates back to the British Royal Navy when baptisms were conducted in foreign ports or at sea. Traditionally, the infant is baptized under or inside the ship’s bell.

    Following this baptism, the babies’ names will be the 13th and 14th names engraved inside of the Ford’s bell where they will stay with the ship through the entirety of her service in the fleet.

    “Connected through their faith and service; coming together in front of family and Ford Sailors - it’s a time-honored tradition,” said Matson. “Once the baptism is complete, the child’s name is forever tied to the ship and to the nation.”



    Date Taken: 08.18.2021
    Date Posted: 09.02.2021 10:43
    Story ID: 404418
    Location: NORFOLK, VA, US 
    Hometown: ELKTON, MD, US
    Hometown: MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US
    Hometown: READING, PA, US

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