Father Washington

John Patrick Washington (July 18, 1908 – February 3, 1943)

Born as one of seven children to Irish immigrants Frank and Mary Washington, John was a religious boy from a young age, rapidly becoming an altar boy at his local church in Newark, New Jersey, where he grew up. A talented sportsman and intelligent and hard-working child, he performed well at school and was accepted into Seton Hall Preparatory School, then located in South Orange, New Jersey, where he completed high school and took courses designed to prepare him for the priesthood. Following his graduation he moved to the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University and took minor orders on May 26, 1933 and was ordained a priest on June 15, 1935. Father Washington’s first parish was at St. Genevieve’s in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He served for one year at St. Venantius. In 1938, he was assigned to St. Stephen’s in Kearny, New Jersey.

Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, he received his appointment as a chaplain in the United States Army, reporting for active duty on May 9, 1942. In November 1942, he reported to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts and met Chaplains Fox, Goode, and Poling at Chaplains School at Harvard. In January 1943 he joined them on board the Dorchester for the trip to Europe via Greenland, and set off on the fatal journey. The Four Chaplains, sometimes referred to as the “Dorchester Chaplains,” gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel as the troop ship USAT Dorchester sank on February 3, 1943. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.