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home : features : obituaries

2/9/2012 9:30:00 AM
OBITUARY
Bishop Joseph W. Estabrook, 67

A memorial Mass will be offered Feb. 11 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, following a funeral Mass Feb. 10 at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Alexandria, Va., for Bishop Joseph Estabrook, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, who died Feb. 4. He was 67 and had been ordained a priest of the Albany Diocese in 1969.

A native of Kingston, he began his priestly ministry as associate pastor at St. Vincent de Paul parish in Albany and was the first Family Life director for the Diocese.

In 1977, he became a U.S. Navy chaplain. He served on ships throughout Europe and at the Marine Corps Development and Education Command in Quantico, Va. In 1983, he was assigned to the Chief of Chaplains office in Washington, DC, then to an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson.

After graduate studies, he served at the Navy Air Station in Sicily; supported troops in the First Gulf War in Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and served at the Navy Chaplain School in Newport, R.I.

He was executive assistant to the Navy Chief of Chaplains and an ethics consultant to the Navy Surgeon General and the Department of Defense. He was fleet chaplain to the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior chaplain of the U.S. Pacific Unified Command from 1997 to 2000, then command chaplain for a Marine Corps base in Hawaii until his ordination as a bishop in 2004.

That year, he retired from the Navy, having earned the rank of captain and awards including the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service medal, Navy Commendation medal and four Meritorious Unit awards.

As an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, he resided at Our Lady of Fatima parish in San Clemente, Calif. In addition to serving as vicar of the East Coast, he was an adviser to the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association.

Despite his many distinguished roles, Bishop Estabrook told The Evangelist in past interviews that he simply enjoyed the opportunity to care for people's spiritual needs, to evangelize and to promote vocations.

As a bishop, he said, "you're doing the same thing you've always done, but God gives you a different platform to talk about it. It's the same Joe that's doing this."

On the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination in 2009, Bishop Estabrook emailed The Evangelist some information about himself in a note signed, "Bishop Joe."

Included in that email was a reflection he'd written on his life: "Ministering to the men and women of our military has clearly shown me one thing: Our young people respond with dedication and sacrifice when called to a task that challenges them to live above and beyond themselves.

"I have found that they also respond to a call to priesthood when it is presented in the same light - as a call from God to take up what is often difficult and dangerous for the sake of others.

"I've sat with them in the trenches of Laos, on the fantails of ships, in Saudi Arabia and in Singapore, and delved into some of the most remarkable conversations of my life. Our young people are ready for an active faith and are a great gift to the Church.

"I tell every one of them: Don't ever underestimate your power or your importance. Don't ever be intimidated or afraid to follow our Lord who calls us, as He did in Luke 5:4, to set out into the deep!

"A truly priestly vocation begins with, is nurtured by and lives by the commitment to the truth that Jesus is the answer to the question that is every human life."

In announcing Bishop Estabrook's death, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services said the AMS "has lost an energetic and sensitive successor of the Apostles. His valiant struggle with cancer and his sense of hope have given us all a lesson in how to live and how to face death."

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard called Bishop Estabrook "a man of solid spirituality and pastoral sensitivity" whose "premature passing marks a real loss for the Church and for the military. As a priest of the Albany Diocese, he ministered effectively both in parish work and as director of our diocesan Office of Family Life.

"As a Navy chaplain, he blended a gentle disposition with moral strength; as a result, military men and women frequently sought him out at times of special stress. He also served as an effective retreat master for Navy personnel and their families, as well as a capable recruiter of military chaplains.

"My sympathy goes out especially to Bishop Estabrook's dear mother and his family, and my prayers accompany him as he goes to his reward in the peace of God's presence."

As eloquently as others laud him, Bishop Estabrook's ministry speaks for itself. Survivors include his mother, Genevieve, and siblings, Timothy and Mary Ann. Interment with military honors will take place at Calvary Cemetery in Glenmont.





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