Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Sondra-Kay Rivera.
Like any soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman who takes a vow to serve, a military chaplain takes a different type of vow. A chaplain not only serves but ministers to military personnel and, in many cases, their families and civilians working with the military. Military chaplains are trained to serve any spiritual need, regardless of religious affiliation, and offer pastoral care and support their religious rights and needs.
Among the military chaplains who serve within a military community, are local pastors, priests, ministers and other religious mentors. One of these supporters is Monsignor James J. Dorney, a Roman Catholic priest. Dorney has faithfully served the Navy and Coast Guard for twenty years.
Dorney was born July 1932 and ordained in 1958. He has served at more than ten different congregations under several titles. Today he serves his Catholic parish as a monsignor. But, near and dear to our hearts, he serves as an Honorary Navy Chaplain.
Dorney was unable to become a member of the Navy Chaplain Corps early in his career due to his parish obligations but was provided the opportunity to give Sunday mass to military members. Dorney agreed to continue to serve in his parish at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Staten Island, N.Y., and perform Sunday masses for the Navy, starting in 1992 at the Fort Wadsworth Father Capodanno Memorial Chapel on Staten Island. In 1996, when the Navy moved out and the Coast Guard moved in from Governor’s Island to Fort Wadsworth, he continued providing masses and special services for Coast Guard members.
With more than 20 years of supporting the military community, it is no surprise that those who interact with him are significantly impacted by his compassion and lifetime of service.
“Monsignor Dorney has one of the biggest and most giving hearts of anyone I’ve ever met,” said Lt. Travis J. Gardner, Coast Guard chaplain at Sector New York.
Gardner recently put in a request to the Navy chief of chaplains for Dorney to be considered for the title as an ‘Honorary Navy Chaplain.’ This honor is not common and in fact is so rare, that as long as Gardner has been in the Navy, he has never seen this honor given out.
“Mosignor Dorney has a big heart for the military,” said Gardner. “He recently just celebrated his 80th birthday and what a wonderful way to honor him, by giving him the title of Honorary Navy Chaplain.”
Dorney’s support to the military has been significant over the years and the request was approved.
“This is not just an honor, but it is my calling,” said Dorney after he received the honorary title.