Movie Review: U.S. Army Chaplain Frederick 'Ted' Howden as seen through a film by his granddaughter Melissa Howden, screened Mill Valley Film Festival, October, 2012
Almighty God our strength and sustenance, Thou gavest Thy servant Frederick Howden the grace and courage to put the need and hunger of others before his own life and health. Inspire us with directness of purpose in the training of body, mind, and spirit that we may better serve Thee, our country, and our fellowmen.
Article-review by Peter Menkin
NOTES AND COMMENTS ON THE FILM ITSELF BY THE RELIGION WRITER
This artful film Be Home Soon, with its strong imagery and documentary style, held great hopes and large ambitions in its conception and its creation by filmmaker Melissa Howden. Certainly a worthwhile film about a family, and man who went to war as a volunteer in World War Two, and the viewpoint of a granddaughter finding out about her family, herself, and what it is for a man, even for a Chaplain in the U.S. Army, to die in the service of his country.
The film did not meet such large ambitions and hopes as filmmaker Melissa Howden expressed them to this Religion Writer. Nonetheless, it is a successful film and hopefully will be available somewhere in distribution or at other film festivals than at its maiden launching at The Mill Valley Film Festival, north of San Francisco held in the early half of October, 2012.
Said with a kind of rancor, and maybe even a contempt of a kind for Christianity and the Episcopal Church, Melissa Howden says in one conversation by phone from her second home in New Mexico, she was “….confirmed at Cathedral (St. John’s), Baptized Washington, D.C.” As she explains about the film, one in which her grandfather is portrayed during the years he entered the U.S. Army as a Chaplain, and later died after surviving the Bataan Death March in a prisoner of war camp, about her connection to the Episcopal Church and Christianity, that she, “…was there to sing in the choir and be connected to my grandfather (great grandfather was Bishop).” She says, with a declarative conviction and even hope, “I am not a practicing member of the Episcopal Church.”
After the screening, a first time screening anywhere, of Be Home Soon, the filmmaker and granddaughter Melissa Howden visited that home Diocese of Chaplain Howden (Diocese of the Rio Grande) at Albuquerque, New Mexico’s General Convention and spoke before an audience just before screening Be Home Now for a second time after the film’s completion. In an email from Father Raymond Raney who wrote in response to an inquiry of how the talk she gave went (Father Raymond is press officer for the Diocese), he wrote in his email:
The Audience was made up of about 100 clergy and 200 lay delegates from the congregations of the Diocese. There also were about 30 visitors.
The Bishop thanked Melissa for coming to the Convention, and for sharing her work with us.
There was no recording of her talk. It was about 10 minutes in length. Melissa talked about the willingness of her grandfather to serve our country and his National Guard unit in time of war, and the sacrifice he made. Though he was offered the opportunity to flee Bataan before the fall, he chose to stay with the men whose souls were in his care.
I am told the screening was well attended. Even with two other events that evening, about 150 persons attended, and it received a standing ovation as well. I was unable to attend because of a previous commitment.
Chaplain Howland is commemorated annually in Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande as a man of holiness on December 11 of each year, and it is hoped he will be on the calendar in the national Episcopal Church, too. This is the text of the entry sent for use in the book, Holy Women, Holy Men:
THE RECOMMENDED TEXT FOR HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN
The Rev. Frederick B. ‘Ted’ Howden
Priest–Soldier–Martyr, d. December 11, 1942
Almighty God our strength and sustenance, Thou gavest Thy servant Frederick Howden the grace and courage to put the need and hunger of others before his own life and health. Inspire us with directness of purpose in the training of body, mind, and spirit that we may better serve Thee, our country, and our fellowmen. Give us the vision to know what is right, and the courage to follow after it. Strengthen us with Thy Spirit for the duties of life that we may continue Thy faithful servants unto our life’s end, and at the last enter into Thy heavenly kingdom: through Jesus Christ our Lord who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God our strength and sustenance, you gave your servant Frederick Howden the grace and courage to put the need and hunger of others before his own life and health. Inspire us with directness of purpose in the training of body, mind, and spirit that we may better serve you, our country, and others in your name. Give us the vision to know what is right and the courage to pursue it. Strengthen us with your Spirit for the duties of life before us, that we may continue your faithful servants to our life’s end, and at the last enter into your heavenly kingdom: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preface of a Saint (2)
To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Psalm 18: 1-6, 18-20
1 I love you, O Lord my strength, *
O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.
2 My God, my rock in whom I put my trust, *
my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;
you are worthy of praise.
3 I will call upon the Lord, *
and so shall I be saved from my enemies.
4 The breakers of death rolled over me, *
and the torrents of oblivion made me afraid.
5 The cords of hell entangled me, *
and the snares of death were set for me.
6 I called upon the Lord in my distress *
and cried out to my God for help.
7 He heard my voice from his heavenly dwelling; *
my cry of anguish came to his ears.
18 He delivered me from my strong enemies
and from those who hated me; *
for they were too mighty for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster; *
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into an open place; *
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
NOTES AND COMMENTS BY THE FILMMAKER MELISSA HOWDEN
When talking by phone in that same background conversation with filmmaker Melissa Howden, who lives most of the year in Oakland, California near San Francisco) she talked of her interests in developing themes for the movie. This quote is if not perfect, holds the intent of what she has to say on that theme as she wanted to develop it. When we talk, she had not yet the final cut for screening of the work.
This was done in a real shoe string. When I went to the Philippines there was me and a photographer.FROM MY NOTEBOOK, AND THOSE NOTES TAKEN DURING THE SCREENING
It’s also about my family inherited and what was passed down as a result that he left and didn’t come home.
I felt that the film never gets done.
It was a personal, experiential documentary. It is as much about my personal journey; it was a pilgrimage. I used his letters as my map. I didn’t really know what I would find. I didn’t have a goal. It’s a personal, exploratory documentary.
I grew up being a very sad person all the time. I realized one day that the sadness wasn’t mine. But that I’d inherited it from my father and my grandmother. It was really an investigation of where that came from. I knew that his fate was not going to be changed (grandfather). I just knew that maybe some piece would come out of it for me.
My grandmother did not want him to go. ..
What was hard for him was that he felt he always had to live up to this standard, this ideal (father said). My grandmother asked my father what he thought. Should they bring the body back? My father didn’t want to, because there would be more ceremonies where he would have to stand there and be the big man of the family.
Whenever someone goes out to war, the effect is very strong…What are the costs to their children? Whatever those children are experiencing, a culture must consider that before someone being sent off to war.
The effects of war are not just with that person who went off to war, but they extend beyond.
The comfortable theatre was a packed house. It was a dedicated audience in that they expected an art film, and were enthusiastic ticket holders who obviously enjoyed The Mill Valley Film Festival, that was in its 35th year at the time of the screening of Be Home Soon. The chief programmer of the Festival, a woman named Zoe Elton, gave the introduction to the screening. Then began the cross generational stories of the film in what the Festival declared was a World Premiere for the film.
Be sure the film held a vein of sorrow, a kind of sense of the legacy of war, and this was accomplished with family photographs introduced with craftsman skill during the first part of the film, and during the second and last part use of war documentary footage mixed with footage shot for the director, filmmaker Melissa Howden.
This Religion Writer thought the work of narrator and voice over talent Peter Coyote in speaking the dialogue lines over pictures, as voice of Chaplain Howden, was performed excellently. Peter Coyote seemed to have just the right kind of voice for a Chaplain in the military. The whole narration was done in one during a three hour period.
During and by this narrative we are introduced to the film, its story, and brought to better attention of understanding of the images that are artfully presented in Be Home Soon. The Chaplain died December 11, 1942 and was buried at the prisoner of war camp gravesite. He was a self-sacrificing man of God who served with a Christ-like willingness to help and support his men during this terrible time of the march and prison, to the point of giving up his own food for some, and ending up giving up his life in the service of his men, God, and Country.
FILMMAKER’S STATEMENT DESCRIBING THE FILM
This documentary is a story not just of my grandfather, but a story of the collective memory of this generation of Americans at war – and the inherited grief of their families. It is about the weight of war on families. Documenting one of the cornerstones of modern American (indeed World) history through the experience of one man and his family.
Historically much attention has been paid to the events in Europe during World War II, and also Pearl Harbor and subsequently the dropping of the atomic bombs. What is rarely known is the state of New Mexico lost more men per capita than any state in the Union. The men who went to the Philippines were left to fight the Japanese with leftover WWI artillery and supplies. For better or for worse, the United States government left them to fend for themselves while the government focused all of its resources on the European theater. The surrender in the Philippines to this date is the largest surrender of an American army in history. For the most part, the men in the Philippines did not die in battle. Rather after the surrender (on April 6, 1948 — the largest army to surrender in U.S. History) they died on what has come to be known as The Bataan Death March and in prison camps thereafter.
My grandfather, who was 40 years old at the time, survived the death march and died a year later in prison camp of diseases associated with malnutrition. His actions during this time lead the Southwest Diocese of the Episcopal Church to canonize him noting the day of his death — December 11th as his day on the church calendar.
THE FILM MAKER’S VIDEO ASKING FOR MONEY TO MAKE THE FILM, NOW FINISHED
INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER MELISSA HOWDEN
- 1. You said about the making of your film, Be Home Soon, “The effects of war are not just with that person who went off to war, but it extends beyond.” This ambitious pilgrimage you were on about your family, and in specific your grandfather’s leaving as a volunteer Chaplain in World War II began where in your life? Please tell us some about the pilgrimage, and some thoughts you held during it about your life and relationship to this special man, and celebrated Army Chaplain, Frederick “Ted” Howden.
My personal pilgrimage probably began probably the day I was born.
I say this because I was born into a family that never really recovered emotionally from the space my grandfather left. The family built themselves around that space but it was never filled. 3 young boys grew up without their father. My father and uncles were raised by a woman with a broken heart, which seemingly never really healed.
Emotional memory is passed on wittingly or unwittingly. My father didn’t grow up with a father consequently he was making up how to be a father as he went along. My father also did what he could, consciously or unconsciously to avoid situations which would bring up painful memories. It was a different time. People didn’t talk about their feelings; rather they did what they could to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And as a family they weren’t alone in their experience or feelings. So a whole generation was raised in a kind of pain that for the most part was never addressed.
My contention is this has an effect on our culture, because the state of emotional limbo or in some cases paralysis plays out in all manner of ways. As the first child born into my family after the war (first grandchild for my grandmother, first child for my father who was the eldest son) I was born into a situation in some respects of numb pain. I don’t mean to imply I was not loved and welcomed. I was. But the lack of emotional reconciliation is felt. It is passed on. I’ve spent my entire life unraveling this in one way or another.
As for my relationship with my grandfather, I didn’t have one except as a mythic figure who was dead, survived the Bataan Death March, and gave away his food and so on. Someone asked if my relationship with him had changed after doing this film.
Yes to the extent that the process humanized him. Yes he was no doubt good, but he was human. I am sure in addition to performing noble acts and acting as the bearer of hope for the soldiers he was with, he also had regrets; he was also probably afraid many times, and likely very sad when it became clear to him that he was not going to make it home.
If when you say pilgrimage you actually mean the journey of following my grandfather’s letters…I think my film says pretty much everything I have to say about it. Anything else I would write would be redundant.
- 2. I note that your grandfather was an Episcopalian, and that you do not consider yourself a practicing Episcopalian: “I was there [in Church] to sing in the choir and be connected to my grandfather. I am not a practicing member of the Episcopal Church.” It is noted that your great grandfather was a Bishop in New Mexico, too. Your grandfather was a distinguished Churchman held in high esteem as a consecrated person who led a considered holy pilgrimage himself through his Chaplaincy as part of the Bataan Death March and death in a prisoner of war camp. He was a man of God who was sacrificial, sacrificing and caring for the men he cared for with religious and spiritual help and support. Why did you not become a more religious person of the Church, and how did you find your spiritual path of self-examination and faith? This is not to get personal, per se, but to get an understanding of how faith and in this case the Episcopal Church’s, has spoken to you in your life. Say something about your grandfather’s faith as a military Chaplain, too.
In other words one does not need to be Episcopalian to be distinguished, to lead holy pilgrimages, or to access a bigger way of being. The capacity for love, fortitude, faith, patience and compassion is available to all no matter their race, color, creed, sex, sexual preference etc.
I believe my grandfather shared this belief. He did not distinguish whom he would serve based on their religious affiliation, belief or disbelief in God. His heart was open to all. He was an Episcopal Priest; his good friend Father Braun was a Catholic Priest. Their God was one in the same. In this respect to believe doesn’t have anything to do with following a standard set out by one religion or another, rather it moves us into a bigger way of being. Everybody finds their own way.
- 3. Your art film, Be Home Soon, is a picture of compelling images with its excellent narration play by the likes of Peter Coyote, who was the voice of your grandfather the chaplain. What was the source of your inspiration and in your work as film maker and director. Speak of how you came upon these two techniques in the making of and final edit of your Be Home Soon documentary. This Religion Writer did get to see the work at The Mill Valley Film Festival when shown in its first screening, anywhere. (The Mill Valley Film Festival, in its 35th year, is located north of San Francisco by about 14 miles in Marin County’s town of Mill Valley. The film of yours itself played at the non-profit art film theatre in San Rafael, California owned by the California Film Institute. That San Rafael theatre is six miles north of Mill Valley by car.)
- 4. What are the plans for distribution of the film, and because it is about a Chaplain of great faith and action in his ministry for the spiritual needs of his troops, will you be talking about the generation to generation effect on your family of a man’s life for service to his country and men in peril and death. Give readers a taste of this viewpoint as it is played out in the film as part of your filmic statement? That family statement is your intention of main theme for the film, so you said in a background conversation from New Mexico where you own a home, to my home office in Mill Valley, California.
I will send the film to festivals, which is usually the first step. It seems to be the kind of film that art and history museums are interested in screening. The thing about Be Home Soon is it has a number of different potential audiences.
What I have learned from the three screenings I have had to date is that the film strikes a universal chord as a meditation in motion on grace, memory and healing. The form and style of the film appeals to artists, the content appeals to a general audience, historians, people of faith, and people whose lives have been altered by wars present and past. But I don’t feel that the audience is at all limited to special interest groups.
I will make the film available for purchase to individuals and groups, and I will make myself available to go with the film and speak with groups after viewing the film.
In general I think I will let the film speak for itself. As an artist I don’t want to say, “This film is about… and now let’s watch it.” I want people to have their own experience of the film. Thus far I have found out that there are as many interpretations of the film as there have been people who viewed it. Ultimately, I just hope that each person who sees the film finds something that is meaningful to him or her. I have been told that the film inspires thought and discussion. What more can I ask for?
- 5. It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance this creative way and get to see the first screening of your film Be Home Soon. As we come to the end of our conversation in interview, please remark on anything missed. Add what you want to add that you like at this point to close out the conversation.
www.behomesoonthefilm.com and also the Facebook page for the film
Be Home Soon: Letters from My Grandfather. I will post updates, screenings and any information pertinent to the film there. Once the film is launched I will begin work on a book that will be more all-encompassing, as the film is just one story. There are many related stories to tell.
INTERVIEW WITH U.S. ARMY CHAPLAIN GRIFFIN
- 1. In many ways Chaplain Ted Howden who served and died in World War II in a prisoner-of-war camp after the Bataan Death March shows the way of sacrificial and some say holy work aiding and guiding the spiritual and physical needs of men under his responsibility as a Man of God in Uniform. Please let readers know something of today’s role of the Chaplain, in service and work, including those who have combat experience. In your answer please indicate the key job of the Chaplain as it was in World War II and in contemporary American service.
Providing for the free exercise of religion came to life [through] Title 10, U.S. Law. establishes the position of the Chaplain in the Army. This was established by the U.S. Congress, and it is public law that requires Chaplains to provide religious services for personnel of their assigned command. For our command we perform worship services, and since I’m a Protestant Chaplain, I cannot perform services for other faith groups, such as those for Catholic soldiers. So I must ensure a Catholic Chaplain is available to conduct mass for my soldiers.
That’s the legal precedence for the Chaplaincy and for the Chaplain. And, it’s a commander’s responsibility to see that [his soldiers] are not only fed or housed, but also to see to their religious needs. A Chaplain either provides that himself, if it’s consistent with his or her faith group, or sees that it is provided by a Chaplain of that soldier’s faith group. That was the role in World War II for the Chaplain, and that is the primary role of the Chaplain today.
We have a large diversity of Chaplains in the United States Army that range from liturgical Christians such as Episcopalians to Methodists, to non-liturgical Christians, such as Baptist or Assembly of God. We also have Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist Chaplains—and we’re responsible to provide for free exercise of religion for all soldiers. The Army is a reflection of American society, and if you find it in America you are going to find it in the Army as well.
In addition to providing for the free exercise of Religion, we also advise the Commander. Chaplains serve on the commander’s personal staff, and advise him or her on numerous issues like morale, or any issues impacting the welfare of the unit. Chaplains conduct command climate assessments to determine the state of morale in a unit. In addition to advising the commander, we provide support to the command on all matters of religion, morals, and morale as affected by religion. This includes the impact of religion on military missions.
We also advise commanders on moral and religious issues impacting their units, and of course, we provide a wide range of events, such as prayer breakfasts, that promote the spiritual growth of our soldiers. We also provide relational skills training with programs such as Strong Bonds that strengthens our married couples and their families, along with our single soldiers. By promoting spiritual, moral and relational training and counseling, we help our soldiers and their families develop resilience that helps them overcome the stresses they encounter.
We also assist the commander in the area of suicide prevention. We conduct suicide prevention classes, as well as help detect the warning signs of suicide and serve as a source of referral in helping our soldiers get help.
Wherever we are around the world, in whatever unit we serve, the three-fold mission of the Chaplain Corps has remained the same: to nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen. Just as we did during WWII, Chaplains conduct funerals and memorial services and ceremonies.
We’re responsible for all the religious needs of soldiers in our military. If they have counseling needs, we can perform those or provide them by finding a Chaplain of their faith group or a professional counselor. We assist every soldier, whether they are affiliated with a religious group or not.
- 2. One theme in the movie is how a family over more than one generation feels about the loss of an important male figure because of military service in wartime. Let us know of other Chaplain’s in the service of their American men in uniform who, too, were exemplary in their work. Are any similar in their actions and dedication to God and man as was Chaplain Ted Howden. My reason to ask this part of the question is to elicit ways in which Chaplain Ted Howden was himself in the exemplary and spiritually wonderful service of people in his “flock.”
And some of our Chaplains have been killed during war. Chaplain Charlie Watters was killed during the Vietnam War and was a Medal of Honor Recipient. While he was performing ministry to wounded soldiers, a bomb hit Father Watters and the soldiers he was ministering to. He had been active throughout the battle, bringing in wounded soldiers, and his sacrifice remains a great example to our Corps.
Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun is another example. During the Korean War, when his unit was overrun by the enemy, he chose to stay with his wounded soldiers, was taken prisoner and later died in a prisoner of war of camp in 1951.
Another example of that is Chaplain Dale Goetz , who served with his unit in Afghanistan. Chaplain Goetz went out on a convoy to provide religious support for his soldiers and was killed by an IED (explosive device: Improvised Explosive Device, which has caused many casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan). Chaplain Goetz was the first U.S. Army Chaplain to be killed in action since the Vietnam War.
In addition to our Chaplains, we have Chaplain Assistants that support and serve alongside us, whether in garrison or deployed. We have also lost Chaplain Assistants during war. Both Chaplain Assistants and Chaplains uphold the Army values, such as selfless service. One of those is Staff Sgt. Chris Stoudt, who was killed while supporting his chaplain in Afghanistan. We couldn’t perform our ministry without them. Chaplains are non-combatants, but our chaplain assistants are not. They carry weapons and provide security and protection for their chaplains, along with other religious support duties.
- 3. What is the role of the Chaplain’s family, and if you know, talk a little about their part as support and even what effects that work of Chaplaincy has on them—even to later generations? Readers may even guess that the Chaplain is a man or woman who serves his soldiers in spiritual and religious ways and his family is not literally part of that specific work. Nonetheless, even letting us know something of their military life and place in the mission of Chaplain in the U.S. Army.
Families are essential to our support personally and for other families in the unit. That’s normally through Family Support Groups or programs such as Strong Bonds which provide encouragement and strength to Soldiers and Families. Also, families and others volunteer through ACS (Army Community Services), chapel programs, and other civic organizations. These great efforts provide support of the Army and military community at large.
BIOGRAPHICAL TEXT PROPOSAL FOR USE IN HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN: CELEBRATING THE SAINTS
Frederick Bingham Howden, known to his family as Ted, was born January 27, 1902 in Cumberland, Maryland, one of seven children of the Rev. Frederick B. Howden, Sr. and Angelica Constance Faber Howden. He was twelve years old when his father was consecrated Bishop of the Missionary District of New Mexico and Southwest Texas, and the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. He attended preparatory school at the Kent School in Kent, Connecticut, graduated in 1925 from Yale University, and then completed three years of seminary training at General Theological Seminary in New York City. His father ordained him Deacon at St. Clement’s Church in El Paso, Texas on June 10, 1928 and Priest, also at St. Clement’s, on January 13, 1929.
Immediately thereafter, Fr. Howden was called to serve as the Rector of St. Andrew’s Church in Roswell, New Mexico. During his tenure at St. Andrew’s he served as Vicar to Lincoln County Episcopalians from 1929 through 1941, and as a supply priest to St. Paul’s Church in Artesia, New Mexico. He also held occasional services in the developing towns of Hobbs and Lovington, and served as the Chaplain at the New Mexico Military Institute. On April 21, 1932 he married Elizabeth Fegan in St. Mark’s Church in San Antonio, Texas.
Beginning in 1929 Fr. Howden led services of Evening Prayer in the schoolhouse in Glencoe and frequently celebrated Holy Communion at the Church of the Transfiguration which met in the Navajo Lodge in Ruidoso, New Mexico. He began a fund-raising drive to build an Episcopal chapel in Lincoln County, the result of which was St. Anne’s Chapel in Glencoe. It is now the oldest Episcopal Church in Lincoln County, and at the time of its consecration on June 3, 1934 was the only protestant church of any denomination within the 150 miles between Roswell and Alamogordo.
When World War II broke out Fr. Howden held the rank of Captain in the New Mexico State Guard, and was the Chaplain to the 200th Coast Artillery when it was federalized and sent to the Philippines in September 1941. A friend who was with him daily said he was always walking over the hills of Bataan holding open air services here and there and doing everything possible to help the men who affectionately called him “Chappy”. He was, however, a real soldier as well as a chaplain which all the more gained him admiration and respect as he moved from battery to battery, holding services and distributing candy, soap, and cigarettes he had foraged for the troops. He was a spiritual presence to his men, and in him they saw demonstrated love, goodness of life, and joy in serving others in the Lord’s name and for His sake.
At the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor to Japanese forces in April 1942, Fr. Howden and his fellow soldiers were made prisoners of war and were forced to endure the Bataan Death March during which some 18,000 died. During imprisonment in several prison camps including Camp O’Donnell and Cabanatuan and finally at Davao Prison Colony on Mindanao, his heroism and faith were always apparent through the humanitarian care he gave to those he served. At great cost to himself he often gave his own portion of food to others whom he insisted needed it more than he.
Fr. Howden died of dysentery and starvation-induced pellagra on December 11, 1942, but his family were not notified until June 1943. He was buried by his men in a small cemetery in the shadow of the Mindanao jungle a mile or so from the camp at Davao. After the war, in 1948, his remains were reinterred in an Albuquerque, New Mexico cemetery.
The prayer that Fr. Howden wrote for the cadets at New Mexico Military Institute was printed for many years in the cadet handbook.
Our Father in heaven, inspire, we beseech Thee, all members of this School with directness of purpose in the training of body, mind and spirit that we may better serve Thee, our country, and our fellowmen. Give us the vision to know the right, and the courage to follow after it. Strengthen us with might by Thy Spirit for the duties of life before us. And grant that we may so lay to heart the lessons of training and discipline here that we may always continue Thy faithful soldiers and servants unto life’s end. Amen.
This article-interview appeared originally Church of England Newspaper, London. Write the author-interviewer Peter Menkin, firstname.lastname@example.org .