Thursday, April 18, 2024

Meet Your Local Navy Leaders: Navy Chaplain, Father Luke Dundon

Father Luke Dundon, LCDR CHC USN, celebrates mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coronado March 10th.

Coronado residents who attend Sacred Heart Catholic Church may have had the opportunity to hear from Navy Chaplain, Father Luke Dundon periodically over the last two years. Lieutenant Commander Dundon currently resides in Coronado and is a Navy priest serving as one of three chaplains on board USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). When the Lincoln is in port Father Luke has been included in the rotation of priests that preside over mass for Sacred Heart.

Father Luke Dundon, LCDR USN, on board USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)

Originally from Chantilly, Virginia, the son of a retired Navy Captain, Fr. Luke Dundon was interested in naval service from an early age. He was also very active in his church starting as an altar server at St. Timothy’s in the Diocese of Arlington and continuing to serve during his time at Bishop O’Connell High School. The priest at Bishop O’Connell, Fr. Daniel Mode (CAPT CHC, USN) saw something in Luke and invited him to participate in a religious retreat at Christendom College to help him discern religious life. Father Luke knew he had an interest in the priesthood but he also had a calling to the Navy so he decided to pursue naval service and went on to attend the Naval Academy. He said, “I grew up in a Navy environment and it has been present throughout my whole life, along with my faith, and so the Navy was where I thought I belonged.”

A physics major and a runner for the Naval Academy, Fr. Dundon was very busy, but also made time to join the Catholic Midshipmen Club that did a trip to Rome. Like so many who are called to the priesthood, Father Dundon had struggled with his calling, but there were two priests at the Naval Academy that inspired him. He shared, “Fr. Bob Keane and Fr. Tim Koester, along with Fr. Mode from O’Connell, were all instrumental in helping me be brave enough consider the priesthood and answer the vocation one day. Fr. Keane said, ‘When the Lord calls you, you will really know, continue to live life and allow the vocation to be a fine wine that will get better with age. When you know you know and you will be ready.’ and frankly that was the easier path to take, so I continued on my path with the Navy.”

MM2 Lauren Girardin from USS Abraham Lincoln receives Holy Communion from Fr. Luke Dundon, LCDR CHC USN, during Good Friday Service held at sea. Photo Courtesy of USS Abraham Lincoln Media Department.

Father Luke said, “I was a trident scholar my last year at the Naval Academy and I was allowed to do a big physics project that was focused on astrophysics. I was then accepted into a program that allowed me to get my master’s degree. I was interested in studying planetary science and near-earth asteroids to understand the astrobiology of how things formed in our solar system to create environments conducive to life. I had a lot of fun working on telescopes in Hawaii, Arizona and Chile, South America to finish my master’s thesis. I loved it… the physics led me to the astrophysics and that let me to the metaphysics and the purpose behind everything and that led me to take my Catholic faith more seriously.”

Father Luke Dundon Official Photo while Serving at US Naval Academy. {US Navy file Photo)

Fr. Dundon went on to say ,”I spoke with a retired Navy chaplain in Hawaii, Fr. Jack Newton, we talked more about the vocation and the fire I felt burning within, but he told me to be patient because I was committed to serving in submarines after my master’s program. I was teaching religious education while there and continued to feel drawn to ministry. I was coming to the end of my two years and getting ready to head off to serve in Submarine community when I got a call from the detailer who said they reviewed my medical record and I had a medically disqualifying condition and I wouldn’t be able to go to submarines…  Ultimately BUPERS came back and released me from active duty.”

Fr. Dundon was now free to join the priesthood but still wanted to serve in the Navy. So he applied to the Arlington Diocese and the seminary and asked to be able to serve on active duty as a Catholic chaplain for the US Navy with the Archdiocese for the United States Military Services, U.S.A.

The altar in the chapel on board USS Abraham Lincoln.

When asked about getting involved in the local faith community, Fr. Dundon said, “We want our Sailors to go to local churches, synagogues and mosques when in port, to be a part of the larger faith community. I live in Coronado and Fr. Mike Murphy became my spiritual director so it became a natural fit for me to help out [at Sacred Heart]. I look forward to going there every opportunity I have while in port. It is a testimony to the pastor, Fr. Mike, who has formed that community into what it is now.”

I spoke with Fr. Mike Murphy, the Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, who shared, “Fr. Luke has integrated very well in the life of Sacred Heart parish. Along with his responsibilities as a Navy chaplain, he has made himself available for ministry in our parish. The people love his enthusiasm and his deep faith in God touches the hearts of our parishioners. He preaches in a style that reaches the people. I have enjoyed his friendship as a brother priest.”

Fr. Mike went on to say, “It is very important for the local Navy chaplains to be part of local parishes because of the many active duty and retired military and their families. Chaplains have a unique gift and training that enables them to understand the challenges of military life. Since the NASNI Catholic program closed in 2022, their community has integrated into Sacred Heart. They have enriched our faith community. Having a Navy Chaplain available for ministry is a blessing for those who now worship at Sacred Heart.”

Fr. Luke Dundon, LCDR CHC USN, presides over Good Friday Mass on board USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) while at sea. Photo provided by USS Abraham Lincoln media department.

Fr. Dundon has had tours with the USS Bonhomme Richard when it was stationed in Japan, deployed with the Marine Corps, served as a Chaplain at the Naval Academy and is now nearing the end of his tour with the USS Abraham Lincoln. “Chaplain Luke Dundon’s contribution to the Command Religious Ministry Department has been critical to supporting the spiritual and personal well-being of the crew over the last three years,” said Capt. Pete Riebe, commanding officer, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). “Father Dundon has connected the crew to the local community by creating volunteer events off the ship, and is constantly sought after as a spiritual and emotional counselor on the ship. His tireless efforts to drive positive impact have been instrumental to our crew both at home and while out to sea. We will miss him sorely!”

Fr. Luke will be going to Catholic University of America to study ethics as part of the Navy’s funded education program. He enjoys teaching on ethical and moral issues. “I will get my masters in ethics and continue my thesis on Just War Theory. I look forward to being closer to my parents, and going to my mother’s alma mater in Catholic University. I will miss Coronado and especially Sacred Heart.”

PHILIPPINE SEA (Feb. 12, 2022) Lt. Luke Dundon, from Chantilly, Va., leads Roman Catholic Mass in the chapel aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Abraham Lincoln Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability through alliances and partnerships while serving as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Singley)

Fr. Dundon also shared that the call to military service is strong throughout the Dundon family. Along with a father who spent a career as part of the medical service corps in the Navy, Father Luke’s sister also chose to serve as a Marine Corps officer and is currently stationed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.

1st Lt. Molly Dundon speaks during the Zonta Clubs Area 2 Amelia Earhart award reception, Feb. 28. Dundon received the Amelia Earhart award for her passion for excellence, her dedication to mission success, and her leadership abilities. Zonta International’s mission is to empower women through service and advocacy. Dundon is the assistant aviation maintenance officer with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115. (Photo by Cpl. Ashley Phillips USMC)

Fr. Dundon shared that the Navy has a shortage of Catholic priests and he will be temporarily assigned to Naval Base San Diego in a recruiting role as he waits to report to Catholic University.

According to the Navy Recruiting Command website, “There are those who are born to lead, and those who are born to lead in faith. As a Navy Chaplain, you will be the voice of encouragement, reason and hope to thousands of Sailors and Marines. From morning prayers to Sunday mass services to baptisms at sea, you will support and uplift the brave men and women who have chosen to serve their country. The Navy Chaplain Corps boasts more than 800 Navy Chaplains from more than 100 different faith groups, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and many others. Chaplains hold important leadership roles as well, each serving as a Navy Officer. Chaplains offer everything from faith and personal advice, to much-needed solace – all while living up to the guiding principles of the Chaplain Mission.”

Jeannie Groeneveld
Jeannie Groeneveld
Jeannie is a retired Naval Aviator and Public Affairs Officer whose post-Navy career includes freelance writing, PR Consulting and a two year stint as the San Diego Padres Military Affairs Advisor. Having been stationed in various parts of the country including Washington D.C., Florida and Hawaii, Jeannie appreciates how amazing the Coronado community is and loves the experience her children have had growing up here. Jeannie earned her BS in Marine Biology from Auburn University, her MS in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego and her MA in Communication and Media Relations at San Diego State University. A life-long learner and avid traveler Jeannie enjoys writing travel pieces, Navy stories and anything else that will broaden her perspective. When she is not working you will find her watching her boys play sports, walking Odin at dog beach, hiking, playing beach volleyball or spending time with the family.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

More Local News