Bishop Estabrook's funeral at Good Shepherd Church

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WASHINGTON - Auxiliary Bishop Joseph W. Estabrook of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services died Feb. 4 in Houston following a lengthy illness. He was 67 years old.

A priest of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., where he was born, he was ordained an auxiliary for the military archdiocese in July 2004. He had been a chaplain in the Navy since 1977, earning the rank of captain in 1995. He retired from the Navy in September 2004.

Visitation will be Feb. 9 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, where Bishop Estabrook was in residence for eight years. A prayer service with Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde will follow at 7:30 p.m. A funeral Mass, with Archbishop Timothy B. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services as principal celebrant, will be offered Feb. 10 at Good Shepherd at 10:30 a.m., followed by a reception.

Interment with military honors will take place at Calvary Cemetery in Albany at a time yet to be announced.

"The Archdiocese for the Military Services has lost an energetic and sensitive successor of the apostles, whose pastoral zeal and love for the men and women in uniform and their families electrified everything he did," said Archbishop Broglio.

"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. My heartfelt sympathy goes to his mother and family. They have given him exemplary care and showered him with love throughout his illness," he said in a statement.

Bishop Estabrook helped with confirmations in the Arlington Diocese for several years.

"On behalf of the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Arlington, and in my own name, I wish to express my deep sadness upon the death of Bishop Joseph W. Estabrook," said Bishop Loverde in a statement.

"We were very fortunate to have Bishop Estabrook in our diocese, in residence at Good Shepherd Church in Mount Vernon where he often celebrated weekend Masses as well as assisting with diocesan confirmations. He faithfully ministered to men and women in our military both as a chaplain and a bishop.

"And I was privileged to know him as a member of a Jesus Caritas group of bishops who met periodically for prayer and fraternity. We benefited greatly from his profound faith and unfailing support.

"Joined to this expression of sympathy is the assurance of our united prayers asking the Good Shepherd to give eternal life to Bishop Estabrook, a neighbor who reflected so clearly the qualities of a faithful shepherd in the midst of his people," Bishop Loverde said.

Bishop Estabrook and another auxiliary for the military archdiocese - Bishop Richard B. Higgins - were ordained the same day - July 3, 2004, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Bishop Estabrook spoke of the significance of being ordained a bishop on the feast of St. Thomas, who said to Jesus, "We will go with you and we will die with you."

"He would have made a great Marine," the new bishop said, prompting laughter from the congregation.

But Thomas' doubts about Jesus' resurrection were also important, Bishop Estabrook said.

"We need someone who is a doubter to identify with on our journey of faith," he said. "This religion is not for the fainthearted. It takes tremendous courage and faith."

As an auxiliary bishop, he was assigned to care for members of the military and their families on the West Coast and in the Midwest. "If I'm not out with them, I'm not doing my job," he said once during a visit to Camp Pendleton Marine Base near San Diego.

In his first few months there, he had already visited Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas; Fort Irwin Army Post northeast of Barstow, Calif.; Edwards Air Force Base northeast of Los Angeles; and the marine Corps Air Station at Miramar, also near San Diego. He lived at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in San Clemente, Calif.

Born May 19, 1944, in Kingston, N.Y., he was a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and Christ the King Seminary, both in New York state. In 1969, he was ordained a priest of the Albany Diocese and was diocesan family life director before entering the Navy chaplaincy in 1977.

As a chaplain, he served on many ships throughout Europe, and then with the Marines in Quantico, Va. He completed studies at the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., in 1983. Then he was assigned to the Chief of Chaplains Office in Washington and later to the USS Carl Vinson.

Then-Father Estabrook graduated from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., in 1989 after completing graduate studies in ethics. He served at the Navy Air Station in Sicily and supported troops in the first Gulf War, both in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

He was the basic course officer at the Navy Chaplain School, Newport, R.I., and returned to Washington as executive assistant to the Navy Chief of Chaplains. He also was appointed as ethics consultant to the Navy surgeon general and was on the Department of Defense Health Affairs Ethics Panel until 1997.

He was fleet chaplain, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and senior chaplain of the U.S. Pacific Unified Command, 1997-2000.

Named a monsignor in March 1997, he reported aboard as command chaplain at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay in September 2000 until being named a bishop in 2004.

His military decorations include the Legion of Merit with two gold stars, the Meritorious Service Medal with a gold star, a Navy Commendation Medal with a gold star, four Meritorious Unit Awards as well as a number of other medals and awards. He was a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus and a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher.

Bishop Estabrook was preceded in death by his father, J. Walter Estabrook. He is survived by his mother, Genevieve; brother Timothy and his wife, Giselle; sister Mary Ann and her husband; several nieces and nephews; and numerous cousins.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Good Shepherd Church, 8710 Mount Vernon Hwy., Alexandria, VA 22309.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970