“May the blessing of the Lord be upon you; the blessing of the Father and the Son. And may the Spirit of love be with you all your days.” (The Blessing Song)
Love, laughter, and fellowship filled the hall, July 27 as Fort Belvoir’s Faith Community said farewell to its long-time leader.
Throughout the evening, words like leader, humble, selfless, loving, kind, caring, mentor, trainer and friend, were used to describe the man of the hour, Chaplain (Col.) Phillip Hill, Fort Belvoir Garrison command chaplain, as he prepares to retire.
The evening began with a celebration of the Catholic Mass, let by The Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services.
During his homily, the Archbishop recognized Chaplain Hill’s 42 years of service as a priest and to his country.
“We gather this evening to give thanks to the Almighty God as Chaplain Hill retires from the Army and the Ministry,” Broglio said. “Although you are retiring, we know that you will continue to serve.”
In closing, The Archbishop quoted Benedict XVl (Pope Emeritus) “The priestly ministry is based solely on Christ … Watching from above and seeing God’s perfection in serving others.”
Serving others is how Chaplain Hill will be remembered by the Fort Belvoir Faith Community, Broglio said.
At the conclusion of his homily, the Archbishop was joined by Hill, Chaplain Gregory D’Emma (Chaplain, U.S. Army War College), Monsignor Joseph Goudreau, (Former Installation Chaplain, Fort Meyer, Va.), Father Raymond Kopec (Chief of Chaplain’s Office), Father Frank Ready, Father Jerome Daly and Deacons David Hoen and David Powers (Fort Belvoir Community) in a concelebrated mass.
After the mass, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jim King, deputy garrison chaplain and senior protestant pastor, served as the master of ceremonies for the farewell dinner.
In his opening remarks, King welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming to celebrate and honor Hill as he prepared to retire from a long and illustrious career. After his remarks, dinner service began with a blessing of thanksgiving over the food and for the bountiful gifts in our daily lives.
Archbishop Broglio began an evening of tributes and well wishes by formally thanking Hill for all the “good work” he has done over the years.
Broglio went on to say “as you think of what Chaplain Hill has done for Fort Belvoir, it is a reminder of how priests build up their communities” through selfless service to others. At the conclusion of his remarks, Broglio presented Chaplain Hill with the “traditional departure gift” from the archdiocese.
Stephen Brooks, deputy to the garrison commander, lauded Chaplain Hill’s contributions to the Belvoir community. Brooks highlighted Hill’s leadership and “hands on approach” to achieving physical improvements to various structures used for religious education, his ability to negotiate the budget process while the Army operates in a resource constrained environment, and his pastoral leadership in bringing the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish Faith Communities together, working for the greater good of the Fort Belvoir Community.
Brooks concluded his remarks by recognizing that Chaplain Hill “will be missed throughout the community” and thanked him for the “love” he bestowed upon everyone with whom he came in contact. Brooks concluded, “We have never felt so much love from a priest.”
In the final tribute of the evening, John Leonard presented Chaplain Hill with a white clerical stole as a token of gratitude and appreciation from the Catholic Community. The stole was hand woven by Michelle Burton.
Once the various tributes and presentation were complete, Hill made a few parting remarks. He began by reminding everyone that in the early days of his assignment he asked people to pray for a personal special intention. He used this farewell gathering to disclose that special intention: It is “Be mindful of those who devote themselves to others and may they not be deterred.” This evening Chaplain Hill said he felt his special intention has been fulfilled more than he could have anticipated.
Keeping his remarks short, Hill thanked everyone for their love and support over the years and left them with this parting thought. “Take what you have and turn it towards God. When you do that, you will never have a challenge we cannot face.”
In closing, I would like to personally thank Chaplain Hill for his unwavering dedication and support to our Faith Community. May our Heavenly Father, keep you safe as you begin your new journey and may you find strength as you look back on your experiences with the Fort Belvoir Community.