Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson
NORFOLK, Va – The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), participated in one of the oldest naval traditions when it hosted its first baptism inside the ship’s forecastle, June 24.
Lt. John “Jack” Curran, from Silver Spring, Maryland, a Ford deck division officer, and his wife, Lt. Emily Curran, from San Antonio, Texas, an assistant project officer for carrier new construction at the Supervisor of Shipbuilding and former Ford nuclear surface warfare officer, celebrated the baptism of their three-month old son during a ceremony in front of family and Ford Sailors.
“Because Jack and I both served on this ship, we hold a special place in our hearts for this ship and our extended Navy family,” said Emily Curran. “We thought it would be an honor to have our son baptized into the faith and into our Navy family here on a ship that has meant a lot to the both of us.”
“The tradition blesses the child and all the seas that he will go on,” said Jack Curran. “It’s a time-honored tradition that we got to continue today.”
The custom of baptizing infants aboard ships dates back to the British Royal Navy, when baptisms were conducted in foreign ports or at sea. Traditionally the infant is baptized under or inside the ship’s bell.
The baby’s name will be engraved inside of the bell where it will stay with the ship through the entirety of the ship’s service in the fleet. When the ship is decommissioned, the bell will be given to the Curran family.
With the Ford built to provide the nation with 50 years of service when it is commissioned July 22, it will be several decades before any bell is received.
“We are really grateful to be the first on board to have our son baptized and grateful to have friends and family to be able to come and support us to welcome our son into the faith and the Navy family,” said Emily Curran.
Presiding over the baptism was Lt. Jamal Scarlett, a Ford chaplain from Murrieta, California.
“I’ve done many baptisms when I was a parish priest, but this is my first baptism on any ship,” said Scarlett. “I feel incredibly honored and humbled to perform the first baptism on ship. To be asked to participate in something historic – a long held tradition that goes all the way back to the 1700’s – that is a blessing. Being the first on this carrier is even more of a blessing.”
The ship’s bell will be engraved with the name of every child baptized in or under it. Yet its final resting place will be with that of the Curran family, the first family to baptize their child on the future USS Gerald R. Ford.