By Patrick BraySeptember 13, 2017
MONTEREY, Calif. - During a humble ceremony at the Presidio of Monterey Chapel Sept. 11, St. Jerome became inducted as the patron saint of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and of military linguists.
St. Jerome, who lived from 347 to 420, has been associated with writing, cataloging and translating works of history, biographies, and biblical translations and is traditionally regarded as the most learned of the Latin Fathers. Therefore it is fitting that he be chosen as the patron saint of linguists, according to Chaplain Maj. Chan-young Ham, DLIFLC command chaplain.
"St. Jerome was dedicated to his work as a translator and linguist. He was disciplined and he believed in what he was doing, pushing himself to be an expert in language and the understanding of them," said Ham.
"He was internationally influenced," Ham continued. "He traveled the world and respected other cultures, while dialoging with many to discuss scholarship and the truth."
The tradition of patron saints as guardians over areas of life, to include occupations, dates back to as early as the fourth century. Linguists now join with other military career fields who have followed in this tradition. St. Michael, paratroopers, and St. Barbara, field artillery, are examples of military occupations that have previously inducted a patron saint.
Father George Khoury, associate professor of Levantine at the Institute, inducted St. Jerome at the Presidio Chapel and blessed the pendants with holy water, which were then given to all in attendance. He and Col. Phil Deppert, commandant of DLIFLC, unveiled the St. Jerome icon that will be displayed in the Aiso Library on the Presidio.
The idea of a patron saint for linguists was brought up to Deppert when Ham arrived at the Institute in December 2016. Patron saints within each branch have long been a military tradition.
"Since I got here I thought we should have a pendant with a patron to set our commitment and professionalism," said Ham. "Since we did not have one we embarked on making a pendant and ended up inducting a patron saint."
In the process Ham offered Deppert a choice between St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Military Intelligence branch, and St. Jerome. In the end, the Commandant decided to go with St. Jerome.
The next step was to ensure that the Institute did not appear to be promoting a religious affiliation. Although it has a Christian historical background, there are no hidden motives of endorsing the Christian faith.
"Instead, we are creating a tradition like other branches where we hold our standards to the highest values and commitment as linguists," said Ham. "St. Jerome loved languages. He was a proficient linguist, an open minded scholar and translator."
Deppert told those in attendance that they can look to St. Jerome as a point of inspiration, especially students, as DLIFLC is considered one of the toughest training pipelines in the Department of Defense. The language school places enormous pressure on students from across the services to succeed in only a limited amount of time. It is easy to see how students might feel stressed and overwhelmed.
The Army offers a variety of wellness programs through physical fitness, emotional, and spiritual fitness to improve readiness and increase resilience through public health initiatives and leadership engagement. According to the Army Public Health Center, spirituality is often defined as a sense of connection that gives meaning and purpose to a person's life. Spirituality is unique to each individual, and refers to the deepest part of "you."
Part of St. Jerome's legacy is that he once said, "Good, better, best. Never let it rest 'til your good is better and your better is best."
St. Jerome is also the patron saint of archaeologists, biblical scholars, librarians, students and translators. September 30 is his feast day according to Latin traditions.
DLIFLC provides resident instruction in 17 languages at the Presidio of Monterey, California, with the capacity to instruct another 65 languages in Washington, D.C. The Institute has graduated more than 220,000 linguists since 1941.
In addition, multiple language training detachments exists at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea, spanning all the U.S. geographic combatant commands in support of the total force.