The Priest with a Purple Heart

Stuart The Rev. Donald Cameron Stuart served as rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Skaneateles from January of 1923 to 1926. Born 1893 in Syracuse, he graduated from Hobart College with the class of 1915, and completed his studies at the General Theological Seminary in New York City. The United States declared war on Germany in April of 1917, and Stuart enlisted in the Army in June, serving as a Private, a Sergeant and then as a Second Lieutenant in the 108th Infantry, 27th Division, in France.

27th Division

“The Glorious 27th” by Fortunino Matania (1881-1963)

Stuart saw action at Yypres-Lys, and was wounded during the final Somme Offensive, at the battle around the Le Selle River, on October 17, 1918 — three days before his regiment was relieved, and less than a month before the Armistice. He received the Purple Heart, and was discharged in July of 1919. He took “a refresher course” in theology at Cambridge University in England, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest. Shortly after Donald began his service as rector at St. James’ in Skaneateles, he was commissioned as a First Lieutenant and became the chaplain of the 108th Infantry, now a reserve unit. He left St. James’ in 1926 to serve at St. George’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Utica, N.Y., but continued as an Army chaplain. In spite of his war experiences, or perhaps because of them, he had a unique perspective. In a sermon he preached at St. George’s in 1933, he said, “Many of His followers act as though they must get rid of all fun and pleasure if they are to be good. But how can we expect to bring others into the church if we picture Christianity as a religion of gloom and sadness? It is the devil who tries to make us see only the sorrow and the suffering of life… Of course Christians will not find joy and happiness by avoiding labor and suffering on this earth. The Christian must always be ready to endure suffering for God and for men. But through our toil and suffering, we Christians know there is still a joy in living.” In 1940, on the eve of World War II, the Rev. Stuart’s unit was called to active duty; he was promoted to Lt. Col. and became the chaplain of the 27th Division. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he sailed to Hawaii to serve in his second World War. He returned to the U.S. in July of 1943 as post chaplain at the Ashford General Hospital in White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, before being assigned to Washington, D.C., as chaplain at Walter Reed General Hospital, where he ended his military career. After retirement, he moved to Florida, where he died in 1977.

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One thought on “The Priest with a Purple Heart

  1. Pingback: Leave This Man Alone | Skaneateles

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