A blessed Baptism by the sea Coast Guard ship’s bell has role in ritual

Father Robert Higgins introduced Nilah Jo Silvoy to the guests aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Anvil after her baptism Sunday at the Charleston Sector Headquarters.

Baptized with a sand dollar from a ship’s bell.

That’s how 3-month-old Nilah Jo Silvoy will always remember her baptism, once she’s old enough to hear about it.

She was baptized Sunday aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Anvil at the Charleston base. Her father, Eric Silvoy, is the vessel’s executive petty officer.

Silvoy was dressed in his navy blue Coast Guard uniform as he held his daughter over the inverted bell. She was dressed in a white gown and didn’t make a peep.

Father Robert Higgins, a Catholic priest with the Apostleship of the Sea, gave the family a choice of full submersion, pouring or sprinkling. Silvoy decided Nilah was too big to fit in the bell and chose sprinkling. He used a sand dollar to scoop water out of the bell.

Paul Rosenblum, a Citadel biology professor preparing to become a deacon, assisted with the oils and the tomes.

“I think it was probably one of the more memorable things I’ll remember in my lifetime,” Silvoy said.

Nilah’s name will be inscribed inside the bell this week, traveling with her father as he keeps Lowcountry waterways safe.

The Anvil is a construction tender, with a big yellow crane attached to the back.

Silvoy has been in the Coast Guard for 10 years. He and his wife, Kateline, moved here from Cape Cod, Mass., in May. Nilah is their first child. The family could get the bell when the ship is decommissioned, if the bell isn’t put into a museum, Silvoy said.

Higgins said this is not the first time he’s baptized a baby in a ship’s bell. Silvoy said it’s an old tradition.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.