CNA: Catholic US Military Archdiocese sees rise in priestly vocations: SPECIAL APPEAL FROM FR. Z TO READERS

It is a regret of mine that I didn’t sign up for military chaplain service when I had the chance.  I am more than likely too old now and hindsight is 20/20.  In any event, at one point I did try to get back in touch with the US Navy, but never heard back.  Oh well… if you are every wondering if God is interested in you, just make a plan, right?  But that was then and this is now.

In any event, military personnel and their families need priests.

That said, I am delighted with the story I read on CNA, which I add now here with my emphases and comments.  I have an appeal, below.

Catholic military archdiocese sees rise in priestly vocations

Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2011 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese for the Military Services in the U.S. is welcoming a steady increase of priestly vocations after declining numbers in recent years.

The upcoming fall academic year will greet 31 new seminarians compared with 23 last year, 12 in 2009 and only three in 2008[That means diocesan bishops may be more willing to let men go to do service.]

Father Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv. and director of vocations, noted that the rise in numbers is due to recruiting efforts as well as Catholic bishops around the U.S. agreeing to co-sponsor seminarians.

Fr. Abbott said that the archdiocese “is most grateful” for the bishops’ support and explained that co-sponsorship involves a diocesan bishop accepting a young man as a seminarian who will then participate in the Chaplain Candidacy Program of one of the branches of the U.S. armed forces.

The process then requires a bishop agreeing to release the seminarian for service as a military chaplain after three years of pastoral experience as a priest in his diocese. When the priest leaves military service, he will return to the diocese.

“This is one of the ‘untold stories’ of the blessings of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and those faithful fervently seeking to respond to the voice of God,” Fr. Abbott said in a statement Aug. 15.

The vocations director said he expects anywhere from five to 10 more men to enter seminaries next year, and that the archdiocese is currently processing hundreds of inquiries from prospective military chaplains.

He also said that the timing couldn’t be better in light of the  U.S. armed forces experiencing a steady decline in Catholic military chaplains over the past 10 years as priests reach the military retirement age of 62. The number of military priests is down from more than 400 active in 2001, to 274 this year. [That’s a really low number, folks.]

Statistics from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, show that nearly 10 percent of men ordained as U.S. Catholic priests over the past two years had previously served in the military with another 10 percent coming from military families.

“When you think about it, this makes complete sense,” Fr. Abbott said. “Both the military and the priesthood rely on a largely common set of foundational values, including a commitment to service, self-discipline and a higher calling.”

“So it should come as no surprise that so many of our seminarians come from a military background and a growing number are looking to go back to the life they know after ordination.”

Fr. Abbott said the influx of seminarians poses a “delightful dilemma” on how to pay for the 50 percent share of the students’ five-year education. In just three years, the archdiocese’s annual seminary bill has climbed from less than $40,000 to more than $350,000.

The Knights of Columbus recently announced a new “Venerable Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship” that will provide $200,000 a year over the next five years for the seminarians. The archdiocese is now in search of additional funding sources to make up the difference.

I would like to make a special appeal to you readers.

Would you consider making a donation to the Archdiocese for Military Services?  It wouldn’t have to be much, but I think they would appreciate it.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. HoyaGirl says:

    For what it’s worth, military bases are often looking for Catholic priests to minister in their base chapels. I know for a fact – insider info – that the Navy contracts with priests to cover Masses at some of their locations. If you or any of your fellow priests are still interested in spiritually feeding our military flock, you might want to go through your local diocese to contact the chaplain’s office at a nearby base to see if you can be of help. Just a thought! As a Navy brat, Navy vet, and Navy wife, I know how deep this need really is. :)

  2. wmeyer says:

    I don’t know the age limits, but to add to what HoyaGirl has said, the Navy also provided chaplains to the Coast Guard. The chaplain assigned to the Coast Guard Academy, Fr. Mode, happens also to be the author of Padre Grunt, the story of Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a chaplain in the Viet Nam war. More information here.

    Fr.Mode has been a great influence on my step-daughter, who is in her final year at the Academy; he baptized and confirmed her there a few months ago.

    Not all service is on the battlefield.

  3. neworleansgirl says:

    Thank you for posting this. We’re a military family and my husband is currently deployed. Sometimes he goes weeks without Mass when he is deployed because of the shortage of Catholic military chaplains. To be in a war zone, with no access to the Sacraments, is disturbing, to be sure.

    And back home, we have been stationed at numerous bases in which there were no Catholic chaplains. The chapel would offer a weekly communion service, or you could leave the base and drive to the nearest town that had a Catholic church.

    Protestant chaplains, however, are a dime a dozen. We’ve never been stationed at a base with fewer than 3. And when Catholics do not have access to Mass when deployed, some of them go to the Protestant services, thinking it’s “better than nothing” and then over time, succumb to the feel-good nature of some of the worship and end up leaving the Church when they return because they liked Chaplain Bob so much and the music “really spoke to them.” Of course, this means they obviously weren’t catechized well prior to joining the military, but still. We have many “I used to be Catholic” military friends.

  4. Beau says:

    I’m not sure how old you are Father, but here’s a great story about a 52 year old priest getting into shape for and joining the military:

  5. PostCatholic says:

    I wonder if they’ve begun to clear up their funding issues. I see they’ve changed their Moderator of the Curia and some senior staff, added a new auxillary bishop, and they have a new website. Guess they found the money when they fired a bunch of laywoman employees. They’ll have to come up with another strategy to cover that seminary bill, though.

  6. Margaret says:

    Father Z, I don’t know your age, but I know a priest of Opus Dei who was, I suspect, at least your age when he served as a chaplain in Operation Desert Storm…

  7. Augustin57 says:

    From what I’ve heard, the military is so desperate for priests, that in many cases, they’re waiving the age ceiling. It’s not a bad life, and you get to travel and meet a lot of great folks. (I was in the Air Force for 7 years.)

  8. snoozie says:

    Has anyone thought about how the repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is going to effect every Christian chaplain? From what I understand there will be no quarter given any chaplain who holds the Biblical view of homosexuality, nor any priest who upholds Church teaching on the subject. The orthodox who enter now will be the first sacrificial lambs.

    Report: Military to chaplains — resign or conform
    Chad Groening – OneNewsNow – 8/24/2011 10:00:00 AM
    A coalition of chaplains and other service members is urging members of Congress to stand up for religious freedom in the wake of the appeal of the ban on homosexual military service.

    The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty comprises mostly retired chaplains who on behalf of their faith groups represent thousands of currently active military chaplains who believe what the Bible says about the homosexual lifestyle. The bill repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was passed by the lame-duck Congress in December and subsequently signed into law by President Barack Obama.

    Col. Ron Crews (USA-Ret.) served as a chaplain for 28 years, including stints with the storied 82nd and 101st Divisions. He now serves as a chaplain endorser for Grace Churches International. Crews says one of his chaplains attended a briefing by Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.

    “My chaplain asked him, ‘Will those of us who hold biblical orthodox views concerning homosexuality be protected in this new environment to speak about those views?'” the retired chaplain reports. “And the response he received was, ‘Chaplain, if you can’t get in line with this policy, resign your commission.'”

    Despite Mullen’s veiled threat, Crews says his alliance is encouraging chaplains to stand fast in their support of biblical truth about homosexuality — and he says they are prepared to help their people.

    “We are taking steps, working with organizations like Alliance Defense Fund and other groups like that, to say that if there are chaplains who are in anyway harmed or become victims in this process that there are some legal recourses we can take to provide protections for them.”

    Crews says they sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them to protect military religious liberty from the dangers created by the government’s decision to force open homosexual behavior on the military.

  9. Steve T. says:

    With my usual incredible cheek, I wrote to the F.S.S.P. urging that the order to at least send some of their U.S. priests to the military as chaplains. (What I really urged was that the order send all of its U.S. priests to put in a tour of duty as chaplains—starting with the U.S. Marine Corps.) I truely believe that this would accelerate the laying of bricks in the “brick-by-brick” approach. Why?

    1) The military is composed primarily of young men, with a very high proportion of men who are fathers.
    2) These young men are overwhelming conservative in its truest sense: they intrinsically value counter-cultural values, such as honor, loyalty, duty, and respect.
    3) These young men intrinsically value tradition, and understand the value of uniforms and training (especially the U.S. Marines).
    4) These young men face difficult moral choices and basic questions about good and evil.
    5) These young men often rotate in and out of the service and civilian life.

    By serving these young men at this critical period in their lives, and by introducing them to the Traditional Mass, traditionalist priests can keep them Catholic while setting up their children to become traditional Catholics. It would benefit the priests themselves, I believe, to have those experiences.

    Father Z, do you think I’m off-base?
    Do you know of any traditional order that has thought about this approach?

  10. rsalie says:

    My husband is an Army recruiter right now, and if you really want to know the age and requirements he would be glad to find out particulars for you for any of the branches(and don’t worry, he won’t hardsell you on joining, but he can get you the contact info and he can email you information on the program). To be practical (sorry..the “Martha” side of me) there are very large incentives offered by the military since there are so few Priests, not to mention how much the soldiers need them. In the last 16 years that my husband has been in, he has never had a unit with a Catholic chaplain.

  11. akp1 says:

    Our parish priest left us last summer to join the British Navy as chaplain – the first Catholic chaplain in many years – he was about 43 then, our priest before him also left (hmm see a bit of a pattern!) and has been 11 years as an Army Chaplain, he will be 50 next summer. So you might still have time!
    Unfortunately we haven’t had another priest appointed so run the parish on our own. It’s small but far from ideal, a priest comes for Mass on Sat evening and Sunday morning.

  12. amenamen says:

    @ snoozie: You are right, I am afraid. Things look pretty dismal, although there are a lot of good chaplains, as you have pointed out. Thank God for the increase of seminarians, too.

    The new Chief of Army Chaplains, Major General Rutherford (Diocese of Albany) has raised a few question marks.

  13. I have to say Thank You for posting this about our Military and Military Chaplains. I have been contributing for a few years now to the Diocese of the Military. These guy’s are supporting our fighting men and women who defend our freedom. God Bless the priests in the diocese of the Military Services and all of the men and women in the armed forces. Your service to the greatest country in the world, is a huge sacrifice, however, to us civilians, you are treasured and prayed for every day, with rosary’s, masses, and personal prayers.

    God Bless all who server in our military, Men, Women, and Chaplains!!!! May God Bless them and bring them home Safely!!!

  14. snoozie says:

    @amenamen; thanks for the articles. Frightening. Though things have, to a degree, always been thus, I fear we are living in a uniquely sinister time. As Our Lord admonished…”Watch…..and pray”.

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