American Catholic Priesthood Sees Spike in Newcomers from the U.S. Military

24 newly ordained had military careers, nearly double the number last year

Father James Hinkle, LT, USNR (left), Father Christopher Christensen, LT, USNR (center), and Father Steven Walker (right) with Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio following their ordination Mass on June 7, 2014, in Arlington, Va. Photo courtesy of Stacy Rausch | Catholic Herald.

Father James Hinkle, LT, USNR (left), Father Christopher Christensen, LT, USNR (center), and Father Steven Walker (right) with Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio following their ordination Mass on June 7, 2014, in Arlington, Va. Photo courtesy of Stacy Rausch | Catholic Herald.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Springtime is ordination season for U.S. Catholicpriests, and the Class of 2015 will turn out nearly twice as many military veterans as compared with each of the past two years. According to an annualsurvey, at least 6% of men being ordained to the priesthood this year and responding to questions—24 of 411 altogether—report having previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces. That’s up from 4% (13 of 365 respondents) in 2014, and 4% (14 of 366 respondents) in 2013.

The Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, also finds an increase in the newly ordained coming from military family backgrounds. Sixteen percent of this year’s responding class members reported one or both parents had a military career, compared to 15% in 2014 and 13% in 2013.

Father Aidan Logan, O.C.S.O., is Vocations Director of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). He works closely with young candidates for the priesthood and prospective military chaplaincythrough the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations partnership between the AMS and cooperating dioceses and religious communities around the country. Among the candidates Father Logan counsels are many active-duty servicemen engaged in the process of discerning God’s call. Father Logan says the survey findings come as no surprise:

“The statistics on the 2015 ordination class for the United States show once again that the Archdiocese for the Military Services is fertile ground for the cultivation of vocations to the priesthood. At a time when only 0.5% of the nation’s population currently serves in the Armed Forces, 16% of those ordained this year come from military families and 6% have served on active duty. All this is in spite of the drastic shortage of Catholic chaplains in all branches of the military. This alone should motivate dioceses and religious communities to consider co-sponsoring seminarians and releasing priests for service as military chaplains. We can only imagine the yield if there were sufficient workers to gather in the harvest.”

Father Logan says the real number of new priests with military backgrounds could actually be much higher than found in the 2015 Survey of Ordinands, because only 69% of the 595 men being ordained priests this year responded.