FORT WAYNE, IND. – Reverend Mr. Jay Horning, a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, May 20, in Fort Wayne, Ind. He hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the United States Army with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).
Priestly formation for the Rev. Mr. Horning, 29, is at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where he is on track to earn his Master’s Degree in Divinity next year. His diaconal ordination was celebrated at 11:00 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Among those in attendance were the new deacon’s mother, Ms. Lisa Horning; his paternal grandmother, Ms. Jane Horning; and his maternal grandparents, Mr. Paul and Ms. Shirley Rowe.
Rev. Mr. Horning is a 2006 graduate of Clay High School in South Bend, Ind., and a 2010 graduate of the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Theology. He hopes to be ordained a priest in June 2018 and eventually go on active duty as a U.S. Army Chaplain following three years of pastoral service in his home diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Rev. Mr. Horning said:
“This is a very joyous occasion that came sooner than I thought but also not soon enough. I am very eager to serve as a deacon and look forward to the opportunities to preach, baptize, and witness marriages. This is the vocation God has called me to and I am excited to live out this call for the rest of my life.”
The new deacon’s prospective military service, and that of other prospective new Catholic chaplains, will come not a moment too soon. The Army and all other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces continue to suffer a chronic shortage of chaplains as more and more priests reach mandatory military retirement faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty chaplains has fallen from more than 400 to approximately 207. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. armed forces, Catholic priests currently account for only 8% of military chaplains.
At the same time, more Catholic servicemen are stepping forward to answer God’s call. According to an annual survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, at least five percent of men being ordained priests this year previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and at least twelve percent come from military families. The actual numbers are almost certainly higher, because only 75% of the 590 ordinands responded to the 2017 survey.
The AMS is now busy tapping this source for prospective chaplains. The Vocations Office is focusing attention on active-duty servicemen expressing an interest in the priesthood, inviting more qualified candidates to join the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations partnership between the AMS and cooperating dioceses and religious communities around the country. Thanks in large part to the support of U.S. bishops and religious superiors, along with increased awareness and discernment opportunities, the number of co-sponsored seminarians has risen from seven in 2008 to 34 today. They come from 26 U.S. dioceses and are enrolled in 20 seminaries nationwide and the North American College in Rome. This year, two of those co-sponsored will be ordained priests, and two seminarians, including Rev. Mr. Horning, will be ordained transitional deacons. Another 10 priests, now in reserve status, are set to phase into active duty over the next three years. Meanwhile, another four men are scheduled to enter the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program in the fall, and the AMS Office of Vocations is currently processing the applications of still others.
The AMS, which receives no funding from the government and depends entirely on private giving, is now looking for ways to fund a fast-rising seminary bill, now projected at $2.9 million over the next five years. Donations can be made at www.milarch.org/donate.
Young men interested in discerning a priestly vocation, and the vocation within a vocation to serve those who serve in the U.S. military, can find more information at www.milarch.org/vocations, or may contact Father Logan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.