What is the Mission of the AMS?
The AMS worldwide mission is to provide for the pastoral care of the 1.8 million Catholics serving in the United States Armed Forces, their family members, students at the Military Academies, patients in VA medical centers and US governmental personnel serving abroad. It is the only agency responsible for endorsing and granting faculties to Catholic chaplains and deacons in service to those populations.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio is the Ordinary of the Archdiocese and Bishop Richard Higgins, Bishop Richard Spencer, Bishop Neal Buckon, and Bishop Robert Coyle are the four Auxiliaries. In support of the mission, they spend 65% of their time on pastoral visits to over 220 military locations in 29 countries and 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the United States.
What are the challenges for AMS during this time of War?
The country has been at war for more than 10 years which has placed a heavy, professional and personal burden on the men and women in the military and their family members. With such hardships they rely on our Catholic chaplains for spiritual guidance and support. At the same time, the chaplains are hard pressed to serve them owing to the severe shortage in their ranks.
In 2001 there were over 400 active duty Catholic chaplains. Today there are only 265. While some 25% in the military are Catholic, only 8% of military chaplains are Catholic priests. This places a very heavy burden on our Catholic chaplains, and results in our military men and women serving “in harm’s way” not having access to the sacraments for months at a time. A key role of the AMS is caring and supporting Catholic Chaplains in such troubling times as well as seeking more chaplains from US dioceses and religious orders.
One way the AMS is directly addressing the severe chaplain shortage is through its “Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program” which identifies and encourages men in the military to seek a vocation to the priesthood for the benefit of the entire Church and service thereafter as a chaplain. (More details on this program are provided below). Just as vocations surged after World War II, today’s military is also a most fertile ground for priestly and religious vocations.
Where is the AMS located?
The AMS offices are located in the Edwin Cardinal O’Brien Pastoral Center in Washington, DC near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Catholic University of America campus. The building not only houses the offices of the pastoral and administrative staff, but it also serves as the residence for the AMS clergy. The AMS is the only US diocese without a cathedral, but celebrates its major functions at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
How does the AMS differ from a typical diocese in the USA? Are there other unique aspects of its mission?
Unlike a typical diocese the AMS has no territorial borders. Its mission is worldwide and it supports the military members and their families wherever they are assigned or deployed. Also, there are no parishes which provide a weekly source of funds to support the Archdiocese. Solicitation of funds on military installations is severely limited by government mandate.
Another unique requirement for the AMS is to maintain faithfully and provide Sacramental Records (baptisms, confirmations, marriages) for anybody receiving the sacraments at a military installation. The AMS stores over 2.5 million records and receives over 10,000 requests for copies of records each year.
As a military archdiocese, does it receive financial support from the military and the Catholic Church?
The AMS is a church entity. It is not a part of the Armed Forces and is not funded by the federal government. It is a “home” mission diocese that depends almost entirely on financial support from individual donors including personal donations from its military and VA chaplains, gifts from military communities, gifts from dioceses, charitable bequests, and grants.
The military chaplains are members of the Armed Forces and, as such, are paid by the government. The AMS must pay all the considerable travel costs for its clergy to visit military installations around the world. They do not travel on military aircraft. The AMS receives limited support from certain US dioceses and foundations that support Catholic causes.
What are some of the key AMS pastoral responsibilities that donations support?
Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program – Sharing the costs (50%) of a seminary education with US dioceses for men aspiring to become military chaplains.
Vocation Discernment – Identifying and assisting members of the military who are interested in exploring their call to priestly service and religious life by conducting regular personal visits and retreats for them each year.
Young Adults – Fostering, through small faith groups, outreach ministry and evangelization among 18-24 year olds in the military seeking to support and deepen their Catholic faith.
Families – Providing catechetical tools and resources to effectively meet the pastoral needs of military families dealing with the challenges of military life that include a desire to find their home in the Catholic faith.
VA Chaplaincy – Recruiting, endorsing and supervising more than 270 full, part- time, and contract Catholic priests who minister to veterans, but also visiting those centers and offer comfort to those who have served our country from the “greatest generation to the latest generation.”
What is the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program?
In 2008, the AMS started the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a long-term program to recruit priestly vocations from the military for the benefit of US dioceses, religious orders and the armed forces. As part of the program the AMS has made a contractual commitment with US dioceses to fund 50% of the cost of the five years of seminarian education (up to $25,000 per year per seminarian). In return, the candidate and diocese agree that once ordained, the new priest will serve as a military chaplain in the Armed Forces for a minimum of five year after serving his home diocese for three years. There are 36 co-sponsored seminarians from 25 US dioceses studying in 18 seminaries this year.
Many of these seminarians have served in the U.S. military. There are more than 250,000 Catholics between the ages of 18 and 29 on active duty. These military members chose a vocation that demands sacrifice, self-discipline, obedience, and valor, all important virtues for the priesthood or religious life. The Archdiocese for the Military Services assists young men in the military to discern a vocation to the priesthood by offering two vocation discernment retreats per year. Sixty-eight men attended the three AMS vocation discernment retreats in 2015. Of these, ten have become co-sponsored seminarians. Three men have become diocesan seminarians and one has become a religious novice.
What are the current major sources of annual funding for the AMS?
- $2,700,000 (59%) from donations from the general public received from mail solicitations, the website, and bequests.
- $1,300,000 (28%) from donations from clergy, chaplains, military members and their families, and government personnel. With more frequent and longer deployments and fewer military chaplains on installations to serve families, such donations are decreasing.
- $600,000 (13%) from foundations that support Catholic causes and ten US (arch)dioceses.
What are the major expenses of the AMS?
The AMS carries out its worldwide mission with a very small, full-time staff comprised of 6 clergy, 3 religious and 17 laity. The major cost elements of the annual $4 million operating budget are:
- Pastoral Programs (Vocations, Youth/Young Adult Ministries, Veterans) and clergy worldwide travel
- Sacramental Records and Marriage Tribunal
- Supporting Services (Administration, Finance, Development, and Communications)
The AMS receives no funding from the military for any of its costs.
Is my donation to the AMS tax deductible?
Yes, the AMS is a registered 501(c)(3) not for profit organization under the rules of the IRS, and all donations are fully tax deductible.