WASHINGTON, DC – Seven Catholic priests from seven religious communities and U.S. dioceses are gathered in Washington, DC, this week for a five-day discernment retreat aimed at helping them determine if they are called to the “vocation within a vocation” to serve as U.S. Military chaplains. The all-expenses-paid retreat, “For God and Country: a Call to Serve Those Who Serve,” is the fourthof its kind to be sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), since 2015.
The three earlier retreats—held in October 2015, April 2016, and October 2016—resulted in a combined total of eight (8) priests joining the AMS following release by their bishops for military service. Four of these priests are committed to serve on active duty while three will serve under contract with the Department of Defense and one will serve in the Army Reserve.
The retreats are meant to help relieve a chronic shortage of Catholic U.S. Military chaplains, whose ranks are dwindling due to attrition: aging chaplains are reaching military retirement faster than they can be replaced. Currently, some 205 priests are on active duty, fewer than half the number serving at the time of 9/11.
Priests attending the June 25-29 retreat are from the dioceses of Burlington, VT; Winona-Rochester, MN; and Marquette, MI; and the Legionaries of Christ, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, the Society of St. Pius X, and the Congregation of the Mission. During the gathering, AMS clergy, staff, and chaplain recruiters will join His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, in giving the priests a realistic picture of what it is like to be a military chaplain and how to become one. The AMS Chancellor, Father Robert R. Cannon, Ch, Col, USAF (Ret.), said “the For God and Country retreat offers priests a taste of the life and ministry of a military chaplain, and the opportunity to discern whether to become one.”
Staying at the Theological College in Northeast Washington, the priests will gather daily for prayer and the Eucharist. They will visit Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, VA, Andrews Air Force Base, MD, and Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. In those real-life settings, they will meet and talk with military officers, enlisted personnel, and other chaplains. “Time is allotted for them to sit-down with priest recruiters representing the Army, Navy, and Air Force,” Father Cannon said.
The highlight of the gathering will come on Thursday in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel at the 9/11 crash site, where the priests will concelebrate Mass. The retreat will conclude after Morning Prayer on Friday.
Dates are not yet set for future “For God and Country” retreats, but priests are welcome to submit applications ahead of time.
To qualify for consideration:
- The priest must have a minimum of two years of ordained ministry in a parish;
- The priest must be a citizen or have a Green Card; priests with only a visa will not be considered;
- Preference will be given to those priests who can enter active duty before their 42nd birthday.
For more information, go here, or contact the AMS Chancellor at Chancellor@milarch.org or (202) 719-3600.