Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship to help relieve severe shortage of Catholic priests in the U.S. Military
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the Knights of Columbus (K of C) paid the final $200,000 installment on a one-million-dollar scholarship set up by the organization nearly four years ago to fund seminary expenses for prospective new Catholic military chaplains. Mr. William Biggs, Chief Financial Officer for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA(AMS), said the Archdiocese received the final check on Monday, April 13. Mr. Biggs said this is the fifth such contribution the fund has received from the K of C since Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson announced creation of the “Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship” in August, 2011. Earlier installments, each in the amount of $200,000, arrived in June, 2012; October, 2012; April, 2013; and June, 2014.
The scholarship is named after the Venerable Father Michael McGivney, the Catholic priest who, in 1882, founded the K of C, now the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, in New Haven, Conn. For the AMS, the world’s only Catholic archdiocese responsible for endorsing and granting faculties for priests to serve as U.S. Military chaplains, the scholarship is helping fill a vital need. In recent decades, the U.S Military has seen a steady decline in Catholic chaplains as aging priests reach its mandatory retirement age of 62 faster than they can be replaced. Today, only 225 priests remain on active duty, down from more than 400 at the time of 9/11, and many more in years prior. With more than 300,000 Catholics now on active duty, that’s just one priest for every 1,300 Catholics, not counting their families. While 25% of the U.S. Military is Catholic, Catholic priests make up only 8% of the chaplain corps.
Fortunately, under the pastoral leadership of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, relief is on the horizon. When Archbishop Broglio took the helm of the AMS in 2008, he made vocations a top priority and profited from the decision of his predecessor, Edwin Cardinal O’Brien, to establish the full-time position of Vocations Director. Through the efforts of former Vocations Directors, Monsignor John R. McLaughlin, Father Kerry Abbott, O.F.M. Conv., and Father John Kaul, and current Vocations Director Father Aidan (Arthur H.) Logan, O.C.S.O., those efforts are paying off. The AMS has seen a sharp increase over the past seven years in prospective chaplains entering the “Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program,” a vocations partnership between the AMS and cooperating dioceses and religious communities around the country. The number of co-sponsored seminarians in formation to become military chaplains has risen sharply from seven in 2007 to 28 today. They come from 26 U.S. dioceses and are enrolled in 15 seminaries nationwide and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. This year, five of those seminarians will be ordained priests and two priests will go on active duty. Another 13 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.
While the enrollment increase in the Co-sponsored Seminarian Program comes as a blessing, Mr. Biggs said it places a huge financial burden on the AMS. He said the cost to the AMS for each co-sponsored seminarian amounts to approximately $15,000 per year for five years, for a total of $75,000 per seminarian, bringing the archdiocese’s annual seminarian bill to $420,000, up from less than $90,000 a year just seven years ago. Mr. Biggs said the projected seminarian expense over the next five years is $2.7 million. That is in addition to the AMS’s annual operating budget of $5.1 million, which funds pastoral services such as sacramental record-keeping, religious education programs, tribunal activity, clergy travel, and other day-to-day expenses for the 1.8 million Catholics served by the archdiocese worldwide. The AMS must continue to raise all that money from private sources as it receives no funding from the military or the government.
Archbishop Broglio said the Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship will help enormously in closing the gap. Archbishop Broglio expressed deep appreciation to the K of C. Archbishop Broglio said:
“Since 1917 the Knights of Columbus has been most generous is providing much needed financial support first to the Military Vicariate and now to this archdiocese as well as providing it with a wide range of programs and services. The Father McGivney Military Scholarship reflects the forward thinking of Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson and his staff. It would be a challenge to list all of the ways that the Knights have been exemplary in their commitment to the AMS. I am deeply grateful and eager to continue our collaboration.”
Anyone interested in making a donation to the Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship may do so on the K of C website.
Anyone interested in supporting the AMS and its mission serving those who serve may make a donation on the AMS website.
Any young man interested in exploring a vocation to the priesthood, and the “vocation within a vocation” to serve as a Catholic U.S. Military chaplain, is encouraged to contact the AMS Office of Vocations.
Photo Cutline: Catholic seminarians and prospective military chaplains with Father Aidan Logan, O.C.S.O., Vocations Director of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.