Father Gregory Caiazzo replaces Father John Kaul in position
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) has a new Archbishop’s Delegate for Contract Priests. He is Father Gregory G. Caiazzo, a retired U.S. Navy Chaplain. Father Caiazzo (pronounced “Ky-AHT-zoe”) replaces Father John Kaul, who retired from the AMS earlier this year.
As Delegate for Contract Priests, Father Caiazzo will be responsible for keeping up with the Department of Defense (DoD) contracts by which civilian priests provide ministry and pastoral services to military personnel and their families. He will also work to help match priests with DoD contracts as new positions come open.
Currently, 379 civilian contract priests serve in all three branches of the military. That is in addition to the 231 Catholic chaplains now on active duty. DoD created the contract positions as a way of dealing with the ongoing shortage of Catholic military chaplains, whose numbers have declined over the past few decades—down from around 400 in the period since 9/11 alone—as aging priests reach retirement faster than they can be replaced.
Last October, some 50 of these contract priests found themselves at the center of national attention when the law governing non-appropriated services to the federal government banished them from their assigned bases due to the shutdown, resulting in some military Catholics missing Mass for two consecutive weekends until Congress settled on a budget deal.
Incardinated in the Richmond Diocese, Father Gregory G. Caiazzo originally hails from New Jersey where he grew up and attended St. Joseph’s Regional High School in Montvale, N.J. He received his bachelor’s degree from Maryknoll College and then studied for the priesthood for the Paulist Fathers at the Washington Theological Union in the nation’s capital. Ordained in 1976, Father Caiazzo spent his first five years of ministry at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and at St. Austin’s Parish on the campus of the University of Texas.
In 1981 he responded to the need for priests to serve in the Sea Services and entered the United States Navy serving with the 3rd Marine Division, Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, Commander Submarine Squadron Six, USS America, CV 66 and the Naval Weapons Station Charleston, SC. In 1994 he incardinated into the Diocese of Richmond. Upon being promoted to Commander, he was put in charge of Chaplain Recruiting for the Navy, heading a team of field recruiters during a challenging time in attracting priests and other clergy to military ministry. He was then made Force Chaplain for the Navy’s Land bases in southern Europe (COMFAIRMED). After an assignment as Command Chaplain at the Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Sicily, he assumed force lever responsibilities as director of the Navy Reserve Chaplains, the reserve enlisted support (Religious Program Specialists) and the Chaplain Candidate Program. He completed his Naval career in the Office of the Chief of Navy Chaplains in charge of Public Affairs and as Director of Manpower, Personnel and Recruiting.
Father Caiazzo retired as a Navy Captain with over 30 years of active service. His personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal (Five Gold Stars), the Navy Commendation Medal (1 Gold Star), the Navy Achievement Medal (1 Gold Star) and numerous other command and unit awards. Since his retirement from the Navy he has served as a civilian priest at Travis Air Force Base in northern California. Father Caiazzo holds advanced degrees in Telecommunications Management and Human Resources as well as a Doctor of Ministry.
Of his new position, Father Caiazzo said:
“The greatest gift that a priest can bring to our service men and women is the presence of Christ in the Sacraments. The majority of our service members are in the 18 to 25 year old age category. They may not find themselves in a pew on Sunday morning but if a priest can be open to touch their faith where it is, he can be the first step in their path to God.
“Many of our service men and women identify themselves as ‘Spiritual’ because they do not see what the church can offer them and the power of the Sacraments. When Catholic Chaplains and contract priests are present on our bases, on our ships, in our hospitals and in the field; the power of the sacraments become real to the veteran, soldier, sailor, airman, marine, and coast guardsman.”