Two prospective chaplains ordained at weekend Masses, reaching milestones in priestly formation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) welcomed two more ordinations on Saturday, the Feast of the Visitation. Father Paul Shovelain, 26, was ordained a priest in St. Paul, Minn. Reverend Mr. Thomas Gallagher, 26, was ordained a transitional deacon in Arlington, Va. Both hope eventually to serve the U.S. Military or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as priests with endorsement and faculties from the AMS.
Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., ordained Father Shovelain and five classmates to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Paul through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit. U.S. Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio represented the AMS, and he concelebrated the ordination Mass along with ArchbishopAlexander K. Sample of Portland, Ore., Bishop John M. LeVoir of New Ulm, Minn., and Auxiliary Bishops Lee A. Piché and Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis. In his homily, Archbishop Nienstedt stressed, among other themes, the importance of Marian devotion in the life of a priest. Father Shovelain celebrated his “first” Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minn. on Sunday morning.
Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, Va. administered the diaconal ordination of Rev. Mr. Gallagher, along with four other new deacons, through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit. Rev. Msgr. John J.M. Foster, AMS Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, represented the AMS and concelebrated the ordination Mass. Diaconal ordination marks the next-to-last step in Rev. Mr. Gallagher’s formational journey toward priesthood. He hopes to be ordained a priest next year upon completion of studies atMount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. In addressing those to be ordained, Bishop Loverde highlighted the deacon’s threefold ministry: of the word, at the altar, and of charity.
The newly ordained expressed joy at reaching a major milestone in their vocations.
Father Shovelain said:
“… the priests laid hands on our head and it was awesome! I felt the Father’s love through each one of them. Then, (Archbishop Nienstedt) said the consecratory prayer. Afterward, I stood up and just kept saying to myself, ‘you’re a priest, you’re a priest!’… It is wonderful to be a priest. It has been an exhausting weekend but incredibly blessed. I have truly felt the face of God to me, especially in celebrating the sacraments to give me the energy and focus I need to celebrate them faithfully and prayerfully. God is good!”
Rev. Mr. Gallagher said:
“Having received ordination as a transitional deacon, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for having graced me with this vocation as it has taken me totally by surprise. I cannot wait to preach the Gospel with my life and daily give my life for Christ’s bride, the Church, especially for those who serve in our nation’s military.”
Father Shovelain and Rev. Mr. Gallagher are among a growing number of men in formation to become priests and military chaplainsthrough the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a partnership between the AMS and local dioceses and religious communities to support vocations and fill a fast-growing shortage of Catholic chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces. The shortage comes as more and more priests reach the military’s mandatory retirement age of 62 faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty chaplains has fallen from more than 400 to 229. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. Military, Catholic priests currently account for only 8% of military chaplains.
Thanks in large part to the support of U.S. bishops and religious superiors, along with increased awareness and discernment opportunities for prospective chaplains, the number of co-sponsored seminarians has risen from seven in 2008 to 31 today, and still more candidates are on the way. Father Shovelain and Rev. Mr. Gallagher are among thirteen prospective chaplains to be ordained this year, either as priests or transitional deacons.
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 $2.7 million over the next five years. Donations can be made at www.milarch.org.