WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), is celebrating the ordinations of two prospective U.S. Military chaplains over the Memorial Day weekend. Father Daniel Swartz, 27, was ordained a priest in Columbus, Ohio. Reverend Mr. Rene Pellessier, 26, was ordained a transitional deacon in Lafayette, La. Both ordinations took place on Saturday, May 28. Each prospective chaplain hopes eventually to serve on active duty in the U.S. Navy with endorsement and faculties from the AMS.
Father Swartz was ordained at St. Joseph Cathedral through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Frederick F. Campbell, Bishop of Columbus. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, concelebrated the ordination Mass.
Father Swartz is the son of Mr. John and Mrs. Donna Swartz of Columbus. The new priest is the youngest of the couple’s three sons and he has a younger sister. Father Swartz’s parents, his brother John and wife Kristin, his brother Matthew, and his sister Maria were all on hand for the holy celebration.
Father Swartz underwent priestly formation at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus. He is a 2012 graduate of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., where he majored in political science, philosophy, and theology. Military service is something of a family tradition for the new priest. His paternal grandfather, Charles Swartz, served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Father Swartz joined the Navy and was commissioned as an Ensign last year. He remains on inactive status pending completion of three years of pastoral service in the Diocese of Columbus, after which he hopes to go on active duty.
Father Swartz said:
“I am honored and humbled to be a priest of Jesus Christ now and forever. I feel as if my life has just begun.”
Rev. Mr. Pellessier was ordained at St. John’s Cathedral through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Douglas Deshotel, Bishop of Lafayette. Diaconal ordination marks the next-to-last step in Rev. Mr. Pellessier’s formational journey. He hopes to be ordained a priest in June of next year and go on active duty following three years of pastoral service in the Diocese of Lafayette.
Rev. Mr. Pellessier is entering his final year of formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. After studying mechanical engineering for three years at Louisiana State University (LSU), he found his calling and transferred to St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, La., where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Philosophy in 2013. The new deacon is the son of Mr. Stephen and Mrs. Beth Pellessier of Lafayette. He has two brothers: Mr. Doug Pellessier and Mr. Stephen Pellessier, who is also a candidate for priesthood, studying at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. All attended the ordination Mass.
Mr. Pellessier said:
“I am incredibly humbled by the fact that Christ has chosen me to be configured to him as a Deacon. I am both eager and excited to see how he chooses to use me as an instrument of his grace once I am ordained.”
Father Swartz and Rev. Mr. Pellessier are among a growing number of men in formation to become priests and U.S. Military chaplains through 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 214. 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 29 today They come from 26 U.S. dioceses and are enrolled in 19 seminaries nationwide. This year, three of those seminarians, including Mr. Swartz, will be ordained priests, and two, including Rev. Mr. Pellessier, will be ordained transitional deacons in preparation for priesthood.
Also this year, one priest will go on active duty. Another 10 priests, now in reserve status, are set to phase into active duty over the next two years. Meanwhile, another nine 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.
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 $2.9 million over the next five years. Donations can be made at www.milarch.org/donate.
Young men interested in discerning a priestly vocation, and the vocation within a vocation to serve those who serve in the U.S. Military, can find more information at www.milarch.org/vocations, or may contact the Vocations Director, Father Aidan Logan, O.C.S.O. , by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.