Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Mission of the AMS?
The AMS worldwide mission is to provide for the pastoral care of the 1.8 million Catholics serving in the United States Armed Forces, their family members, students at the Military Academies, patients in VA medical centers and US governmental personnel serving abroad. It is the only agency responsible for endorsing and granting faculties to Catholic chaplains and deacons in service to those populations.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio is the Ordinary of the Archdiocese and Bishop Richard Higgins, Bishop Richard Spencer, Bishop Neal Buckon, and Bishop Robert Coyle are the four Auxiliaries. In support of the mission, they spend 65% of their time on pastoral visits to over 220 military locations in 29 countries and 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the United States.
In 2001 there were over 400 active duty Catholic chaplains. Today there are only 265. While some 25% in the military are Catholic, only 8% of military chaplains are Catholic priests. This places a very heavy burden on our Catholic chaplains, and results in our military men and women serving "in harm's way" not having access to the sacraments for months at a time. A key role of the AMS is caring and supporting Catholic Chaplains in such troubling times as well as seeking more chaplains from US dioceses and religious orders.
One way the AMS is directly addressing the severe chaplain shortage is through its "Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program" which identifies and encourages men in the military to seek a vocation to the priesthood for the benefit of the entire Church and service thereafter as a chaplain. (More details on this program are provided below). Just as vocations surged after World War II, today's military is also a most fertile ground for priestly and religious vocations.
The headquarters' building is located in Washington, DC near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America campus. The building houses the offices of the pastoral and administrative staff and serves as the residence for the AMS clergy. The AMS is the only US diocese without a cathedral, but celebrates its major functions at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
How does the AMS differ from a typical diocese in the USA? Are there other unique aspects of its mission?Unlike a typical diocese the AMS has no territorial borders. Its mission is worldwide and it supports the military members and their families wherever they are assigned or deployed. Also, there are no parishes which provide a weekly source of funds to support the Archdiocese. Solicitation of funds on military installations is severely limited by government mandate.
Another unique requirement for the AMS is to maintain faithfully and provide Sacramental Records (baptisms, confirmations, marriages) for anybody receiving the sacraments at a military installation. The AMS stores over 2.5 million records and receives over 10,000 requests for copies of records each year.
As a military archdiocese, does it receive financial support from the military and the Catholic Church?
The military chaplains are members of the Armed Forces and, as such, are paid by the government. The AMS must pay all the considerable travel costs for its clergy to visit military installations around the world. They do not travel on military aircraft. The AMS receives limited support from certain US dioceses and foundations that support Catholic causes.
Vocation Discernment – Identifying and assisting members of the military who are interested in exploring their call to priestly service and religious life by conducting regular personal visits and retreats for them each year.
Catholics Seeking Christ – Fostering, through small groups, peer-to-peer ministry and evangelization among 18-29 year olds in the military seeking to support and deepen their Catholic faith.
Youth/Young Adults – Providing resources to effectively meet the pastoral needs of military-connected youth and young adults dealing with issues such as multiple deployments, frequent transitions, and a desire to find their home in the Catholic faith.
VA Chaplaincy – Recruiting, endorsing and supervising more than 270 full, part- time, and contract Catholic priests who minister to veterans, but also visiting those centers and offer comfort to those who have served our country from the "greatest generation to the latest generation."
In 2008, the AMS initiated a long-term program to recruit priestly vocations from the military for the benefit of US dioceses, religious orders and the armed forces. As part of the program the AMS has made a contractual commitment with US dioceses to fund 50% of the cost of the five years of seminarian education ($25,000 per year) In return, the candidate and diocese agree that, once ordained and having served in a parish for three years, the priest will commit to serve as a military chaplain in the Armed Forces for three years or more.
There are 30 co-sponsored seminarians in the program from 22 US dioceses and studying in 16 seminaries.
The AMS carries out its worldwide mission with a very small, full-time staff comprised of 6 clergy, 3 religious and 17 laity.
The major cost elements of the annual $4 million operating budget are: