Faithful offered opportunity to support Catholic ministry in the U.S. military and VA Medical Centers
WASHINGTON—American Catholics have a unique opportunity this weekend to support Catholic ministry in the U.S. military and Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers by giving to a first-ever, special collection at Sunday Mass. Parishes across the country will take up the special collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) the weekend of Nov. 9-10. The collection is timed to coincide with Veterans Day, which follows on Monday.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved the national special collection last year, to be taken up once every three years beginning this fall. The approval came as a result of a varium presented in 2009 by His Excellency, the Most ReverendCharles J. Chaput, then Archbishop of Denver and signed by all of the Bishops of the Province, as well as, by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services.
Archbishop Broglio said:
“I give special thanks to my brother Bishops who have approved this national collection to defray the operations costs of the AMS and those associated with the education of seminarians. This initiative of Archbishop Chaput and the Bishops of the Province of Denver met with overwhelming support at the General Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference last November, and, I believe, for good reason. The country has been at war for more than ten years. The men and women in the military, and their families, have experienced a very heavy professional and personal burden and a number of hardships. They rely on our Catholic chaplains for spiritual guidance and support. The AMS must pay all the considerable travel costs for its bishops and clergy staff to visit military installations around the world. They do not travel on military aircraft. I think caring for military personnel is a concern of most American Catholics and I am confident that they will be generous.”
Created by Pope John Paul II in 1985, the AMS is the only archdiocese authorized to grant endorsement and faculties for Catholic priests to serve as chaplains in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, the service academies and theVA. The AMS is also responsible for serving American civilians working beyond U.S. borders for the federal government, but due to a chronic shortage of priests, it cannot adequately reach this population. All told, 1.8 million American Catholics worldwide depend on 1,105 AMS-endorsed priests for their spiritual care and practice of faith. This includes 234 active-duty military chaplains; 374 civilian priests working for the Department of Defense (DoD) either as contractors or “General Schedule” (GS) civil service employees; 279 VA chaplains; and 218 National Guard and reserve chaplains.
These chaplains and priests are active at more than 220 military installations in 29 countries and 153 VA Medical Centers nationwide. They celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments and provide the same pastoral services as any parish priest, except they move between combat zones, warships and other military settings around the world—serving those who serve—in a uniquely global archdiocese with general operating expenses now exceeding $5.1 million a year.
An additional $2.7 million will be needed over the next five years alone as increasing numbers of young men enter formation to become priests in hopes of relieving the military chaplain shortage. The shortage comes as aging priests reach the military’s mandatory retirement age of 62 faster than they can be replaced. Over the past 12 years, the number of priests on active duty has fallen by 40 percent, down from more than 400 in 2001 to 234 today. Currently, 25 percent of the military is Catholic, but Catholic priests make up only eight percent of chaplains. Enrollment in the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations support partnership between the AMS and other U.S. dioceses and religious communities, has grown from seven in 2008 to 36 today, and more are on the way. It costs the AMS $75,000 or more to put each candidate through seminary.
The AMS receives no funding from the government, and weekly collections in U.S. military chapels must be distributed according to military funding rules, so private donations are the sole means of survival for the archdiocese.
Proceeds from the special collection will help the AMS meet an assortment of pressing financial challenges including:
- Support for new vocations and seminarians to relieve the chronic shortage of Catholic military chaplains.
- Worldwide travel of AMS bishops and clergy staff; Archbishop Broglio and his four auxiliaries each average more than 240 travel days per year to installations around the world.
- Implementation of catechetical standards and indicators for children of military families in grades pre-K through 8:Forming Disciples for the New Evangelization: Archdiocesan Religion Curriculum Guide.
- Online Catechetical Methodology courses and Catechist Certification programming.
- Training and certification for lay leaders to support Catholic troops in the absence of a priest.
- Faith formation programs for youth and young adults that include spiritual discernment, leader trainings, and international conferences.
- Partnership with Charis Ministries to develop peer led retreats for active duty young adults.
- Partnership with Life Teen to support Catholic youth and families in military settings.
- Operation of the AMS website, Digital Media Center, and mobile app, the principal means of communication between the AMS and those it serves.
- Live streaming of noted events in the Archdiocese such as messages from the Archbishop, the annual Father Capodanno Memorial Mass, training ministry leaders, World Youth Day and more.
- Sacramental record keeping; the growing volume of records compiled since 1917 now stands at three million and counting.
- Tribunal activity on marriage annulment applications and other issues of canon law.
- Public advocacy for religious freedom and Catholic teaching.
- Retirement of mortgage debt on the AMS pastoral center in Washington, D.C.
Military personnel have the opportunity to contribute independently by sending in individual donations in response to the Archbishop’s Appeal. To donate, go to the AMS website athttp://www.milarch.org/site/c.dwJXKgOUJiIaG/b.8826345/k.F162/National_Collection.htm .