Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, holds first-ever discernment gathering for ordained priests, “For God and Country: a Call to Serve Those Who Serve”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ten Catholic priests from nine dioceses and eparchies throughout the United States will gather in Washington, D.C., today for a five-day discernment retreat aimed at helping them find out if they are called to the “vocation within a vocation” to serve as U.S. Military chaplains. The all-expenses-paid retreat, “For God and Country: a Call to Serve Those Who Serve,” is the first of its kind ever sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). While the AMS has long held discernment retreats several times a year for young laymen considering a vocation to the priesthood and chaplaincy, the “For God and Country” retreat is the first such event ever held for ordained priests who are already incardinated in a U.S. diocese or religious order and currently engaged inpastoral service, but who may sense a further call to military chaplaincy.
During the Oct. 5-9 gathering, AMS clergy, staff, and chaplains will join His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, in giving the priests, ranging in age from 33 to 45, a realistic picture of what it is like to be a military chaplain and how to become one. Staying at the Washington Retreat House in Northeast Washington, they will gather for prayer and the Eucharist and visit U.S. Naval Academy, Andrews Air Force Base, Fort Belvoir, the Caisson Platoon Stables at Fort Myer, andArlington National Cemetery, where they will witness a burial with full military honors and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In those real-life settings, they will meet and talk with military officers, enlisted personnel, and other chaplains. The highlight of the gathering will come on Thursday evening in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel at the 9/11 crash site, where the priests will concelebrateMass. The retreat will conclude after Friday Morning Prayer.
The AMS Chancellor, Deacon Mike Yakir, the primary organizer, said:
“Every time I meet a priest for the first time I ask him if he has ever considered becoming a military chaplain. I have even waited in line after Mass to talk with a priest while I am on vacation. More often than not they have considered it but just didn’t take the next step to learn more because they didn’t know where to begin. Through the AMS ‘For God and Country’ gathering, priests will learn more about this vocation within a vocation.”
Deacon Yakir said the hope is that more priests will come forward to fill a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains on active duty as more 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 215. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. armed forces, Catholic priests currently account for only 8% of military chaplains, representing only one priest for every 1,300 Catholics in uniform, not counting families of those service members.