WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ten Catholic priests from nine dioceses and oneeparchy in the United States will gather in Washington, D.C., today for a five-day discernment retreat aimed at helping them determine 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 second of its kind to be sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). The first, held in October, resulted in five priests being released by their bishops for military service. The retreats, which will be held twice a year, are meant to help relieve a chronic shortage of Catholic priests serving on active duty.
During the April 18-22-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 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 Fort Belvior, Va.,Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
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 in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel at the 9/11 crash site, where the priests will concelebrate Mass. The retreat will conclude after Friday Morning Prayer.
The first “For God and Country” retreat, held Oct. 5-9, 2015, was “very successful,” according to Archbishop Broglio. “I thank those Bishops who released five of the ten participants for ministry in the military,” he said in remarks to the fall General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Md. Archbishop Broglio told his brother bishops the need for more Catholic military chaplains has become “desperate.” “Approximately, one fourth of the active-duty personnel and their immediate families are Catholics,” he said. “At present those Catholics– totally around a million people– are served by only 217 priests in a territory that covers the globe. They represent only 8% of all military chaplains. That suggests that others might easily cultivate Catholic young people seeking spiritual counsel.” Archbishop Broglio urged his brother bishops to release more priests to serve on active duty, saying it is “imperative that every diocese have at least one priest to ensure that your faithful who defend our religious freedom do not have to sacrifice theirs.”
The autumn “For God and Country” retreat will take place in Washington this year Oct. 17-21. The AMS will take applications from mid-July through mid-September.
To qualify for consideration:
- The priest must have a minimum of two years of ordained ministry in a parish;
- The priest must be a citizen or have a Green Card; priests with only a Visa will not be considered;
- Preference will be given to those priests who can enter active duty before their 42nd birthday.
Space is limited, so timely application is advised.
For more information, contact the AMS Chancellor at Chancellor@milarch.org or (202) 719-3600.