VA Chaplain and Former Anglican Ordained a Catholic Priest

Father Bill Cantrell to continue ministry in Department of Veterans Affairs

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA—Father Bill Cantrell, a chaplain in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a former Anglican priest, was ordained a Catholic priest on Saturday, December 7, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Through the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the imposition of hands, Bishop Michael Burbidge ordained him at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Reverend Monsignor John J.M. Foster, J.C.D., Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS), concelebrated the ordination Mass. Father Cantrell becomes a Catholic priest, incardinated in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a special Church jurisdiction established by Pope Benedict XVI for those of the Anglican tradition entering into full communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining distinctive elements of their theological, spiritual, and liturgical patrimony. He is the Associate Director for Chaplaincy with VA Mental Health & Chaplaincy in the Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC) in Durham, North Carolina. In addition, he is a Commander in the United States Navy Reserve currently assigned as Deputy Chaplain for 4th Marine Division.

During his past 24 years as an Anglican priest, Father Cantrell has developed a broad range of experience as a parish priest, Navy chaplain, President/CEO of St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, clinical chaplain in extensive work at Naval Medical Center San Diego working with PTSD patients in cooperation with Mental Health Services, and now with a national program in the Veteran’s Administration in research and education .

In 1989 Father Cantrell completed his theological education at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Chaplain Cantrell entered active duty as a Navy Chaplain in 1995, completed chaplain school and immediately deployed on board the USS Hue City CG-66, a tour which involved three major deployments from 1995-1997. Although he was released from active duty in 1997, he joined the Reserves and has since been recalled twice to active duty. His first recall was to the Al Anbar province of Iraq in 2005 with 3rd Marine Air Wing and the second to Naval Medical Center San Diego to complete a one year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education followed by two years on staff.

In 1999 Father Cantrell accepted the position of President/CEO of St. Jude’s Ranch for children to oversee three campuses in Texas and Nevada where care was given to approximately 100 abused, abandoned and neglected children in group foster care, emergency shelter and transitional living settings. In order to provide a home, medical care, mental health support, education and healthy supervision for these children, an almost equal number of staff was required.

During Chaplain Cantrell’s tour at Naval Medical Center San Diego he initiated the Caregiver Occupational Stress Control program, served as primary chaplain for the Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team, instructor for Combat Operational Stress First Aid, Ethics Committee member, chaplain in support of Oncology staff and patients, ICU and developed and facilitated group spirituality sessions for both inpatient and outpatient PTSD treatment programs with the Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care and OASIS programs. He received the Meritorious Service Medal for his efforts during this tour of duty.

Chaplain Cantrell’s present work examines the relationship between spirituality and health, the roles of VA and military chaplains and their integration into Mental Health Services and other disciplines in VA and military medicine in order to meet the need.

In preparation for his ordination to Catholic priesthood, Father Cantrell underwent a period of formation approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See, a process beginning officially October 2011, that included his ordination as a transitional Catholic deacon. Married, he also received a dispensation from Pope Francis to be a priest without embracing celibacy. Father Cantrell’s wife, Cathy and mother, Patricia Blais, were among those attending the ordination.

On becoming a Catholic priest, Father Cantrell said:

“While the reality of experiencing the fulfillment of over two decades of prayer occurred last Saturday, it has not yet completely sunk in. I am filled with gratitude for Pope Benedict XVI for opening the door for me to become a priest in the Catholic Church, for the continued support and charity of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the pastoral care and support of Bp. Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh in ordaining me and for the hard work of Monsignor Steenson and so many others to form the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and now for the opportunity to serve in the Archdiocese for the Military Services. This is a historical moment in the life of the Church embodying the prayer of our Lord, “… that they all may be one.” I am home!”