COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Reverend Mr. Christopher Yakkel, a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Friday, May 4, in Columbus, Ohio. He hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Air Force with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).
The Rev. Mr. Yakkel, 29, is currently in priestly formation at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, where he is on track to earn his Master’s Degree in Divinity next year. His diaconal ordination was celebrated at a 7:00 p.m. Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Bishop Frederick F. Campbell of Columbus. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, concelebrated the Mass.
Also in attendance were the new deacon’s mother and father, Mrs. Susan Yakkel and Col. Ron Yakkel, USAF (Ret.); his brother, Mr. Stevie Yakkel; and his sister, Mrs. Amber Yakkel O’Hearn, her husband, Mr. Cameron O’Hearn, and their family.
Rev. Mr. Yakkel is a 2007 graduate Damien Memorial School in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a 2011 graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health and Sports Studies. He entered the seminary after fulfilling a two-year commitment with NET Ministries. He hopes to be ordained a priest in May 2019 and eventually go on active duty as a U.S. Air Force Chaplain following three years of pastoral service in his home Diocese of Columbus.
Rev. Mr. Yakkel said:
“I’m grateful to God for this incredible gift which He has given me. It is a wonderful vocation, and I feel truly blessed to have been entrusted with such a great responsibility by our Lord. I am anxious to begin diaconal ministry and I look forward to continued formation in preparation for priestly ordination next year. I would also like to express my gratitude for my family, friends, and the Church universal for their many prayers which have assisted me in getting to this point.”
The new deacon reaches this milestone in his formational journey at a critical time for the exercise of Catholic faith in the Air Force. Like other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Air Force continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains due to attrition: priests are reaching mandatory military retirement faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty U.S. Military chaplains in all branches of service has fallen from more than 400 to 205. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests currently account for only 6% of military chaplains.
In the Air Force, 59 priests currently on active duty serve some 80,000 Catholic Airmen. That’s approximately one priest for every 1,350 Catholics spread thin across bases worldwide, not counting their families.
At the same time, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, the military itself continues to be a rich source of vocations in the U.S. The AMS is now busy tapping this source for prospective chaplains. The Vocations Office is focusing attention on active-duty servicemen expressing an interest in the priesthood, inviting more qualified candidates to join the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations partnership between the AMS and cooperating dioceses and religious communities around the country.
Thanks in large part to the support of U.S. bishops and religious superiors, along with increased awareness and discernment opportunities, the number of co-sponsored seminarians has risen from seven in 2008 to a record 42 today. They come from 29 U.S. dioceses and are enrolled in 18 seminaries nationwide and the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
This year, three of those co-sponsored will be ordained priests, and five seminarians, including Rev. Mr. Yakkel, will be ordained transitional deacons. Another 11 priests, now in reserve status, are set to phase into active duty over the next three years. Meanwhile, another five men are scheduled to enter the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program in the fall, and the AMS Office of Vocations is currently processing the applications of still others.
The AMS, which receives no funding from the government and depends entirely on private giving, is now looking for ways to fund a fast-rising seminary bill, now projected at $4 million over the next five years. Donations can be made at www.milarch.org/donate.
Young men interested in discerning a priestly vocation, and the vocation within a vocation to serve those who serve in the U.S. military, can find more information at www.milarch.org/vocations, or may contact the Vocations Director, Father Aidan Logan, O.C.S.O., by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (202) 719-3600.