HOUMA, LA – Father Daniel Duplantis, 2d Lt, USAFR, a candidate for United States military chaplaincy, was ordained a Catholic priest on Saturday, June 6, in Houma, LA. He hopes eventually to serve on active duty as a Catholic chaplain in the United States Air Force with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).
Father Duplantis, 26, completed his priestly formation with a Master of Divinity Degree from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. His ordination was celebrated at Saint Francis De Sales Cathedral through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Bishop Shelton Joseph Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. AMS Auxiliary Bishop Neal J. Buckon concelebrated the 10:00 a.m. ordination Mass.
Also in attendance were the new priest’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Duplantis III, his brother, Mr. Matthew Duplantis, his sister, Ms. Emily Duplantis, and members of his extended family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Father Duplantis is a 2012 graduate of Central Lafourche High School in Mathews, LA, and a 2016 graduate of Saint Joseph Seminary College in Saint Benedict, LA, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and Liberal Arts, after which he commissioned into the Air Force Reserve. He hopes to go on active duty in 2023, following three years of pastoral service in his home Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. In his first assignment, he will serve as Associate Pastor and campus minister at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA.
The Air Force chaplain candidate said he discovered his vocation through the example of the priests who served in his home parish of Saint Louis King of France in Houma. In fact, that is where he celebrated his first Mass at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, just hours after his ordination, which occurred jointly with that of a fellow seminarian.
The date of their ordination, Father Duplantis noted, happened to fall on the 76th anniversary of D-Day. “It is extremely fitting that Father Rusty Bruce and I were ordained to the priesthood on June 6, the anniversary of the Normandy invasion. In many ways, we feel like we are hitting the beach during a different type of battle during such turbulent times. We both knew that we were preparing for a lifetime, not just an event so we wanted to roll up our sleeves, ‘lace up our boots,’ and get to work in the vineyard of the Lord in this time when we are needed most.” Father Bruce is not a candidate for military chaplaincy.
Father Duplantis completed 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 approximately 200. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests currently account for only 7% of military chaplains.
In the Air Force, 60 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 48 today.
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 more than $5 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.