Catholic U.S. Air Force Chaplain Candidate Ordained a Transitional Deacon in Cincinnati Diaconal ordination marks penultimate step toward priesthood for the Reverend Mr. Stephen J. Hughes

Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, with newly ordained Transitional Deacon Stephen J. Hughes, 2d Lt, USAF, on April 23, 2022, in Cincinnati, OH.

CINCINNATI, OH – The Reverend Mr. Stephen J. Hughes, 2d Lt, USAF, a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, April 23, in his home Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The new deacon is on track to be ordained a priest next year and hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Air Force providing pastoral care to Catholic airmen and their families with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).

The Rev. Mr. Hughes’ diaconal ordination was celebrated at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, J.C.D. AMS Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer concelebrated the ordination Mass. Among those in attendance were the new deacon’s parents, Thomas and Jennifer Hughes, brothers Michael, Patrick, Mark, and Timothy, and sisters Mary and Sarah.

The Rev. Mr. Hughes, 31, is a 2009 graduate of Graham High School in St. Paris, Ohio. In 2013, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy while attending Bowling Green State University on a U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship. He served on active duty in the Air Force for three years, reaching the rank of first lieutenant as a squadron command section supervisor, before discerning priesthood, transferring to the Air Force Reserve, and entering seminary

The new deacon is currently enrolled at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology in Cincinnati, where he has earned a Master of Arts degree in Catholic Studies. He is on track to be ordained a priest next year, after which time he will serve in his home Archdiocese of Cincinnati for three years before entering active duty under the co-sponsored seminarian agreement with the AMS.

The Rev. Mr. Hughes says he discovered his call to the priesthood in college. “I realized my desire to serve in the military reflected a deeper calling to serve the Church,” he said. Commenting on his diaconal ordination, the new deacon said, “It is a huge blessing to be called to Orders after years of study and prayer. The peace that I felt at ordination is a big confirmation of my discernment. I am humbled and overjoyed to serve the people of God and assist at the altar.”

The eventual service of the Rev. Mr. Hughes and other Catholic chaplain candidates is greatly anticipated by the Air Force, which, like all other branches of the U.S. Military, continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains. Currently, the Air Force has only 61 Catholic priests on active duty, serving more than 80,000 Catholic airmen and their families spread worldwide.

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, or may contact AMS Vocations Director Father S. Matthew Gray at or (202) 719-3600.

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