Catholic U.S. Navy Chaplain Candidate Ordained a Priest in Boston Father David A. Campo completes formational journey toward priesthood

From left to right: Monsignor John R. McLaughlin, Jr., Father Stephen B. Rock, CHC, CAPT, USN (Ret.), Father David A. Campo, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Father William D. Devine, CHC, CAPT, USN (Ret.), and Father Stephen J. Lineham, CHC, CAPT, USN (Ret.), on May 22, 2021, in Boston, MA. Photo courtesy of George Martell | Archdiocese of Boston.

BOSTON – Father David A. Campo, LTJG, USN, a candidate for United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a priest on Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Boston, MA. He plans eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Navy with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). The new priest plans to go on active duty following a three-year period of pastoral service in his home Archdiocese of Boston in accordance with a co-sponsorship agreement between the two archdioceses.

Father Campo completed the program for priestly formation at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton, MA. His ordination was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, concelebrated the 10:00 a.m. Mass.

Among those in attendance were the new priest’s parents, Corporal John Campo, USMC (Ret.), and wife Joanne; his brothers, Mr. Paul Campo and First Lieutenant Stephen Campo, USMC, and his fiancée, Ms. Lindsay Grab; and members of his extended family including two uncles, an aunt, and several cousins. The prospective Navy chaplain is a proud 2014 graduate of Boston College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics. At Saint John’s Seminary, he earned a Bachelor of Philosophy, a Master of Divinity (MDiv), and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology (STB). Father Campo celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving, his first post-ordination Mass, at St. Agatha Catholic Church in Milton, MA, on Sunday, May 23, 2021.

Father Campo says he discovered his vocation through daily MassAdoration, the Holy Rosary, and the example of good priests. “I was especially enlivened by the heroic courage of the martyrs and the missionary saints who gave their lives to save souls,” he said. Commenting on his ordination, he said, “I am thrilled to become a priest.  I cannot express the joy I have to mediate God’s great mercy to souls, whether by the sacraments of healing, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, counsel, or the promise of prayer in His Name.  I’m confident my brothers also to be ordained would agree that of all times to be ordained, it is an incredible privilege to be ordained now.”

The eventual service of Father Campo and other Catholic chaplain candidates is greatly anticipated by the Navy, which, like all other branches of the U.S. Military, 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 Catholic U.S. Military chaplains in all branches of service has fallen from more than 400 to 191 today. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests now account for only about seven percent of military chaplains. In the Navy, 45 priests currently on active duty serve tens of thousands of Catholic Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen spread around the world, along with their families.

At the same time, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the military itself continues to be a rich source of vocations in the U.S. CARA’s annual Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood found at least five percent of the Class of 2021 has prior military experience, and 11% come from families where at least one parent served in the military, making the AMS the nation’s largest source of new priests. The actual numbers are certain to be higher, because only 73% of this year’s ordinands (346 out of 472) responded to the survey.

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 42 today. But many more are needed to fill the shortage.

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 Office at vocations@milarch.org or by (202) 719-3600.

Donations in support of AMS vocations are gratefully accepted at www.milarch.org/donate.