Catholic U.S. Navy Chaplain Candidate Ordained a Priest in North Carolina Father Darren Balkey crosses finish line in presbyteral formation

Archbishop Timothy Broglio and newly ordained Father Darren Balkey in Huntersville, NC, on June 18, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Catholic News Herald.

HUNTERSVILLE, NC – Father Darren Balkey, ENS, USNR, a candidate for United States military chaplaincy, was ordained a Catholic priest on Saturday, June 18, in his home Diocese of Charlotte. The new priest hopes eventually to serve as a U.S. Navy chaplain, providing pastoral care to Catholic Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and their families, with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).

Father Balkey’s presbyteral ordination was celebrated at Saint Mark Catholic Church through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA. Among those in attendance were the new priest’s parents, Steven and Sheryl Balkey, brother Matthew and his wife Maria, brother Seth and his fiancé Rebecca, and grandmothers Joanne Balkey and Virginia Bogats.

Father Balkey, 30, was born and raised in State College, PA, where his parents homeschooled the future priest. He is a 2014 graduate of Belmont Abbey College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, and a 2018 graduate of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, OH, where earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.

Father Balkey completed the program for priestly formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati, where he earned a Master of Divinity Degree and anticipates a Master of Arts Degree in Theology. The new priest celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salisbury, NC. Under a co-sponsorship agreement with the AMS, he will serve in his home Diocese of Charlotte for three years before going on active duty in the Navy. In his first assignment he will serve as parochial vicar at St. Leo the Great Parish in Winston-Salem.

Father Balkey says he began to discern his vocation at an early age. “My first sense of a priestly calling was when I started serving Mass, about nine years old,” he says. “It seemed natural to want to be near the Word of God and the altar during Holy Mass. Throughout the years, that desire to be near God and bring him to others stuck around.” Commenting on his presbyteral ordination, he said, “The entry into priesthood is magnificent and unassuming at the same time. I have been very moved by how Christ employs such ordinary men and such ordinary means to work the extraordinary. I am very humbled by the responsibility which I incur in assuming this order.”

The eventual service of Father Balkey 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. Currently, the Navy has only 39 priests on active duty, serving a large Catholic population of sea servicemen and women, including Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, 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 milarch.org/vocations, or may contact the AMS Vocations Office at vocations@milarch.org or (202) 719-3600.

Gifts in support of AMS Vocations are gratefully accepted at milarch.org/donate.