Catholic U.S. Navy Chaplain Candidate Ordained a Transitional Deacon in North Carolina Diaconal ordination marks penultimate step toward priesthood for Rev. Mr. Darren Balkey

From left to right: the Rev. Mr. Darren Balkey, Bishop Joseph L. Coffey, and Bishop Peter J. Jugis in Huntersville, NC, on June 5, 2021. Photo courtesy of SueAnn Howell | Catholic News Herald.

HUNTERSVILLE, NC – The Reverend Mr. Darren Balkey, ENS, USNR, a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, June 5, in his home Diocese of Charlotte. The new deacon hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Navy, 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).

The Rev. Mr. Balkey’s diaconal ordination was celebrated at Saint Mark Catholic Church through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Bishop Peter J. Jugis. AMS Auxiliary Bishop Joseph L. Coffey concelebrated the ordination Mass. Among those in attendance were the new deacon’s parents, Steven and Sheryl Balkey, and brothers Matthew and Seth.

The Rev. Mr. Balkey, 29, was born and raised in State College, PA, where his parents homeschooled the future seminarian. 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.

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

The Rev. Mr. 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 diaconal ordination, he said, “The deacon is ordained to proclaim the Gospel as he is continually configured to Christ the Servant. This particular season in my vocation allows me to express my gratitude to Almighty God and the faithful for the many gifts bestowed upon me in a very tangible way. I am eager to serve.”

The eventual service of the Rev. Mr. 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 45 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.