Due to the shortage of active-duty Catholic priests, the service branches engage what are sometimes called auxiliary chaplains in GS or contract positions.
GS is an acronym for General Schedule. A GS priest is an employee of the U.S. government and is not a military chaplain. In some cases the service branches have determined that it is in their best interest to provide a GS priest rather than a uniformed chaplain. Generally, GS priests must be U.S. citizens.
A contract priest is an independent contractor who has a contract with a particular military installation to provide priestly ministry for a specific dollar amount and for a specific period of time. The endorsement of the AMS is a prerequisite for a priest to bid on a contract and for the contract to be valid. The contract terms are determined by the needs of the installation and the contract is issued by the installation to the priest. The AMS is not involved with the contract terms other than to provide an endorsement. Unless required by the contract specifications, the contract priest does not have to be a U.S. citizen.
Before a priest can receive a GS or contract position in one of the service branches, Federal law requires that he receive the endorsement of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, the only recognized endorsing agent for the Catholic Church in the United States. The AMS’s endorsement process is separate from but related to the application or bidding process a priest must make to receive a GS or contract position.
The AMS will not grant an endorsement for any priest who has fewer than three years of pastoral experience. A priest who is incardinated in a diocese or a religious community where his training and experience are mostly from outside the U.S. must be able to document three years of pastoral experience within the United States.
Not every priest who applies for the AMS endorsement receives it. Various factors go into the Archbishop’s decision to endorse a particular priest for a specific position. The granting of the endorsement is not automatic.
GS and Contract Positions
Open GS and contract positions with the Federal Government can be found at government websites. Besides the particular department website, two good sources for job openings are https://beta.sam.gov/, which has replaced Federal Business Opportunities, for contractor openings and USA Jobs for available GS positions. Links to these websites can be found here: https://www.milarch.org/job-openings/priest-opportunities/.
The AMS will not grant an endorsement for a priest working through a third-party staffing agency. The contract must be held by the priest, his parish, or his diocese/religious order. See the AMS’s third-party policy here: http://files.milarch.org/clergy/policy-regarding-third-party-contractors.pdf.
The process for priests to register themselves as a business entity and bid for Catholic contract positions can be complex. Many offers of assistance to priests come with (invisible) strings attached, e.g., a monthly fee deducted from the money to which the priest is entitled. When bidding for and signing any contract, priests must ensure that theirs is the only name and address mentioned in the contract, whether as owner, president, secretary, or other position. If another name and/or address appears on the contract, the contract should not be signed until the information is removed.
Applying for the AMS Endorsement
An essential step in the GS/contract process is securing the ecclesiastical endorsement of the Archbishop for the Military Services. In fact, no military contracting office will complete the application until it has received the ecclesiastical endorsement (DD Form 2088) from the Archdiocese for the Military Services. The AMS’s application for requesting the ecclesiastical endorsement is online.
In addition to the online application, a priest must submit the following:
- Photograph of himself in clerical attire.
- Letter of permission from his diocesan bishop or religious superior.
Addressed to Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, this letter must expressly state the type of position (GS or contract) and installation for which he is being released.
- Signed and stamped original of the statement from the priest’s diocesan bishop or religious superior attesting to the provisions article 13 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
- Proof of the priest’s Youth Protection training (Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, article 12).
- The AMS requires that all clerics have received Safe Environment training within the last three years. For more information on the AMS requirement, see http://files.milarch.org/offices/child-youth-protection/policy-for-safe-environment-training-and-decree.pdf.
- Submission of a DVD of the priest celebrating a Sunday Mass (including a homily of at least five minutes).
- A one-page statement sharing the priest’s reason for his interest in working as a civilian priest at a military installation.
International priests—i.e., those incardinated in a foreign diocese or religious community, those who did seminary formation outside the United States or Rome—will have to submit additional materials to complete the endorsement process.
- Results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
The AMS requires a minimum total score of 80, with a score of no less than 20 in each section: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
To begin the process to request the ecclesiastical endorsement of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, create a profile on the myAMS portal. Go to https://milarch.force.com/portal/login and click on the Sign Up link in the lower right corner. Once logged in, click on the link for the type of application to be submitted.
Questions concerning the endorsement process or ministry in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA can be addressed to the Chancellor, the Reverend Robert Cannon, JCD (Cand.) at firstname.lastname@example.org.