Coverage focuses on first-ever priest gathering to be sponsored by Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5-9
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Catholic News Service (CNS) has produced a videoand published an article on an upcoming discernment gathering for priests exploring a possible vocation within a vocation as U.S. Military chaplains. The all-expenses-paid gathering, called “For God and Country: a Call to Serve Those Who Serve,” is sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). It will take place Oct. 5-9 in Washington, D.C. Priests interested in participating may contact the Archdiocese to apply.
In both the CNS video and article, His Excellency, the Most ReverendTimothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the U.S. Military Services, speaks of the dire need for more Catholic military chaplains due to a chronic shortage resulting from attrition: priests are reaching the military’s mandatory retirement age faster than they can be replaced.
Archbishop Broglio tells reporter Daniel O’Shea and producer Chaz Muth the upcoming discernment gathering is an opportunity to help reverse that trend. “It’s a moment of prayer,” he said, “as obviously any discernment has to be, and it’s also a moment of information, where we’ll try to help them understand what a chaplain does. We will have representatives from the three chaplain corps to speak to them.”
While the AMS has long held discernment retreats several times a year for young men contemplating a vocation to the priesthood and chaplaincy, the upcoming gathering in Washington will be the first such event ever held for ordained priests. “It is the first time, really, the Archdiocese is engaging in this kind of an activity as an attempt to broaden our contact with priests throughout the United States and perhaps giving them an opportunity to explore this vocation within a vocation,” Archbishop Broglio said.
The CNS article points out that priests seeking to become chaplains must meet certain requirements, such as passing a physical fitness test and medical exam, qualifying them to deploy with the troops if, when, and where necessary. Under military rules, they cannot be over a certain age, which varies branch by branch.
The AMS Chancellor, Deacon Mike Yakir, told CNS that for him, the military’s need for more Catholic priests is real and personal. “My son is in the Army and I’m a Vietnam vet from the Air Force,” Deacon Yakir said. “My son was deployed twice and on one of his deployments he was on top of a mountain just a mile off the Pakistan border and he got to see a priest no more than once every six weeks. So he missed out on the Eucharist, he missed out on Mass, he missed out on confession, he missed out on any kind of counseling. And so he’s just one of those many, many of thousands of those military people who are Catholics who are not getting a priest.”
Deacon Yakir told CNS the service that chaplains provide is indispensable. “These priests really connect with the people and they really suffer with their people. I mean, I know one time a priest had a Mass and confessions and then the next day one of the people who was at that Mass was killed in action. I know of another priest where somebody was injured, severely injured, and he came in to celebrate the sacraments on the operating table in the war zone, and just after he [the soldier] died on the table, the nurse had taken the rosary that was in his clothes and had given it to the priest who actually went outside in his Humvee and cried.”
Deacon Yakir added, “I’m working with the best people in the world. It’s an honor to help them do their work.”
During the four-day October gathering, participating priests will stay at the Washington Retreat House on Harewood Road in Northeast Washington, and from there, go on field trips to Andrews Air Force Base, Fort Belvoir, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the Pentagon. In these real-life settings, they will meet and talk with military officers, enlisted personnel, and other chaplains. The highlight of the gathering will come in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel at the 9/11 crash site, where the priests will concelebrate Mass.
Priests interested in attending “For God and Country: a Call to Serve Those Who Serve” may go here to apply. For those selected, the AMS will pay all expenses, including travel and lodging. Space is limited, so timely application is advised. Any questions may be directed to Deacon Yakir by email or telephone at (202) 719-3600.