U.S. Catholic priests on retreat in April 2016 to discern possible vocations as military chaplains at the Edwin Cardinal O’Brien Pastoral Center, Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Eight Catholic priests from seven U.S. dioceses and one monastic religious order will gather in Washington, D.C., today for a five-day discernment retreat aimed at helping them determine if they are called to the “vocation within a vocation” to serve as U.S. Military chaplains. The all-expenses-paid retreat, “For God and Country: a Call to Serve Those Who Serve,” is the third of its kind to be sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), since last year.
The two earlier retreats–the first held in October 2015 and the second this past April–resulted in a combined total of nine priests being released by their bishops for military service. The retreats are meant to help relieve a chronic shortage of Catholic priests serving on active duty due to attrition within their ranks: aging chaplains are reaching military retirement faster than they can be replaced. Currently, 211 priests are on active duty, about half the number serving at the time of 9/11.
Priests attending the October 17-21 retreat are from the dioceses of Chicago, Colorado Springs, Kansas-City-St. Joseph, Newark, Seattle, Wheeling-Charleston, Worchester, and the Eastern rite Order of St. Basil the Great. During the gathering, AMS clergy, staff, and chaplains will join His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, in giving the priests a realistic picture of what it is like to be a military chaplain and how to become one. Father Robert R. Cannon, Ch, Col, USAF (Ret.), who assumed duties as AMS Chancellor
on Oct. 1, said “the For God and Country retreat offers priests a taste of the life and ministry of a military chaplain, and the opportunity to discern whether to become one.”
Staying at the Washington Retreat House in Northeast Washington, the priests will gather daily for prayer and the Eucharist. They will visit Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Va., Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. In those real-life settings, they will meet and talk with military officers, enlisted personnel, and other chaplains. “Time is allotted for them to sit-down with priest recruiters representing the Army, Navy, and Air Force,” Father Cannon said.
The highlight of the gathering will come on Thursday in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel
at the 9/11 crash site, where the priests will concelebrate Mass. The retreat will conclude after Morning Prayer on Friday.
Dates are not yet set for the 2017 “For God and Country” retreat, but priests are welcome to submit applications ahead of time.
To qualify for consideration:
- The priest must have a minimum of two years of ordained ministry in a parish;
- The priest must be a U.S. citizen or have a green card; priests with only a visa will not be considered;
- Preference will be given to those priests who can enter active duty before their 42nd birthday.