Father S. Matthew Gray Named Vocations Director of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA Confronts chronic shortage of Catholic military chaplains

Father S. Matthew Gray, newly appointed Director of Vocations
of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), will soon have a new Director of Vocations. He is Father S. Matthew Gray, Ch, Capt, USAF, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, SC. Father Gray replaces Father Aidan (Arthur H.) Logan, O.C.S.O., who recently began to offer pastoral assistance at Assumption Grotto Church in Detroit, MI, after serving as AMS Vocations Director for seven years.

Father Gray, 41, is well suited for the position with experience as both a vocations director and a military chaplain. At the moment, he is Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Charleston while also serving as Air Force staff chaplain to the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Richland County, SC. Father Gray is currently on deployment with his unit to the Middle East. In addition to those duties, he serves both as a chaplain at The Citadel Military College and Charleston’s Diocesan Scout Chaplain.

His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, announced Father Gray’s appointment today. Archbishop Broglio said:

“It is a great joy to welcome Father Gray to the archdiocese.  I am grateful for his affirmative response to my invitation and also very appreciative of the generous sacrifice made by Bishop Guglielmone and the Diocese of Charleston.  In addition to his priestly experience, Father Gray brings with him years of vocation work and his ministry as a chaplain of the Air National Guard.  In fact he is deployed at the present time and we all pray for his ministry and his safe return.

“I also renew the expression of my gratitude to Father Aidan Logan for his many years of service—first as a chaplain in the US Navy and then as the AMS Vocations Director.  May he thrive in his current endeavors.”

Before his 2011 priestly ordination, Father Gray earned a Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of South Carolina (2005); a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio (2007); and a Master of Divinity and a Master of Systematic Theology from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD (2011).

Over the past six years he has acquired numerous military credentials, including a secret security clearance, completion of basic chaplain training, and training and certification in sexual assault prevention, domestic violence, youth protection, suicide intervention, conflict transformation and de-escalation, and counseling.

Father Gray has served in a variety of diocesan ministries as well, including Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Columbia, SC, where he later served as Pastoral Administrator, and St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Bluffton, SC. He also served as chaplain at John Paul II Catholic Middle and High School in Ridgeland, SC, and Cardinal Newman Catholic Middle and High School in Columbia, SC.

His achievements in both civilian and military service have not gone unrecognized. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting has presented him with its St. George Award (2012), Bronze Pelican Award (2013) and Jerusalem Cross (2014). He earned the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal in 2015, and the U.S. Air Force Achievement Medal in 2019.

As AMS Vocations Director, Father Gray will be in charge of shepherding young men interested in the priesthood and military chaplaincy. He has his work cut out for him. The U.S. Military continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains as aging priests reach retirement faster than they can be replaced. Over the past 20 years, the number of active-duty Catholic chaplains has declined by more than half, from over 400 at the time of 9/11 to 196 today, serving an active-duty Catholic population of 325,000 based worldwide, not counting their families. While 25 percent of the military is Catholic, Catholic priests make up less than eight percent of chaplains.

Fortunately, through the hard work of Father Gray’s predecessors, including Father Logan, Father John Kaul, Father Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv., and Msgr. John McLaughlin, Jr., the AMS has seen a sharp increase over the past decade in young men completing formation to become priest-chaplains through the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations support partnership between the AMS and cooperating U.S. dioceses and religious communities. Forty-three men are now enrolled in the program, up from just seven in 2008. Father Gray will serve as their primary AMS contact, mentor, and spiritual counselor.

From his deployment site in the Middle East, Father Gray said:

“Being in a deployed location, the last thing I ever expected was to get a phone call from Archbishop Broglio asking me to be his Director of Vocations! My jaw literally dropped.”

“Combining the ministries of military service to country and vocation discernment,” he said, “is an absolute perfect fit for me! I’m very much looking forward to helping young men discern a double calling to both military service as officers and chaplains but also as Catholic priests.”

Father Gray asked the faithful for their prayers. “Please continue to pray for bold and courageous men to answer the call to the military chaplaincy as Catholic Priests,” he said, “and to encourage those whose whom you feel God might be calling.”

Father Gray will complete his deployment before officially taking responsibilities as AMS Vocations Director. He is expected to assume the new position around the beginning of August. In the interim, Father Logan will continue to provide support for AMS vocations from his new home parish in Detroit.