Monsignor Mark Rowan, Ch Col AFRC, recognized at Major League Baseball game during Air Force Week in the Big Apple
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Sporting Major League Baseball uniforms under the bright lights at Citi Field, the New York Mets and the Colorado Rockies paused after the third inning Monday night to recognize a man seated behind home plate wearing a different kind of uniform—the blue service dress of the United States Air Force. It was Monsignor Mark Rowan, a Catholic priest and Chaplain Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC), whom the announcer identified as “Veteran of the Game,” with the jumbotron casting his larger-than-life image in vivid color, standing and waving to the cheering crowd and receiving a commemorative U.S. flag from Mets legend Rusty Staub. Msgr. Rowan was so honored as part of “Air Force Week” in New York City, a four-day observance complete with Air Force Band concerts, ceremonies and Thunderbird flyovers.
Endorsed by the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS), Msgr. Rowan is a 21-year veteran Air Force Chaplain who has served on 13 deployments, including two in Iraq, three in Saudi Arabia, three in the United Arab Emirates, two in Qatar, and one in Kyrgyzstan. He recently completed a second deployment to Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait. Earlier this year, the Vatican designated Father Rowan a “Chaplain of His Holiness,” a papal honor that carries the title of Reverend Monsignor. On April 14, he was promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel during services at St. Agnes Cathedral in his home diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y.
A native of Cedarhurst, N.Y., Msgr. Rowan was ordained a priest on May 25, 1991 after completing studies at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, N.Y. That same year, the AMS granted the young priest endorsement and faculties to serve as a Chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
In 2003, Msgr. Rowan went on active duty. For the next seven years, he did tours at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; Osan Air base, South Korea; and as Wing Chaplain at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
In 2009 Msgr. Rowan returned to the Air Force Reserve where he serves as the Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Deputy Command Chaplain at Headquarters, AFRC, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
Msgr. Rowan has previously served in the diocese of Rockville Centre at St. Aidan’s Williston Park, N.Y. and St. Catherine of Sienna, Franklin Square, N.Y. He was an associate and later pastor at Our Lady of Peace, Lynbrook, N.Y. and a chaplain at Nassau University Medical Center, East Meadow, N.Y.
The New York native and lifelong Mets fan says being honored Monday night as “Veteran of the Game” was the experience of a lifetime, even if the Rockies did go on to defeat his team 3-1.
Msgr. Rowan said:
“The New York Mets have been my favorite team ever since I was a little boy and every time I am able to get home to New York I make sure to get to attend at least one home game. After returning home to New York from deployment just a week and a half prior, I was thrilled to learn that on Monday, the Mets were hosting “Air Force Week in New York”. That game at Citi Field had the Air Force Band play, the Air Force Honor Guard, a three star U.S. Air Force general throw out the first pitch, the swearing in of 25 new Air Force Recruits and to top it off a fly over of the Air Force Thunderbirds at the end of the National Anthem! Then to my surprise, just two days before the game I got a call from the Mets telling me I was selected to be their “Veteran of the Game” for this night.
“For me it was an awesome moment to be honored after the third inning and be presented with a flag by Mets legend Rusty Staub, who I always wanted to meet! More than that, it was wonderful to realize that the Mets from all the different career fields in the Air Force chose a Catholic Chaplain to honor on behalf of each and every Catholic Chaplain serving in our military. The recognition I know was not just for me but for our Lord, our Military Archdiocese and all my brother priests serving in uniform throughout the world as well. It was a great honor to represent them and an amazing night, even though my Mets lost!”
The AMS was created as an independent archdiocese by Pope John Paul II in 1985 as the only Catholic jurisdiction responsible for endorsing and granting faculties for priests to serve as chaplains in the U.S. military and VA Medical Centers.
AMS-endorsed chaplains serve at more than 220 U.S. military installations in 29 countries, making the AMS the nation’s only global archdiocese. AMS-endorsed chaplains also serve at 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the U.S.
The AMS service population also includes American Catholic civilians working for the federal government in 134 countries, but currently, due to limited resources, the AMS cannot adequately serve this population.
Worldwide, an estimated 1.8 million Catholics depend on the AMS to meet their spiritual and sacramental needs.
For more information on the Archdiocese for the Military Services, visit www.milarch.org, the only official Web site for Catholics in the military and for the Cause of Father Vincent Capodanno, M.M.