Number of seminarians committed to military service continues to rise as need grows
LUBBOCK, TEXAS – United States Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Brian Patrick Wood was ordained a Deacon by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Plácido Rodríguez, Bishop of Lubbock, on Saturday, December 10, at Christ the King Cathedral.
The Reverend Mister Wood, 35, is among more than 30 men currently enrolled in seminaries with a commitment to become U.S. military chaplains following their ordination as priests. Diaconal ordination is the final step before priestly ordination in the five-year academic and spiritual formation program.
Deacon Wood, who entered Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan in 2006 following active-duty service in the U.S. Air Force, is scheduled to be ordained a priest in June. He is committed to serve as a full-time Air Force chaplain after completing three years of pastoral service in his home diocese of Lubbock.
Rev. Mr. Wood said:
“For me, ordination is a blessing. I represent Christ in His mission to teach us about love. In the end, it’s about a deep and intimate relationship with God.”
Deacon Wood looks forward to joining the ranks of Catholic military chaplains at a time when the U.S. armed forces are in sore need of more priests. As more and more priest-chaplains reach the mandatory retirement age of 62, their numbers have declined from more than 400 on active duty in 2001 to around 220 this year.
The good news is that the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS), the nation’s only diocese responsible for endorsing priests to serve as military chaplains, continues to see a sharp increase in the number of men entering seminaries under a co-sponsorship program with their home dioceses. Co-sponsorship means that a diocesan bishop agrees to accept the young man as a seminarian, and that the seminarian will participate in the chaplain candidacy program of one of the three branches of the military. The bishop agrees to release him for service as a military chaplain after three years of pastoral experience as a priest in his diocese. When the priest leaves military service, he returns to the diocese.
Father Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv., AMS Director of Vocations, said 35 current or soon-to-be seminarians, many with an existing military record, are now committed to become chaplains under the co-sponsorship program, up from 32 in August, 23 last academic year, 12 in 2009-10, and three in 2008-09.
Father Abbott said:
“This dramatic growth in young Catholic servicemen committing themselves to serve as priest-chaplains is really an amazing blessing. It is an indication that the Holy Spirit is working not only throughout the Church in general but also within the armed forces to recruit vocations at a time of great need. And how appropriate! No one knows better than a Soldier, an Airman, a Sailor or a Marine the meaning of service to a greater good, and how great the cost.”
As the nation’s only archdiocese without geographical boundaries, the AMS endorses priests for on-site ministry at more than 200 locations throughout the country and around the world to Catholics and their families in the U.S. armed forces, VA Medical Centers and overseas civilian posts. Worldwide, an estimated 1.5 million Catholics depend on these priests to serve their spiritual and sacramental needs.
For more information on the Archdiocese for the Military Services, visit http://www.milarch.org, the only official Web site for Catholics in the military and for the Cause of Father Vincent Capodanno, M.M.