Prospective Catholic U.S. Air Force Chaplain Ordained Priest in Anchorage, AK Father Madison Hayes crosses finish line in formational journey toward priesthood

L-R: Bishop Chad Zielinkski, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Mr. Marc Hayes, Father Madison Hayes, Ms. Karen Hayes, Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, and Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz in Anchorage, AK, on Aug. 6, 2021.

ANCHORAGE, AK – Father Madison Hayes, 2d Lt, USAFR, a candidate for United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a Catholic priest on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, in Anchorage, AK. He plans eventually to serve on active duty as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). The new priest celebrated his first post-ordination Mass of Thanksgiving on Saturday at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Eagle River, AK.

Father Hayes, 33, completed the program for priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. His ordination was celebrated at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Archbishop Andrew E. Bellisario, C.M. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, concelebrated the 6:00 p.m. ordination Mass. Also concelebrating were Archbishop Emeritus Roger L. Schwietz, O.M.I., of Anchorage-Juneau and Bishop Chad W. Zielinski of Fairbanks. Among those in attendance were the new priest’s parents, Marc and Karen Hayes.

Father Hayes is a 2010 graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, where he took part in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration and Communications. In Rome, he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He will soon return to Rome to complete work on a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) in Moral Theology at the Alphonsian Academy before taking up full-time ministry in the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau prior to going on active duty in the Air Force.

Commenting on his ordination, Father Hayes said, “I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for being called to be a priest to serve God and His people in Alaska and those who serve in the U.S. Military around the world. God is good. I ask the people of God to pray for me, and all priests, especially in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and other missionary dioceses – that we may have the courage to live our vocation joyfully.”

The eventual service of Father Hayes and other Catholic chaplain candidates is greatly anticipated by the Air Force, which, like other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains due to attrition: priests are reaching mandatory military retirement faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty U.S. Military chaplains in all branches of service has fallen from more than 400 to fewer than 200. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests currently account for less than eight percent of military chaplains. In the Air Force, 59 priests currently on active duty serve some 82,000 Catholic Airmen spread globally. That’s approximately one priest for every 1,380 Catholics not counting their families whom the priests also serve.

At the same time, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the Military itself continues to be a rich source of vocations in the U.S. CARA’s annual Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood found five percent of the Class of 2021 has prior military experience, and 11% comes from families where at least one parent served in the military, making the AMS the nation’s largest source of new priests. The actual numbers are certain to be higher, because only 73% of this year’s ordinands (346 out of 472) responded to the survey.

The AMS is now busy tapping this source for prospective chaplains. The Vocations Office is focusing attention on active-duty servicemen expressing an interest in the priesthood, inviting more qualified candidates to consider joining the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations partnership between the AMS and cooperating dioceses and religious communities around the country. In the case of Father Hayes, the partner diocese is the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau. Under the co-sponsorship agreement, Father Hayes will provide civilian pastoral service for three years in the Anchorage-Juneau Archdiocese before going on active duty in the Air Force. Upon completion of his Air Force service, he will return to Anchorage-Juneau for further ministry.

Thanks in large part to the support of U.S. bishops and religious superiors, along with increased awareness and discernment opportunities, the number of co-sponsored seminarians such as Father Hayes has risen from seven in 2008 to 36 today.

The AMS, which receives no funding from the government and depends entirely on private giving, is now looking for ways to fund a fast-rising seminary bill, now projected at more than $5 million over the next five years. To support the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, visit milarch.org/support-seminarians/.

Young men interested in discerning a priestly vocation, and the vocation within a vocation to serve those who serve in the U.S. military, can find more information at milarch.org/vocations, or may contact the AMS Vocations Office at vocations@milarch.org or (202) 719-3600.