ATLANTA, GA. – Father Michael Metz, a candidate to join the United States Army as a chaplain, was ordained a Catholic priest on Saturday, June 16, in Atlanta, GA. Father Metz is on track to serve on active duty with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) once he completes three years of pastoral service in his home Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The new priest was ordained, along with four other young men two of whom also came from military families, at the Cathedral of Christ the King. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta ordained the men through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, concelebrated the 10:30 a.m. ordination Mass.
Father Metz, whose dad served in the U.S. Navy, is among a significant percentage of newly ordained U.S. priests coming into the priesthood from the Military or military families, demonstrating the vast potential of the Armed Forces as a steady source of new vocations in the Catholic Church. In fact, a 2018 survey of men being ordained to the American priesthood this year, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, finds at least 13% come from military families, and at least 4% actually served in the Military themselves. The actual numbers are almost certainly higher, because only 78% of the 430 identified ordinands responded to the 2018 survey.
Father Metz, 28, the son of Patrick and Marion (Thompson) Metz of Cummings, GA, is the second of the couple’s eleven children. His parents and all ten of his brothers and sisters attended the ordination, along with their grandparents, John and Michaela (McGannon) Metz of Memphis, TN.
Father Metz is a 2012 graduate of Christian Brothers University in Memphis, where he majored in Business Management while enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). In 2014, He earned a master’s degree in Philosophy and Religion at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, IL, where he spent the past year finishing work on a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology. He celebrated his first Mass on Sunday, June 17, at Pinecrest Academy, a private Catholic school in Cummings, GA.
Father Metz said:
“I am filled with overwhelming gratitude for God’s goodness, the love of God’s people, and the gift of my family and friends. I have been given so much, including the priesthood; right now my heart is simply full of joy.”
The new priest’s prospective military service, along with that of other Catholic military chaplain candidates, comes at a crucial time. The Army and all other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces continue to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains as more and more priests reach mandatory military retirement faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty chaplains has fallen from more than 400 to approximately 205. The Army has only 81 of those currently serving. While Catholics make up about 25% of all U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests currently account for only 6% of U.S. Military chaplains.
The AMS is busy tapping the Military itself for prospective chaplains. The Vocations Office is focusing attention on active-duty servicemen expressing an interest in the priesthood, inviting more qualified candidates to join the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations partnership between the AMS and cooperating dioceses and religious communities around the country.
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 has risen from seven in 2008 to a record 42 today. They come from 31 U.S. dioceses and are enrolled in 19 seminaries nationwide and the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
This year, five of those co-sponsored, including Father Metz, will be ordained priests, and five seminarians will be ordained transitional deacons as they progress toward priestly ordination. Another 11 priests, now in reserve status, are set to phase into active duty over the next three years. Two will be sworn in as chaplains in September. Meanwhile, another five men are scheduled to enter the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program in the fall, and the AMS Office of Vocations is currently processing the applications of still others.
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 $4 million over the next five years. Donations can be made at www.milarch.org/donate.
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 www.milarch.org/vocations, or may contact the Vocations Director, Father Aidan Logan, O.C.S.O., at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 719-3600.