Rev. Mr. Mark Bristol reaches next-to-last step in formational journey toward priestly ordination
YONKERS, N.Y. – The Reverend Mr. Mark Bristol, a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, for his home diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. The U.S. Navy veteran and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, hopes eventually to return to active duty as a Navy chaplain with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).
Rev. Mr. Bristol, 31, is undergoing priestly formation at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. His diaconal ordination was celebrated in the seminary chapel through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by His Excellency, the Most Reverend William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre. The AMS was represented by Vocations Director Father Aidan Logan, O.C.S.O., who concelebrated the 9:00 a.m. ordination Mass. In attendance were the new deacon’s parents, Mr. Martin and Mrs. Pauline Bristol of Loganville, Ga.; and his sister, Ms. Persis Bristol, and brothers, Mr. Walter Bristol and Mr. Matthew Bristol, of New York City.
For Rev. Mr. Bristol, who converted to Catholicism at the age of sixteen, diaconal ordination marks the next-to-last step on his formational journey to priesthood. He is scheduled to be ordained a priest next year. He says the journey started when he was just eight years old. He went to a Protestant summer camp that year and “asked Jesus to come into my life.” He says that “since that day, my relationship with Him has been a constant journey of me falling in love with Him, me running away from Him, Jesus running after me, and me returning back to Him, who is my first love.”
Before entering seminary, the future deacon spent nine years in the Navy, on active duty and in the reserves, during which time he served on deployment to the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He enlisted as anInformation Systems Technician upon graduation from Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Fla., and was assigned to the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), based in Gaeta, Italy. He happened to be there when Pope John Paul IIdied in 2005, and it was while attending the Holy Father’s funeral in Rome that he sensed the call to discern a vocation. “I was still running away from God,” he says. “While I was standing there shoulder to shoulder in the midst of over a million people from all over world, I heard the Lord say in my heart, ‘What happened to that fire that was in your heart for me and my Church when you first became Catholic?’ I repented that day and made a promise to myself to go on a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in hopes to rekindle that flame. When I went to World Youth Day in 2005 in Cologne, that flame was rekindled and I realized that God was still calling me to priesthood.”
Upon his diaconal ordination, the Rev. Mr. Bristol said:
“The ordination experience, transformative for me and my family because we realized the power of God’s providential care throughout my entire life. God did not bring me this far to leave me, therefore I have courage to continue to respond to His voice and follow Him wherever He leads me in service of others.”
“I was ordained a deacon to serve. My prayer every day is that God will make me a servant– humble and meek, so that I may lift up those weak and in need in some way every day.”
The prospective military service of the Rev. Mr. Bristol and more than two dozen seminarians now in formation to become priest-chaplains comes at a crucial time for Catholic pastoral service in the U.S. armed forces. In remarks to the General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) this week in Baltimore, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, said the growing shortage of Catholic military chaplains has become “desperate.” “Approximately, one fourth of the active-duty personnel and their immediate families are Catholics,” Archbishop Broglio said. “At present those Catholics– totally around a million people– are served by only 217 priests in a territory that covers the globe. They represent only 8% of all military chaplains.” For example, the Navy, where the Rev. Mr. Bristol hopes to serve, now has only 48 priests, of whom only 36 can be deployed, but by June, there could be a further reduction due to retirements, according to Archbishop Broglio. Pointing out that the Army and the Air Force also face reductions in Catholic chaplains next year, His Excellency urged his brother bishops to release more priests for military service.
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 Father Logan by email firstname.lastname@example.org.