EAST LANSING, MI – Father Peter Ludwig, USNR, a candidate for United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a Catholic priest on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in East Lansing, MI. He hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Navy with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).
Father Ludwig, 25, completed his priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. His presbyteral ordination was celebrated during a 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, concelebrated the ordination Mass. Also concelebrating was the AMS Judicial Vicar, Father Mark Rutherford, J.C.L., a priest of the Diocese of Lansing.
Father Ludwig celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Peter Catholic Church in Eaton Rapids, MI. His first priestly assignment will take him back to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in East Lansing where he will serve as parochial vicar.
Father Ludwig hails from a family of 11 children, of whom he is the oldest. All were present for the ordination, including parents Jonathan and Lori Ludwig, brother Stephen and wife Kate Ludwig, and brothers and sisters Mary, David, Hannah, Lucas, Abigail, Lydia, Nicholas, Julia, and Sarah Ludwig, along with grandparents Rock and Margo Fournier and Vicky Ludwig.
Father Ludwig is a 2014 graduate of the Seton Home Study High School Program and a 2018 graduate of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Catholic Studies. Last year, he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology Degree (STB) from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he is now pursuing a License in Fundamental Theology.
The new priest says he began to discern a priestly vocation in high school. “I grew up in a wonderful Catholic family,” he says. “However, by middle school, I became self-absorbed and started living for myself. Even though I still attended Mass every Sunday, I was reluctant to let God work in my life. I had a change of heart during my sophomore year of high school. I discovered the joy of serving others and the peace that comes from doing what I know is right. I started going to confession frequently, praying, and reading the Scriptures. With my heart opening to God in a new way, it gradually became very clear that I was being called to enter seminary and become a priest. I entered St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota immediately after high school.”
Commenting on his priestly ordination, Father Ludwig said, “I am very excited to become a priest. I also feel the deep responsibility of the office. Priests are called to give their entire lives in service to God and his people. I look forward to seeing the ways God wants to work through me in this new phase of life.”
The new priest crosses the finish line in his formational journey at a critical time for the exercise of Catholic faith in the Navy. Like other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Navy continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains due to attrition: priests are reaching mandatory military retirement age faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty Catholic U.S. Military chaplains in all branches of service has fallen from more than 400 to 189 today. While Catholics make up 25% of the U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests now account for only seven percent of military chaplains. In the Navy, 39 priests currently on active duty serve tens of thousands of Catholic Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen spread around the world, along with their families.
At the same time, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the military itself is a rich source of U.S. Catholic vocations. CARA’s annual Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood finds year in and year out, up to ten percent of newly ordained U.S. Catholic priests once served in the military, and upwards of fifteen percent come from families where at least one parent has a record of military service. This year’s survey of the Class of 2022 found eleven percent have military backgrounds, making the AMS one of the nation’s largest sources—if not the largest single source—of new Catholic priests in America. The actual numbers are certain to be higher, because only seventy-six percent of this year’s ordinands (317 out of 419) responded to the survey.
The AMS is now busy tapping this source for prospective chaplains. The Vocations Office, under Director Father S. Matthew Gray, 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 38 today.
Even so, all branches of the U.S. Military need many more Catholic chaplains. 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 Vocations Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (202) 719-3600.
The seminarian population growth also comes as a mixed blessing for the AMS. It has led to a huge increase in seminarian expenses. The AMS needs more funding to pay its share, which will amount to nearly $5 million over the next five years alone. Donations in support of AMS vocations are gratefully accepted at milarch.org/donate.