Prospective U.S. Air Force Chaplain Ordained a Catholic Priest in Indiana Father Garrett Braun crosses finish line in vocational journey to priesthood

Left to right: Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, Father Garrett Braun, Bishop F. Richard Spencer in Evansville, IN, on June 5, 2021.

EVANSVILLE, IN – Father Garrett Braun, 2d Lt, USAFR, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and candidate for U.S. Military chaplaincy, was ordained a Catholic priest on Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Evansville, IN. He hopes eventually to serve as an active-duty chaplain in the U.S. Air Force with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).

Father Braun, 29, completed his priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Saint Meinrad, IN. His priestly ordination was celebrated at Saint Benedict Cathedral through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Bishop Joseph M. Siegel of Evansville. AMS Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer concelebrated the 10:00 a.m. ordination Mass. The new priest’s parents, Randy and Judy Braun, were among those in attendance.

Father Braun is a 2010 graduate of Saint John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, FL. He is a 2015 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Operations Research.

The new priest, now a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve, says he discovered his priestly vocation through his experiences in scouting and Catholic education along with faith leadership positions in the Catholic cadet community at the Air Force Academy. His intention is to go on active duty as a U.S. Air Force chaplain following three years of pastoral service in his home Diocese of Evansville under its co-sponsored seminarian agreement with the AMS.

Commenting on his ordination, Father Braun said: “I feel incredibly blessed that by God’s grace I will be sharing in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Any sacrifices I am making in pursuing this vocation are constantly being repaid a   hundredfold. I am eager to serve the people of God in the Diocese of Evansville, as well as, the faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, and know that doing so well and faithfully will rely on surrendering myself constantly to God’s grace!”

The new priest completes his formational journey at a critical time for the exercise of Catholic faith in the Air Force. Like other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Air Force 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 approximately 200. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests currently account for only seven percent of military chaplains. In the Air Force, 55 priests currently on active duty serve some 80,000 Catholic Airmen and women and their families based worldwide.

At the same time, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, 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 at least 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 busily tapping this source for prospective chaplains. The Vocations Office is focusing attention on active-duty servicemen expressing an interest in the priesthood, inviting 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.

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 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 approximately $5 million over the next five years. To support the Co-Sponsored Seminarian program, visit milarch.org/support-seminarians/. Gifts made through June 30 will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $25,000 by a retired military couple wishing to remain anonymous in their generosity.

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.