WASHINGTON, D.C. – American Catholics will have a rare opportunity early next month to offer charitable support for pastoral care to the faithful in the United States Military and the nation’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers. A special second collection will be taken up in parishes nationwide for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). This special collection for the AMS is taken only once every three years with the approval of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Most parishes will take up the Triennial National Collection at Sunday Masses the weekend of Nov. 9-10, or as otherwise determined by an individual diocese or parish. Military Catholics who attend Mass at nondenominational base chapels where no second collections are taken may nevertheless give the same weekend through the AMS Appeal.
The AMS was established by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1985 to provide the Catholic Church’s full range of programs, pastoral service, and liturgical celebrations to Catholics in the U.S. Armed Forces. The mission of the Archdiocese is to “serve those who serve,” specifically, those who serve in uniform on active duty or reserve, study to be officers in the U.S. Military Academies, receive treatment at many of the 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the fifty states, Puerto Rico and Guam, or work in civilian jobs for the federal government beyond U.S. borders, and the families of these populations. All told, 1.8 million American Catholics worldwide depend on the AMS and its bishops, endorsed chaplains, deacons, and lay leaders for their spiritual care and free exercise of faith.
Programs and services vital to the unique mission and ministry of the Archdiocese include Vocations, Evangelization and Catechesis, Sacramental Records, Tribunal, and Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the AMS is the only Archdiocese authorized to grant endorsement and faculties for Catholic priests to serve as chaplains in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, the service academies, and the VA.
“I humbly ask you to contribute to the upcoming National Collection for the AMS. No amount is too large or too small—just give as you are moved by the Holy Spirit. Help me minister to those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect this great nation of ours. Your kind donation will, in essence, ensure support for the free exercise of the Catholic faith in the U.S. Armed Forces, in keeping with the liberties our Constitution guarantees; the very same freedoms our men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend.”
The AMS’s annual operating budget of more than $8 million covers the cost of maintaining an archive housing more than three million sacramental records dating back to 1917, a tribunal to adjudicate marriage annulments and other issues of canon law, and a full-scale religious education and faith formation program. The AMS administers a thriving vocations program aimed at relieving a desperate shortage of Catholic military chaplains whose ranks are aging faster than they can be replaced. The AMS’s average annual share of expenses for the “Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program”—a vocations partnership with other dioceses and archdioceses around the country to support the formation of prospective new priests and chaplains—is $18,000 per seminarian. With a record 47 young men now enrolled, that amounts to more than $800,000 per year, which adds up to more than $4 million dollars over the next five years alone.
The AMS receives no funding from the military or the government. So the upcoming special collection is mission-critical.
Proceeds will help the AMS meet a wide assortment of pressing financial challenges including:
- Support for new vocations and seminarians to relieve the chronic shortage of Catholic military chaplains.
- Worldwide travel of AMS bishops, clergy, and staff; Archbishop Broglio and his four auxiliaries each average more than 200 travel days per year to installations around the world.
- Implementation of catechetical standards and indicators for children of military families in grades pre-K through 12: Forming Disciples for the New Evangelization: Archdiocesan Religion Curriculum Guide.
- Online Catechetical Methodology courses and Catechist Certification programming.
- Faith formation initiatives for youth and young adults that include spiritual discernment, leader training, and international conferences.
- Partnership with Life Teen to support Catholic youth and families in military settings.
- Operation of the AMS website, mobile app, and social media, the principal means of communication between the AMS and those it serves.
- The televising and/or live streaming of noted events in the Archdiocese such as messages from the Archbishop, the annual Memorial Mass, the annual Father Capodanno Mass, training for catechists, and more.
- Sacramental record keeping; the growing volume of records compiled since 1917 now stands at three million and counting.
- Tribunal activity on marriage annulment applications and other issues of canon law.
- Public advocacy for religious freedom and Catholic teaching.
The USCCB approved the Triennial National Collection for the AMS in 2012. The approval came as a result of a varium presented in 2009 by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, then Archbishop of Denver, now Archbishop of Philadelphia, and signed by all of the Bishops of the Province as well as by Archbishop Broglio.
For more information on the Triennial National Collection for the AMS, including a list of participating dioceses, go to milarch.org/nationalcollection.
For more information on the Archdiocesan Appeal, visit milarch.org/amsappeal.