WASHINGTON, DC – Ten Catholic priests from religious communities and U.S. dioceses throughout the United States are gathered in Washington, DC, this week for a five-day retreat aimed at helping them determine if they are called to serve as U.S. Military chaplains. The retreat, called “For God and Country: a Call to Serve Those Who Serve,” is meant to inspire participating priests as they discern this “vocation within a vocation.”
The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), is covering participants’ travel, lodging, and other expenses for the June 24-28 retreat. It is the fifth of kind to be sponsored by the AMS since 2015. The four earlier retreats—held in October 2015, April 2016, October 2016, and June 2018—resulted in at least eleven priests joining the AMS following release by their bishops or religious superiors for military service. Some are committed to serve on active duty while others will serve in the Reserves or under contract with the Department of Defense.
The retreats are meant to help relieve a chronic shortage of Catholic U.S. Military chaplains, whose ranks are dwindling due to attrition: aging chaplains are reaching military retirement faster than they can be replaced. Currently, fewer than 200 priests are on active duty, less than half the number serving at the time of 9/11.
During the retreat, AMS clergy, staff, and chaplain recruiters will join His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, to give the priests a realistic picture of what it is like to be a military chaplain and how to become one. The AMS Chancellor, Father Robert R. Cannon, Ch, Col, USAF (Ret.), said “the For God and Country retreat offers priests a taste of the life and ministry of a military chaplain, and the opportunity to discern whether to become one.”
Staying at the Catholic University of America in Northeast Washington, the priests will gather daily for prayer and the Eucharist. They will visit Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, VA, Andrews Air Force Base, MD, and Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. In those real-life settings, they will meet and talk with military officers, enlisted personnel, and other chaplains. The highlight of the gathering will come on Thursday in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel at the 9/11 crash site, where the priests will concelebrate Mass. The retreat will conclude after Morning Prayer on Friday.
Dates are not yet set for future “For God and Country” retreats, but priests are welcome to submit applications ahead of time.
To qualify for consideration:
- The priest must have completed or neared completion of three years of ordained ministry;
- The priest must be a citizen or have a Green Card; priests with only a Visa will not be considered;
- Preference will be given to those priests who can enter active duty before their 42nd birthday.
For more information, contact Father Cannon at Chancellor@milarch.org or (202) 719-3600.