HOUSTON, Texas – For the past two years, under the banner of the Texas Women’s Project, wives of the Texas State Council of the Knights of Columbus (K of C) have been raising money to support Catholic seminarians in formation to become priests and U.S. Military chaplains. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, accepted a check for $75,000 Saturday night at the council’s 114th Annual State Convention banquet in Houston. Presenting the check was Ms. Jo-Dee Benson, wife of Knights of Columbus Texas State Deputy Douglas E. Oldmixon. Meanwhile, the Texas wives raised an additional $5,000 over the weekend, bringing their total contribution to $80,000.
The gifts will go into the Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship fund, which the K of C established in 2011 to help pay seminary tuition and related expenses for prospective chaplains enrolled in the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program (CSP). The CSP is a vocations partnership between the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) and cooperating U.S. dioceses and religious communities to support young men discerning a call to both priesthood and military chaplaincy. To date, the K of C has donated a total of nearly $1.5 million to the Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship fund.
The support is sorely needed. The CSP has enjoyed a tremendous growth in enrollment over the past decade as the AMS strives to overcome a desperate shortage of Catholic priests in all branches of the military due to attrition: chaplains are reaching retirement faster than they can be replaced. Forty-two men are currently enrolled, up from only seven in 2008. While that is an encouraging sign, the growth has produced an enormous increase in seminary expenses. The AMS’s average share of costs per seminarian’s five-year education is $90,000. The total projected cost for all co-sponsored seminarians over the next five years alone is $4 million.
In Texas, it has become a tradition that the wife of the State Deputy selects a charitable cause to promote while her husband serves in office. Ms. Benson sent Archbishop Broglio an email in May 2016, saying, “We want to highlight the need for more military chaplains for our military men and women who selflessly sacrifice for us each day in service to our country and support the formation of more priests to serve them.” The $80,000 raised over the past two years was the result of an extraordinary effort and commitment by the women of Texas. Meanwhile, Ms. Mary Evans, wife of newly elected Texas State Deputy Mark Evans, announced she will continue the same project for another two years, promising yet more generous support for the Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship fund.
Archbishop Broglio expressed his appreciation: “I am overwhelmed by the support of the Texas wives. Jo-Dee Benson has a personal attachment to the military, because her father and grandfather served. However, she motivated the wives and Knights of Texas to meet an ecclesial need: the spiritual care of Catholics in the military. I will be forever grateful for this generous support.”
At the Saturday night banquet, attended by Catholic bishops and knights and their wives from all over Texas, Mr. Oldmixon presented Archbishop Broglio with the Exemplar of Chaplains Award in recognition of his “outstanding leadership” and “inspiring” commitment to making chaplains and pastoral care accessible to Catholic U.S. Military populations worldwide.