ARLINGTON, VA — The Reverend Mr. Michael T. Nugent and the Rev. Mr. Charles C. Wilton were ordained transitional deacons on Saturday, April 23, in a solemn Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington, VA. Both are on track to become Catholic priests and U.S. Navy chaplains with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). They are scheduled for priestly ordination next year.
The Rev. Mr. Nugent, 34, is enrolled at the Pontifical North American College in Rome; the Rev. Mr. Wilton, 45, at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Both were ordained by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit. AMS Auxiliary Bishop Joseph L. Coffey concelebrated the 11:00 a.m. ordination Mass.
Among those in attendance for the ordination were the Rev. Mr. Nugent’s parents, Capt. and Mrs. Alfred Steven Nugent III (USN, Ret.), his sister, Ms. Emily Nugent; his brother, Mr. Steven Nugent and his wife Heather; and his paternal grandmother, Mrs. Regina Nugent. Praying with the family from Tallahassee, FL, were his maternal grandparents, Lt. and Mrs. Thomas Keenan (USN, Ret.). The Rev. Mr. Wilton’s parents and siblings live in Europe and watched the ordination Mass via livestream.
“I am full of gratitude to God and I am eager to serve the Church as a deacon,” the Rev. Mr. Nugent said. “Coming from a family with many military service members, I am especially looking forward to ministering to our men and women in uniform as a priest of Jesus Christ.” The Rev. Mr. Wilton said, “It feels amazing to be a deacon. God has blessed me in so many ways up to this point and continues to bless me. I can’t wait to be able to serve the faithful and share with them how much God loves us.”
The two new deacons are among 12 prospective Catholic U.S. Military chaplains set to be ordained this calendar year—six as transitional deacons on track to be ordained priests next year, and six as priests—as the AMS works diligently to overcome a chronic shortage of priests on active duty. For decades now, aging chaplains have been reaching retirement faster than they can be replaced. Just since the time of 9/11, for example, the active-duty Catholic chaplain roster has shrunk from more than 400 to fewer than 200. While 25% of the military is Catholic, Catholic priests now make up only seven percent of the chaplain corps.
The Rev. Mr. Nugent is a 2006 graduate of Catholic High School in Virginia Beach, VA. In 2010 he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce with concentrations in Finance and Economics from the University of Virginia before entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, PA, where he graduated in 2019 with a Master of Arts degree in Philosophical Studies.
The Rev. Mr. Wilton is a veteran of the Navy where he served for 14 years as a Hospital Corpsman and experienced combat on deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a 1995 high school graduate of The Archbishop’s School in Kent, England. In 2001, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business from De Montfort University in Leicester, England and in 2012, a Master of Science in International Relations from Troy University in Alabama. The new deacon said he discovered his vocation shortly after converting to Catholicism in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2013, largely through the influence of a Catholic Army chaplain, Father Tyson Wood, CH (LTC), USA (Ret.).
Both new deacons are enrolled in the “Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program” (CSP) whereby the AMS partners with cooperating dioceses and religious communities to support vocations. Currently, 39 men are enrolled in the CSP, up sharply from seven in 2008, thanks in large part to the creation of an active AMS Office of Vocations with the support of Catholic chaplain recruiters in the military and the cooperation of bishops and religious superiors across the country. The AMS Vocations Office is currently processing ten additional CSP applicants.
Young men interested in discerning a priestly vocation and the vocation within a vocation to serve those who serve can find more information at milarch.org/vocations, or may contact Father S. Matthew Gray, AMS Vocations Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 719-3600.
Gifts in support of AMS Vocations are gratefully accepted at milarch.org/donate.