U.S. Air Force Veteran Pilot Ordained a Priest

Father Ryan Boyle hopes to go back on active duty as a chaplain following weekend ordination in Florida

Bishop Robert N. Lynch ordains Father Ryan Boyle on May 16, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo courtesy of Michael Donovan | Life Through the Lens Photography.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch ordains Father Ryan Boyle on May 16, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo courtesy of Michael Donovan | Life Through the Lens Photography.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. –The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), is celebrating the priestly ordination of a prospective new Catholic U.S. military chaplain. Father Ryan Boyle was ordained a priest through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecrationinvoking the Holy Spirit by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg, Fla. The AMS Vocations Director, Father Aidan Logan, O.C.S.O., represented the AMS at the May 16 ordination in the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, and he concelebrated the ordination Mass.

As with about one of every six newly ordained priests in the United States, Father Boyle comes from a military family background. He was born at Yokota Air Base, Japan, in 1976, the son of now-retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gary S. Boyle and Mrs. Sheryl A. Boyle of Valrico, Fla., now married for 43 years. He is the older of the couple’s two sons. After 14 moves, 65 countries, and 6 continents of travel, Father Boyle entered seminary in the summer of 2009 for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami in 2011, and went on to earn another bachelor’s in Sacred Theology (STB) at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2014. He is currently studying canon law at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
Father Boyle said:

“A priest forever! It’s hard to believe that the day has finally come. I’m so very thankful for all of the prayers and support I have received during seminary formation and I look forward to serving God and His Church as a priest of Jesus Christ!”

Before entering the seminary, Father Boyle served in the U.S. Air Force, where he hopes to return as a chaplain. After graduating fromBloomingdale Senior High School in Valrico, he graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management. Following pilot training, he amassed 4,400 hours flying the C-5, C-17, and C-21 cargo planes for the Air Forceworld-wide, including numerous combat missions into Afghanistan and Iraq. Father Boyle enjoys outdoor activities including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and swimming at the beach. He says that finding God in the beauty of creation, through prayer, serving others, and in the Holy Mass led him to a deeper relationship with God. Father Boyle’s parents and his brother, Matthew K. Boyle, all attended his priestly ordination.

Father Boyle’s eventual service as a chaplain, and that of other prospective new Catholic chaplains, will come not a moment too soon. The Air Force and all other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces continue to suffer a chronic shortage as more and more priests reach the military’s mandatory retirement age of 62 faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty chaplains has fallen from more than 400 to 228. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. armed forces, Catholic priests currently account for only 8% of military chaplains, representing only one priest for every 1,300 Catholics in uniform, not counting families of those service members.

At the same time, more Catholic servicemen are stepping forward to answer God’s call. According to an annual survey conducted by theCenter for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, the number of U.S. Military veterans being ordained priests this year nearly doubled from each of the past two years, rising to at least 24 in 2015, compared to 13 in 2014, and 14 in 2013.

The AMS is now busy tapping this source for prospective chaplains. The Vocations Office is focusing attention on active-duty servicemen expressing an interest in the priesthood, inviting more qualified candidates to join 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 28 today. They come from 26 U.S. dioceses and are enrolled in 15 seminaries nationwide and the North American College in Rome. This year, five of those seminarians will be ordained priests and two priests will go on active duty. Another 13 priests, now in reserve status, are set to phase into active duty over the next three years. Meanwhile, another four men are scheduled to enter the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program in the fall, and the AMS Office of Vocations is currently processing the applications of still others.

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 $2.7 million over the next five years. Donations can be made here.

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 www.milarch.org/vocations, or may contact Father Logan by email.