U.S. Navy Chaplain Candidate Ordained a Transitional Catholic Deacon

Diaconal ordination marks next-to-last step toward priesthood for Rev. Mr. Jonathan Norton

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA – The Reverend Mr. Jonathan Norton, a candidate for the Catholicpriesthood and United States military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional DeaconSaturday, May 24, in his home diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. He hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the United States Navy (which also serves the Marine Corpsand Coast Guard) with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).

Rev. Mr. Norton’s diaconal ordination was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoads. AMS Senior Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins concelebrated the ordination Mass. Among those in attendance were the new deacon’s parents, Grant and Nola Norton; his biological father, Steve Childress; his brother Roger Norton; his sister and brother-in-law, Ashley and Josh Stagni; his grandparents, Alvin and Janice Fasske, Marilyn Norton, and Louise Adank; and his aunts, Nanette Elder, Debby Wilson, Jane Todd.

Rev. Mr. Norton, 32, was born in Lufkin, Texas but spent most of his childhood in Albany, Ga.where his father was assigned to the Marine Corps Logistics Base. It was in Albany that the new deacon first considered becoming a priest, an idea he explored in conversations with the base chaplain. When he was in the sixth grade, the family moved to Fort Wayne, Ind. where Rev. Mr. Norton graduated from Bishop Luers High School in 2000. Following years of discernment, in 2008, he entered formation for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Three years later, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn. The new deacon is currently enrolled at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Diaconal ordination marks the next-to-last step in his formational journey toward priesthood. He hopes to be ordained a priest next year upon earning a Master of Divinity.

Rev. Mr. Norton said:

“This ordination means a great deal to me because it is a declaration of what I believe to be my vocation. To have the Church accept this and find me worthy of ordination is very humbling. I look forward to be conformed to Christ the Servant and look forward to serving the people of God especially my most immediate assignment in New Haven, Ind.”

The new deacon is among a growing number of men in formation to become priests and military chaplains through the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a partnership between the AMS and local dioceses and religious communities to support vocations and fill a fast-growing shortage of Catholic chaplains in the U.S. military. The shortage comes 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 229. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests currently account for only 8% of military chaplains.

Thanks in large part to the support of U.S. bishops and religious superiors, along with increased awareness and discernment opportunities for prospective chaplains, the number of co-sponsored seminarians has risen from seven in 2008 to 31 today, and still more candidates are on the way. Rev. Mr. Norton is among eight prospective chaplains to be ordained transitional deacons this year. Also this year, another five will be ordained priests.

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 at www.milarch.org.