WASHINGTON, D.C. -American Catholics will have a rare opportunity early next month to support the pastoral care for their brothers and sisters, the faithful, in the United States Military and the nation’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers. A special collection will be taken up in parishes nationwide for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). Most parishes will take up the collection at Sunday Masses the weekend of Nov. 5-6, or as otherwise determined by an individual diocese or parish.
The AMS was established by Saint John Paul II in 1985 to provide the Catholic Church’s full range of ecclesiastical programs, pastoral services, and liturgical celebration to Catholics in the U.S. Armed Forces. The mission of the Archdiocese is to “serve those who serve”—specifically, those who serve in uniform on active duty or reserve; studying to be officers in the U.S. Military Academies; receiving treatment at many of the 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the fifty states, Puerto Rico and Guam; or working in civilian jobs for the federal government beyond U.S. borders; and the families of these populations.
Programs and services vital to the unique mission and ministry of the Archdiocese include Vocations, Evangelization and Catechesis, Sacramental Records, Tribunal, and Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the AMS is the only Archdiocese authorized to grant endorsement and faculties for Catholic priests to serve as chaplains in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, the service academies, and the VA. All told, 1.8 million American Catholics worldwide depend on the AMS and its endorsed chaplains, deacons, and lay leaders for their spiritual care and free exercise of faith.
His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, said:
“The Archdiocese tries to meet the same pastoral needs of the faithful that your home diocese does, but distances, the deployments and disruptions of the longest war in our history, a severe shortage of priests to serve as military chaplains, and related costs pose a challenge to many pastoral projects. For example, to offer on-going formation to catechists, or to explain the archdiocesan-wide catechetical program for the Navy installations in San Diego, someone has to travel from Washington to the West Coast. My four Auxiliary Bishops and I spend more than 220 days of the year ‘on the road’ to visit the Catholic communities spread throughout the world. There we provide pastoral care to the men and women in uniform and their families, patients at the VA hospitals, as well as to the chaplains and priests who serve them. We administer confirmation and celebrate Mass with the community. Where and when possible, we also visit with those in command. But those costs add up.”
The AMS’s annual operating budget of more than $6.8 million includes the cost of maintaining an archive housing more than three million sacramental records, a tribunal to adjudicate marriage annulments and other issues of canon law, and a full-scale religious education and faith-formation program. Additionally, the AMS administers a thriving vocations program aimed at relieving a chronic shortage of Catholic military chaplains whose ranks are aging faster than they can be replaced. The AMS’s average annual share of expenses for the “Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program”—a vocations partnership with other dioceses and archdioceses around the country to support the formation of prospective news priests and chaplains—is $18,000 per seminarian. With 37 young men now enrolled in the program, that amounts to more than $650,000 per year, which adds up to around three million dollars over the next five years alone.
The AMS receives no funding from the military or the government. So the upcoming special collection is mission-critical.
Proceeds will help the AMS meet a wide assortment of pressing financial challenges including:
- Support for new vocations and seminarians to relieve the chronic shortage of Catholic military chaplains.
- Worldwide travel of AMS bishops and clergy staff; Archbishop Broglio and his four auxiliaries each average more than 220 travel days per year to installations around the world.
- Implementation of catechetical standards and indicators for children of military families in grades pre-K through 12: Forming Disciples for the New Evangelization: Archdiocesan Religion Curriculum Guide.
- Online Catechetical Methodology courses and Catechist Certification programming.
Faith formation initiatives for youth and young adults that include spiritual discernment, leader trainings, and international conferences.
- Partnership with Life Teen to support Catholic youth and families in military settings.
Operation of the AMS website, Digital Media Center, and mobile app, the principal means of communication between the AMS and those it serves.
- Televising and/or live streaming of noted events in the Archdiocese such as messages from the Archbishop, the annual Memorial Mass, the annual Father Capodanno Mass, training for ministry leaders, World Youth Day, and more.
- Sacramental record keeping: the growing volume of records compiled since 1917 now stands at three million and counting.
- Tribunal activity on marriage annulment applications and other issues of canon law.
Public advocacy for religious freedom and Catholic teaching.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved the special collection for the AMS—to be taken up every three years—in 2012. The approval came as a result of a varium presented in 2009 by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, then Archbishop of Denver—now Archbishop of Philadelphia—and signed by all of the Bishops of the Province as well as by Archbishop Broglio. The first collection, taken up in November 2013, raised more than $8,239,000.
For more information on the special National Collection for the AMS, go to www.milarch.org/nationalcollection.
View a list of participating dioceses here.
Make a donation here.