The following comes from a Dec. 2 story in Catholic San Francisco.
Facing a chronic shortage of Catholic priests serving on active duty as chaplains in the U.S. military, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, based in Washington, D.C., is asking for prayers and support from the faithful.
On Tuesday, Dec. 9, the faithful of Northern California will have an opportunity to contribute by joining military services Archbishop Timothy Broglio, at a reception at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel, 609 Sutter St., San Francisco, at 6 p.m. Tickets or sponsorships must be purchased in advance. Proceeds will go to support Catholic military chaplain vocations and other pastoral services to Catholics in uniform.
The ranks of Catholic chaplains have been thinning out in recent years because of a nationwide priest shortage combined with the military’s mandatory retirement age of 62. Aging military priests are reaching retirement faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, as the nation waged its longest war in history, the number of priests on active duty has declined by more than 40 percent, the military archdiocese said.
Catholics make up approximately 25 percent of the military population but Catholic priests now make up only about 8 percent of chaplains, Archbishop Broglio said. The gap can make it hard for Catholic servicemen and women to practice their faith, particularly on distant deployments and in war zones where Masses are few and far between and servicemen and women can go weeks at a time without access to the sacraments. “And when they do need spiritual counseling, those Catholics often have to go to non-Catholic chaplains, who sometimes proselytize their own religious teachings,” Archbishop Broglio said.
Archbishop Broglio said it would take nearly an additional 500 priests to meet the military’s current demand for active-duty Catholic chaplains.
The military services archdiocese is asking the faithful to support its Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a 25-year-old partnership between the military services archdiocese and local dioceses and religious communities to support vocations, drawing heavily from men already in the military. The program’s projected cost for the next five years is $2.7 million.
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