Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, left, with Thomas M. Loarie. program committee chairman of Catholics@Work and Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ.
Military, though great source
A diocese unlike any other in the Church is also the biggest source of priestly vocations in the United States.
The sun literally never sets on Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio's vicarate. As Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, (AMS) he is responsible for the spiritual needs of 1.8 million Catholics in uniform, scattered at 220 U.S. military bases in 29 countries around the world.
"I told my fellow bishops that the military is the greatest single source of vocations in the U.S.," Archbishop Broglio told listeners at the Dec. 9 Catholics@Work breakfast in Danville.
"If we had more priests in the military, I think we would have more vocations as well."
Archbishop Broglio pointed out that "only 8 percent of the chaplains in the military are Catholic priests, yet 25 percent of the people on active duty are Catholics."
"We should probably have about 800 priests on active duty," said the archbishop. The archdiocese had about 400 priests at the time of Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Today the Catholic chaplain corps is less than 250.
One chaplain in attendance was Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, who also serves as a chaplain in the Naval Reserve and knows the needs first hand.
When Archbishop Broglio became head of the archdiocese in 2008 he made vocations a top priority, and is having some success. A co-sponsored seminary program where would-be chaplains study in local seminaries has grown from seven seminarians in 2007 to 32 today. But the cost also is growing.
That is one reason he was in the Bay Area for a fundraising reception at the Marines Memorial Club that evening.
With expenses of $5 million a year to serve his global flock, funding is a continuing challenge. The government provides no funds for the vicarate, although the chaplains themselves as commissioned officers are paid by the government.
The AMS was established as an independent archdiocese by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1985. It also serves 153 VA Medical Centers across the nation.
The vicarate faces immense challenges in meeting the needs of Catholics in the military. The Catholic population is younger; it moves frequently as service personnel get new assignments; and it faces all the challenges of lifes' different environments and life-threatening situations.
Some Catholics in uniform can go years without seeing a Catholic priest, simply due to assignment mobility. In Afghanistan 13 Catholic chaplains ministered to Catholic troops and the chaplains are constantly on the move to reach all the bases.
As a result, "it becomes Sunday when the chaplain arrives," the archbishop explained.
The value of the chaplain corps was dramatically underscored when a young man stood up at the end of the breakfast and thanked the archbishop publicly.
"I was in a bad place," Victor McGuire said, when he was stationed at an air base in New Jersey. But he found the Catholic chaplain and turned his life around. "It was a godsend. There was a priest and I could go to confession."
Today he has a good job, is married, is an active Catholic and volunteers at De La Salle High School.
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