Military Archdiocese Faces Uphill Battle to Serve Troops

A military chaplain celebrates Mass for troops in the field. (Credit: Archdiocese for the Military Services)

The Archdiocese for the Military Services is charged with pastoral care of Catholics in the military, in all five branches, their dependents, any Catholic who is a patient or a resident on a facility governed by the Department of Veteran Affairs, and any U.S. Catholic who works for the Federal Government outside the United States. It is estimated 1.8 million Catholics are under its pastoral care, but it only has 208 priests currently serving.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services in the United States is perhaps the least understood of the almost 200 dioceses in the country. Yet for a nation that has been at war for 16 years, it’s arguably one of the most consequential and serves a vital spiritual role for members of the armed services and their families.

In 2007, Archbishop Timothy Broglio was named the fourth archbishop for the archdiocese. Since that time, he’s worked to improve the archdiocese’s financial stability and to recruit more priests to serve its members.

While the overall challenge to attract new priests is an uphill battle, Broglio remains hopeful for the future.

Earlier this month the archdiocese hosted its first young adult conference in Chicago, Illinois.

Afterwards, Broglio spoke with Crux about the history of this little understood archdiocese, the recent bi-annual meeting of the USCCB, and the upcoming Synod of Bishops.

Crux: Most Catholics in the U.S. lack an awareness of the history and purpose of the Archdiocese for the Military Services. Let’s start there-can you give me some background of how and why you operate?

Broglio: The Military Archdiocese really dates back to 100 years ago when the auxiliary bishop of New York, Patrick Hayes, was given responsibility for priests in the military. It was right at the time of the First World War.

Then, from that responsibility, the Military Ordinariate was established and he took that with him when he became the Archbishop of New York.

Cardinal Hayes, then Cardinals Spellman and Cook, each of them when they became Archbishop of New York were also appointed Military Vicar. In the New York chancery there were also offices to deal with the military vicariate.

In 1983, when John O’Connor was named Archbishop of New York, he’s the first Archbishop not to be named military vicar. Instead, Joseph Ryan, who had been the Archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska, is brought to New York and he is coadjutor for the military vicariate.

It’s established as a diocese in 1985 and the archbishop moves the offices to Washington, D.C., and I’m his third successor.

The archdiocese is charged with pastoral care of Catholics in the military, in all five branches, their dependents, any Catholic who is a patient or a resident on a facility governed by the Department of Veteran Affairs, and any U.S. Catholic who works for the Federal Government outside the United States.

We calculate that about 1.8 million people are served. We try to provide for them all of the services that a territorial diocese would provide, but membership is determined by who you are, not by where you live.

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SOURCE: Crux
Christopher White

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