Deacon's Corner: Priests in the Military
July 31, 2022, 12:00 PM
A few years ago, our 7th grade religious education class asked, “What is the job of a Priest in the military?” I answered with some background. When a Bishop ordains a man to the priesthood, the Priest promises obedience to that Bishop and his successors. The bishop then assigns his Priests within his Diocese. Most Priests work within one Diocese during their priesthood, but some serve in assignments outside their Dioceses, such as instructors or students in Rome, as part of the Vatican’s Diplomatic Corps, or in U.S. military service.
There are over 200 Dioceses as part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), including the Archdiocese of Military Services (AMS). The AMS is a worldwide Archdiocese that supports the U.S. military, the diplomatic corps, and their families on all the U.S. military locations around the world. The AMS Archbishop works with the USCCB to get Priests from other Dioceses to volunteer to serve in the military. Once their Bishops approve, these Priests leave their Dioceses, go to military training, and are commissioned as military officers.
The AMS Archbishop assigns his Priests to military locations where they celebrate the Sacraments like all Priests. A key difference is that these Priests also deploy to the locations wherever the U.S. has sent troops. They celebrate Mass, hear Confessions, Anoint the Sick, and assist the Commanders, particularly with counseling military members and their families. As military officers they also have the responsibilities of continuing military training, development, and promotion. Many serve 20-year careers, then retire from the military, and return to the Diocese where they served before, they entered the military. We owe these men an incredible debt of gratitude for not only serving their country, but especially for serving those who serve their country. Great question! Now you know!