Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2013 / 04:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new special collection as Masses throughout the U.S. offers crucial help for military chaplains administering sacraments and support to those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces throughout the world.
“Thank you for making it possible for me to visit the flock entrusted to my pastoral care. Thank you for supporting the tireless work of the auxiliaries,” said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
“Thank you for allowing this global archdiocese to say 'yes' each day to fulfilling its responsibilities each day to the men and women in uniform, their families, to our veterans and those who serve our nation outside our shores.”
Archbishop Broglio spoke at the 5th Annual Benefit for the U.S. Military Archdiocese, held in Arlington, Va., on Nov. 7.
The archdiocese oversees the spiritual and pastoral care of the 1.8 million U.S. Catholic military members, veterans, Department of Defense contractors, and civil service employees working abroad, as well as their families around the globe.
The archbishop's words of thanks to supporters came as the Archdiocese for the Military Services prepares for its first-ever special collection on Nov. 10. The collection was approved to be taken up once every three years by the U.S. bishops at a general meeting last year.
Although it ministers to government employees and their families, the archdiocese does not receive funding from the U.S. government, nor does it receive any money from weekly collections in U.S. military chapels, as those contributions are distributed according to military funding regulations.
The archdiocese funds its $5.1 million operating budget through private donations.
These funds go to support priests' ability to move between the 220 military installations in 29 countries, 153 VA Medical Centers, and combat zones and warships across the world, where they are responsible for administering sacraments and providing pastoral support for those in the armed forces.
For military families at home, the archdiocese also provides catechesis programs, faith formation and support, record keeping, and other services.
Funds are also needed to help the archdiocese address the shortage of Catholic chaplains in the military. Although 25 percent of the military is Catholic, only eight percent of active-duty chaplains are Catholic, in part because priests are reaching the military's mandatory retirement age of 62 more quickly than the archdiocese can train new priests. Since 2001, the number of active-duty priests has dropped from over 400 to 234.
However, vocations within the military are on the rise. Since 2008, the vocations program within the Military Archdiocese has grown from just seven seminarians to “36 young men studying for or recently ordained to the priesthood in eventual service as chaplains,” Archbishop Broglio said at the benefit.
“They are a joy to be with, a source of pride and a beacon of hope for the future.”
The seminarians in training to become priest-chaplains are all part of the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a partnership between the Archdiocese for the Military Services and local dioceses.
Through the program, each diocese sponsors part of the seminarians' training. However, even with this support, it costs the Archdiocese for the Military Services at least $75,000 to sponsor each seminarian. Over the next five years, seminary costs alone will form $2.7 million of the archdiocese's budget.
But despite this financial challenge, Archbishop Broglio remains hopeful, observing that the Archdiocese for the Military Services has always persevered, due to outside support and the hard work of those who “give of themselves and see their employment as a vocation.”