Deacon Ordained in Hopes of Relieving Shortage of Chaplains

Deacon Ordained in Hopes of Relieving Shortage of Chaplains May 29, 2024

PORTLAND, ME — The Reverend Mr. Erin M. Donlon, LT, USNR, a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, May 25, in his home Diocese of Portland in Maine. The new deacon is on track to be ordained a priest next year and hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Navy, providing pastoral care to Catholic sailors and their families with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).

The Rev. Mr. Donlon celebrated his diaconal ordination at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Bishop James T. Ruggieri. AMS Auxiliary Bishop Joseph L. Coffey concelebrated the 10:00 a.m. ordination Mass.

Among those in attendance were the new deacon’s parents, retired U.S. Navy Commander Michael and Mrs. Rebecca Donlon, and siblings Meghan Donlon, Ryan Donlon, LT, USN, Sarah Donlon, Katie Scholl, Emily Donlon, and Kieran Donlon.

The Rev. Mr. Donlon, 30, who was home-schooled in his early years, holds a Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree in Marine Systems Engineering from the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, ME. He is now pursuing a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, where he is in priestly formation. Upon presbyteral ordination next year he will invest three years in the Portland Diocese, gaining pastoral experience before acceding to active duty under his Co-sponsored Seminarian Agreement with that diocese and the AMS.

The Rev. Mr. Donlon says he’s always dreamed of being a priest.  “I remember from a young age that I had expressed a desire to be priest,” he says. “I was heavily inspired by the great examples of the priests that I was exposed to in my home parish.” In 2017 he followed in the footsteps of his retired father, joining the Navy Reserve as a commissioned Strategic Sealift Officer before entering the Navy’s Chaplain Candidate Program in 2020. He says, “It was after an assignment at Yokosuka Navy Base in Japan where I witnessed the great fervor of the faithful serving our country and the great struggle to receive the sacraments because of the lack of priests serving in the Navy.”

Indeed, the eventual service of the Rev. Mr. Donlon and other Catholic chaplain candidates is greatly anticipated by the Navy, which, like all other branches of the U.S. Military, continues to suffer a chronic Catholic chaplain shortage. Currently, the Navy has only 46 priests on active duty, serving a Catholic population of more than 85,000 Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and their families, spread worldwide.

Young men interested in discerning a priestly vocation, and the vocation within a vocation to serve those who serve in the U.S. military, can find more information at, or may contact AMS Vocations Director Father Marcel Taillon by at or (202) 719-3600.

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