Yesterday, as I worked around my house, I had on EWTN and listened to the USCCB meeting. At one point, near the end, Archbishop Broglio of the Archdiocese for the US Military Services spoke. I tweeted that his words were very sobering. If you've ever received an envelope looking for money, you may want to think twice before pitching it out and consider pitching in.
There is a great shortage and he asked for each bishop to consider giving him one priest. That is definitely a tall order given most dioceses are experiencing a shortage, as well. Here in Detroit, since last July, three priests under the age of 60 have died, one - Fr. Richard Lewnau was buried within the last few weeks at the age of 35. Just a few weeks prior to that, Fr. Michael Kazer, 57, died of a fatal stroke the day after he attended to a victim in a motorcycle/vehicle accident. Last July, Fr. Ricardas Repsys, 59, died a heroic death trying to save his 13 year old nephew from drowning (the boy also died).
The day before Pentecost of this year, Archbishop Vigneron ordained 6 men to the priesthood for Detroit. That is a net gain of 3 priests, but does not factor in those who were granted senior status, for example. So, it is understandable how a bishop can find it difficult to give up a priest.
In spite of these shortages that residential dioceses have, I find Archbishop Broglio's argument compelling. In fact, once the video archive is available, I hope to bring it to you because the articles floating around don't do justice for all that he said. It would be good if they isolate his talk and put video clip up on the archdiocesan website for military services (click the crest below, which I now have in my sidebar....note the "donate" button when you get there!).
Fr. Z speaks on it today. Go read his post: Catholic priests in the military: serious shortage.
Off the top of my head there are a few things that really stood out for me in what he said:
- He wants to make sure that men and women joining the armed forces return as Catholics to their home dioceses and he needs more priests do this.
- In the kind of high tension, high anxiety environment our military often serves in, they ponder death, after-life etc., If there is no Catholic priest there to assist them, chaplains of a protestant background are there to fill the void. In fact, many of those protestant chaplains are former Catholics who fell away for just that reason.
- Suicide rate is high - highlights the need for more chaplains.
- The Archdiocese for Military Services can't resolve problems such as "what are we doing in Iraq?" People are deployed, and the AoMS helps them where they are ordered to be.
- If a Catholics in residential dioceses can always go to another Church not too far away, often around the corner, if there is a shortage of priests. Not so in the military. In Japan, for example, if there is no English speaking priest, and if one does not speak Japanese, there is no opportunity for Confession or spiritual direction, or counseling.
That's just the tip of it.
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