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Remarks by Mary Lavin, Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

By Mary Lavin Executive Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Vol. 4, 2016-2017


Remarks: Combined Luncheon

Texas State Council Organizational Meeting

July 13, 2019

Good afternoon!

On behalf of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, thank you to State Deputy Mark Evans, and First Lady Mary Evans, for the opportunity to be with you here in Dallas, to offer a brief introduction to the Archdiocese for those who may not be familiar, and to provide a few updates for those who are.

But before I go on, would anyone who has served, in any one of the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, please stand and be recognized?(Pause) Thank you for your service, and your sacrifice.

Would anyone who has a son or daughter, niece or nephew, godson or goddaughter, who has served or who is currently serving please stand and be recognized?(Pause) Thank them, and you, for their service and sacrifice.

Lastly, would you please stand in you are a member of a Gold Star Family, in honor of your loved one?(Pause) Thank them, and you, for your service and sacrifice. Let us always remember the service and sacrifice of all Gold Star Families.

For those who may not be familiar, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA – AMS for short - is the only U.S. diocese responsible for the pastoral care of a population as opposed to a geography.For instance, if you live in Dallas, you are a member of the Diocese of Dallas.If, however, you are from Dallas but currently serve in the U.S. military, attend a U.S. Military Academy, are a veteran being cared for during injury or illness in one of the 153 Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, or are a civilian contractor who works overseas for the federal government, you – and the members of your family – are members and the responsibility of the AMS during that time.

In other words, the geography and mission of the AMS is global.

The AMS is also the sole endorser of priests to serve as military chaplains.Currently, there are fewer than 200 full-time active-duty Catholic chaplains. The AMS Vocations Program is the only program that provides priests for the Church, and the Military Chaplaincy – and both are counting on its continued growth.

The Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program was established more than 30 years ago and is a partnership between cooperating U.S. dioceses and religious communities.Formation expenses are shared between the AMS and a co-sponsored seminarian’s home diocese or religious order.Once ordained, the priest first serves for three years in his home diocese or religious community before he serves active-duty for the next five years in the military branch his choosing. When the priest leaves the military, whether after five years, or more, he then returns to his home diocese or religious community.

For the last three years, the Texas State Council and Ladies of Texas have graciously supported the Vocations and Co-Sponsored Seminarian Programs through the Texas Women’s Project. All funds raised have and will continue to support the Father McGivney Chaplain Scholarship Fund established with the AMS by the Knights of Columbus in 2011.

By way of updates, and looking ahead to the 2019-2020 academic year, the AMS currently partners with 31 dioceses, one religious order, and will have more than 40 co-sponsored seminarians studying in 18 seminaries; this includes four from the great State of Texas, who represent the Dioceses of San Antonio, Austin, and Victoria.There are an additional 15 men in various stages of processing, one from the Diocese of Dallas and one from the Diocese of Houston; at least four of those 15 are expected to enter the program this fall.

In 2019, five men were ordained to the priesthood, 8 to the diaconate, with a ninth to be ordained in the coming weeks.Five co-sponsored priests - who have already served the required first three years of pastoral ministry in their home diocese - will begin active-duty service this year; two more are expected to go active-duty in 2020, and three more in 2021.

As we know, there is a shortage of priests in most if not all dioceses.The good news is that the AMS remains uniquely positioned to help provide priests for the Church, and the U.S. Military Chaplaincy, which has an imposed mandatory retirement age of 62. The annual vocations survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that in 2019, at least 5% of newly ordained priests previously served in the military, and approximately 17% have at least one parent who served.With 300,000 Catholics between the ages of 18-29 currently on active duty, the U.S. military continues to provide the Church with a substantial pool of priestly vocations.

The continued partnership and support received from the Knights of Columbus, and the outstanding effort and commitment by the Texas State Council and Texas Women’s Project for the last three years, cannot be understated. The AMS is the Archdiocese FOR the Military Services, not OF the Military Services, which is an important distinction as it receives no funding from the U.S. Government, or the U.S. Military. The ability to provide the same programs and services readily available to you in your diocese - and in every other U.S. diocese - to the almost 1.8 million men, women, and children for whom the AMS is responsible, relies on the continued generosity of the Catholic Community. For example, pastoral visits around the world by Archbishop Broglio and his Auxiliary Bishops, and the 1,996 Baptisms; 1,587 First Communions, 1,247 weddings, one Catholic military family retreat, and two Marriage Enrichment Retreats designed especially for military couples would not have been possible in 2018 without the generosity of AMS benefactors.

Related specifically to the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, the average annual cost to the AMS per co-sponsored seminarian program is $20,000, or $100,000 over five years.With just the current number of men in the program, not including the anticipated continued growth, this is an estimated $800,000 per year, or more than $4,000,000 in the next five years alone.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to help increase awareness about the AMS, its mission, and its ministry. Please continue to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the military chaplaincy.Thank you for helping to increase awareness about the AMS in your Districts, Assemblies, and Councils – one cannot support what one is not aware of.

In closing, thank you for your hospitality and I would like to end with the Prayer of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, written by Archbishop Broglio:

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Prayer of the Archdiocese for the Military Services

Almighty God and Father, look with love upon our men and women in uniform and protect them in their time of need. Give them health and stability and allow them to return to their loved ones whole and unshaken. Be with their families and sustain them in these uncertain times.

Grant strength and peace of mind to the Veterans who have given their best for the country they love. Support them in infirmity and in the fragility of old age. Teach us to remember their sacrifices and to express our gratitude.

Manifest your tender care to those in the Military Academies who prepare for future service and to those who serve our Nation far from home. Teach us to remember the sacrifices of those whose efforts contribute to ensuring our way of life.

Bless and multiply the priests who minister to the faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services. Reward their generosity and keep them faithful.

Hear us as we present our prayers to You through Christ our Lord.Amen.

Thank you.

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