The Archdiocese for the Military Services has received $200,000 from the Knights of Columbus to create a new fund that will offer scholarships to educate future Catholic military chaplains.
“The Knights of Columbus, over many years, has been most generous is providing much needed financial support to this Archdiocese as well as providing it with a wide range of programs and services,” said U.S. Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio in a July 10 statement.
“The Father McGivney Military Scholarship is but the latest instance of the organization’s generosity, and for that I am most grateful.”
Named after the Knights' founder, Venerable Father Michael McGivney, the scholarship will help to financially support seminarians' education through the archdiocesan Seminarian Co-Sponsorship Program.
Created by Pope John Paul II in 1985, the Archdiocese for the Military Services is the only archdiocese in the United States that does not have geographical boundaries.
It serves Catholics in the U.S. armed forces, military academies and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, as well as those working in civilian jobs for the U.S. government overseas.
The archdiocese says that approximately 1.8 million Catholics across the globe rely upon it to provide for their sacramental and spiritual needs.
However, increasing educational costs are threatening to further a recent Catholic chaplain shortage that has been created as priests are retiring at the mandatory age of 62 more quickly than younger men are coming in to take their place.
Although Catholics account for approximately 25 percent of the U.S. armed forces, Catholic priests now comprise only eight percent of military chaplains. The number of active-duty chaplains has dropped from more than 400 to just 243 since 2001.
To help increase numbers of priests both in the military and in diocesan and community life, the Archdiocese for Military Services set up the Seminarian Co-Sponsorship Program in cooperation with U.S. dioceses and religious communities.
The program supports priestly vocations stemming from the armed forces. According to Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, about 20 percent of newly-ordained priests consistently come from military families, and almost 10 percent have previous military experience.
Through the co-sponsorship program, a diocesan bishop or religious superior accepts a seminarian who plans to become a chaplain in the armed forces. The military archdiocese and the seminarian’s home diocese or religious community each pay half of the seminarian’s educational expenses, including tuition, room and board.
After being ordained and spending at least three years in a diocese or community, these priests are generally given permission by their bishop or religious superior to enter military service. When they leave the military, they return to pastoral work in their diocese or community.
In support of this program, the Knights – who are the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world – have pledged $1 million to the McGivney Scholarship through 2015.
“The Knights of Columbus has for many years enjoyed an unmatched friendship with the Archdiocese for the Military Services,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.
He explained that he is “delighted” to be able to “extend our legacy of support through this important program to support both seminarians and the military, two cases near and dear to the hearts of all Knights.”