Today, Memorial Day, we share with you the video tribute presented by the Boston Archdiocese to the military chaplains from Boston.
Here is an excerpt from the article in the Boston Pilot:
BRAINTREE — This Memorial Day, as our nation salutes the courageous men and women of our armed forces, the Archdiocese of Boston celebrates and offers thanksgiving for the priests from the archdiocese who serve alongside American troops as military Chaplains.
“Recognizing the great need for Chaplains, the Archdiocese of Boston is proud to be able to provide priests for this important ministry,” said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley. “In times of war and peace, the military relies on the pastoral care and supportive presence of our priest Chaplains. This Memorial Day we pray for all those serving in the armed forces and in particular remember those who have given their lives for our country and our freedom. May God grant them eternal rest and peace.”
The Archdiocese of Boston is one of two leading U.S. dioceses providing priests for military service. Since WWII, more than 300 of Boston’s priests have served as military Chaplains, with twelve Boston priests currently in active service, including seven fulltime.
“Our nation is blessed to have priest Chaplains continuing the long-standing tradition of serving the men and women of our military,” the cardinal said
The Catholic Appeal team for the Archdiocese produced a video tribute to honor our military Chaplains and spread awareness of this special ministry. The video is narrated by two priests of the Archdiocese of Boston, Reverend Richard M. Erikson, Ph.D., Brigadier General, USAFR, and Reverend Michael B. Medas, Chaplain, Major, Air National Guard.
The video is well done. Praying for our military chaplains and supporting our chaplains who put themselves in the path of danger are very good things. We think the production of the video and publicity about the work of military chaplains is a worthwhile effort.
We could stop there and say nothing more, and BCI thought about doing so.
However, unfortunately, part of the video is a bit misleading, and BCI struggled to not at least share this for the benefit of our readers.
Besides the fact that both of the priests interviewed, Fr. Richard Erikson and Fr. Medas are reservists, not active duty chaplains, at the end of the video, one of the last frames says, “The people of the archdiocese support our military chaplains through the Office of Clergy Personnel and the Office of Vocations.” These ministries are funded through the Catholic Appeal. To make a donation, please visit…”
This implies that your donation to the Catholic Appeal directly supports military chaplains. Is that true? Here are the facts:
Yes, the Office of Clergy Personnel supports all of our priests, including chaplains, emotionally and spiritually. But the salaries and benefits for the chaplains while they are serving in the military are paid by the military, not by the diocese. Reserve duty military chaplains are actually part-time chaplains whose primary job is either in a diocesan office or in a parish. In their primary job, their salary is paid by either the office or parish; and while on reserve duty as a chaplain, they are paid per diem by the military. Full-time chaplains in all branches are paid, monitored, and ranked by their respective branches and not by the home diocese or the Archdiocese for the Military Services. In other words, your contribution to the Annual Appeal which helps fund the Office of Clergy Personnel really does nothing more to support a diocesan priest serving as a military chaplain (reserve or active duty) than is already done by that office to support that diocesan priest serving in a parish or diocesan office.
In the same way, BCI is also not sure how exactly the Office of Vocations (with funding support by the Catholic Appeal) supports military chaplains, except perhaps very remotely as a feeder for seminarians who later get ordained and might decide to pursue a military chaplaincy. The U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) has its own vocation director (Msgr. John McLaughlin, now at Boston University, was once in this role and did a superb job), and each branch also has its own recruiting office for chaplains. If a seminarian wants to pursue a vocation to the priesthood as a military chaplain, the seminarian is co-sponsored by the military archdiocese, and the military archdiocese splits tuition and related costs evenly with each diocese where the seminarian is formed, educated and ordained. Given that background, regardless of whether our seminaries are or are not forming future military chaplains, it is unclear how the people of the archdiocese support military chaplains through the diocesan Office of Vocations.
As best as BCI can tell, only in the most remote way does the Catholic Appeal support military chaplains, and thus the claim at the end of the video to that effect feels misleading. If someone has proof otherwise, please let us know. We continue to maintain the view that people who want to support the good works of the Catholic Church should skip the Catholic Appeal and instead help pay a local parish bill (maintenance, repair, utilities, etc.).
Still, BCI thinks the ministry over time of 300 military chaplains from Boston and the current ministry of 12 chaplains merits our heartiest appreciation and accolades on Memorial Day, and we commend the archdiocese for the effort to recognize their work.