The Archdiocese for the Military Services is celebrating the priestly ordination of a prospective U.S. Navy chaplain this past weekend. Fr. Samuel Schneider, 26, was ordained a priest on Sunday, June 4, in Superior. Fr. Schneider hopes eventually to serve on active duty in the U.S. Navy with endorsement and faculties from the AMS.
Fr. Schneider was ordained at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Bishop James P. Powers. The Most Rev. Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, concelebrated the 4 p.m. Mass.
Also in attendance were the new priest’s parents, David and Paula Schneider of Rhinelander; his brother, Donald Schneider and his wife, Mariah Schneider; his nephew, Axel James Schneider of Rhinelander; his brother, Petty Officer Third Class William Schneider, ABE3, USN, of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.; his sister, Mary (Schneider) Bartos and her husband, Erich Bartos, of Milwaukee; his paternal grandparents, Ferd and Marcia Schneider of Rhinelander; his maternal grandmother, Marie Barfknecht of Rhinelander; and many uncles, aunts, and cousins.
Fr. Schneider celebrated his first Mass Monday, June 5, at the Cathedral of Christ the King. The new priest hopes to go on active duty as a Navy chaplain following three years of pastoral service in the Diocese of Superior.
Fr. Schneider’s formational journey began six years ago when he transferred from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he was studying quantitative economics, to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, to study philosophy at St. John Vianney College Seminary. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2013, he entered the St. Paul Seminary, where he earned a Master of Divinity Degree before priestly ordination.
“It is a blessed day because God is so good. I am humbled by the amazing support of all the lay faithful, priests, and bishops of both the Diocese of Superior and AMS. I look forward to serving in both northern Wisconsin and the Navy,” Fr. Schneider said.
Fr. Schneider is among a growing number of men in formation to become priests and U.S. Military chaplains through the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations partnership between the AMS and local dioceses and religious communities to support young men discerning priesthood and fill a fast-growing shortage of Catholic chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The shortage comes as more and more priests reach the military’s mandatory retirement age faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty chaplains has fallen from more than 400 to 207. While Catholics make up about 25 percent of the U.S. Military, Catholic priests currently account for only 8 percent of military chaplains.
In remarks to the 2015 Fall General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Archbishop Broglio said the need for Catholic military chaplains has become “desperate.” He urged his brother bishops to release more priests to serve on active duty, saying it is “imperative that every diocese have at least one priest to ensure that your faithful who defend our religious freedom do not have to sacrifice theirs.”
Referring to the ordination of Fr. Schneider, Archbishop Broglio said: “It is particularly touching that a diocese with such great needs is still willing to allow a priest to serve in the Navy in the future. Having talked with Bishop Powers about the shortage of priests in his diocese, I am humbled by his generosity in the face of the AMS needs.”
Archbishop Broglio pointed out that dioceses throughout the U.S. stand to gain a return on any investment of priestly manpower in the military, not only because servicemen and women and their families come from those dioceses, and many will return upon completion of their military service, but also because the military has proven to be one of the greatest sources of new American vocations. Year in and year out, anywhere from four to ten percent of young men entering the priesthood in the U.S. once served in the U.S. Military, and as many as 20 percent come from military families, according to an annual survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Those numbers would likely grow if only more priests were sent into the military to gather the harvest.
Meanwhile, thanks in large part to the ongoing support of U.S. bishops and religious superiors, along with increased awareness and discernment opportunities for prospective chaplains, the number of co-sponsored seminarians has risen from seven in 2008 to 34 today. They come from 26 U.S. dioceses and are enrolled in 21 seminaries.
This year, two of the co-sponsored, including Fr. Schneider, will be ordained priests, and two seminarians have been ordained transitional deacons. Another 10 priests, now in reserve status, are set to phase into active duty over the next three years. Meanwhile, another four men are scheduled to enter the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program in the fall, and the AMS Office of Vocations is currently processing the applications of still others.
The AMS, which receives no funding from the government and depends entirely on private giving, is now looking for ways to fund a fast-rising seminary bill, now projected at $2.9 million over the next five years.