U.S. Army: Catholic chaplains in short supply




Posted on September 18, 2013 at 6:47 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 19 at 4:20 AM

DALLAS — U.S. Army officials have come to Dallas looking for new recruits... but not your typical ones.

They are meeting with the Catholic Diocese this week in hopes of getting more priests to join the ranks as chaplains.

There's probably no place where faith might be needed more than a battlefield. "Not only what they see in combat, but many of them are simply away from their families for multiple deployments," said Capt. Joel Panzer, a Catholic Army chaplain.

It is not always easy for all soldiers to have their spiritual needs met. One-fourth of the Army is Catholic, but only six percent of its 1,600 chaplains are.

While no soldier is going without the sacraments, seeing a priest isn't always easy.

"When I was deployed to Iraq, I traveled around by helicopter and by convoy to say mass for soldiers in outlying bases who would only see a chaplain of their faith group once a month if they were fortunate," Panzer said.

As older Catholic chaplains leave the Army and fewer young priests join the ranks, recruitment is key. Army officials have faith that by raising awareness, the call for spiritual help will be answered.

"The soldiers know he is the guy they can go to when things are difficult," Panzer said.

E-mail tfoster@wfaa.com