Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Randy Sly

5/25/2015 (6 months ago)

Catholic Online (

We honor those priests who serve our military and their families

The work of our chaplains extends much farther than the post chapel. They labor on land, at sea and in the air. There are 1.4 million Catholics in the military; wherever they are stationed, the chaplain is there. These chaplains can be found bringing Jesus Christ to their people in desert tents, on the aft deck of a guided missile cruiser, underwater on a submarine, and in post chapels.


By Fr. Randy Sly

Catholic Online (

5/25/2015 (6 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: priest chaplains, military, memorail day, Fr. Randy Sly

WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) - I'm a veteran. Not just a military veteran (which I am) but a Memorial Day Parade veteran. My career began in Cub Scouts, marching what felt like 50 miles through downtown. As I grew older I graduated in assignments from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts and then Marching Band. When I returned from Vietnam, I again marched on Memorial Day in my naval uniform complete with campaign ribbons.

The parade always ended at the cemetery where wreaths were placed around the war memorial and flowers decorated the stone monoliths marking the graves of departed soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen.

The markers meant a lot more to me on the other side of serving. I knew friends who had fallen and watched plenty of tracer bullets from the deck of my destroyer whose targets could have ended in death.

Often, for many of our military who died in action, a chaplain was the final person in charge of their soul. In harm's way, these faithful servants of Christ's Church don't just stand beside the men and women in various branches of the service, they wear the uniform.

The work of our chaplains extends much farther than the post chapel. They labor on land, at sea and in the air. There are 1.4 million Catholics in the military; wherever they are stationed, the chaplain is there.

Their parishes are much different than a local church. Made up of mostly younger men and women, these congregations can change, through transfers and deployments, every two to three years. They also come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some from the city, some from the country. As a friend of mine used to say, "It's like preaching to a parade."

These chaplains can be found bringing Jesus Christ to their people in desert tents, on the aft deck of a guided missile cruiser, underwater on a submarine, and in post chapels. We also honor the wonderful Archdiocese for the Military Services under the dedicated leadership of Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., S.T.B., B.A.

The U.S. Army was the first branch to use chaplains in 1775. They were not in uniform but traveled with the troops to provide spiritual care. The Second Continental Congress authorized chaplains and voted to pay them $20 a month.

According to a post from Donald R.McClarey on the blog "The American Catholic" the first Catholic chaplains were appointed in 1846 during the war with Mexico. While Catholic priests had informally offered their services before, this war was different as Mexico claimed this was a Protestant war against a Catholic nation. Morale among Catholic soldiers was very low and desertions were taking place.

The two priests first appointed for military service were Father Anthony Rey, vice-president of Georgetown and a Jesuit, and Father John McElroy, also a Jesuit, who went on to establish Boston College.

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Retired Col. John W. Brinsfield, US Army Chaplain Corps historian talked about the this beginning of chaplains in America.

"Washington wanted [chaplains] to be religious leaders.... But the chaplains were also to visit the wounded, take care of the dead, write letters home for soldiers who couldn't write, give discourses of a patriotic nature to keep the soldiers from deserting. The chaplain was a very important link between the commander and the troops.

"Chaplains have been counseling soldiers since 1775 on things like trying to stay sober; don't cheat at cards; don't gamble away your pay, send it home; all that sort of thing. But in World War II, because the armies were so big, the chaplains got involved in a major way in trying to counsel the soldiers. We even had chaplains in Nuremberg to try to counsel the German POWs.

"Chaplains now have additional duties ... funeral duties, premarital counseling duties, religious education duties. Some of them are resource managers; some are historians."

Today chaplains serve all branches of the military: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and the Coast Guard. Navy chaplains are assigned to serve the latter two. Chaplains are also assigned to Veterans Administrations hospitals.

On May 21, 1989 a special memorial for Catholic Chaplains was erected at Arlington Cemetery. Located on Chaplain's Hill, the monument remembers 83 priests who gave their lives in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Because these brave men were willing to go into harm's way, our Catholic military had the opportunity for confession and Eucharist prior to a conflict. In many case, they were also able to receive last rites.

This Memorial Day, let us pause and remember our Chaplains. Let's give thanks for the sacrifice in serving their country as they serve the Lord. Let us especially remember those who laid down their lives for their friends.

For our Catholic Chaplains and all in military service this Memorial Day, we can pray:

"God, we beseech Thee, watch over those exposed to the horrors of war and to the spiritual dangers of a soldier's, a sailor's or airman's life. Give them such a strong faith that no human respect may ever lead them to deny it, or fear to practice it. Do Thou by Thy grace, fortify them against the contagion of bad example, that, being preserved from vice, and serving Thee faithfully, they may be ready to meet death whenever it may happen through Christ Our Lord.

"O Sacred Heart, inspire them with sorrow for sin, and grant them pardon. Mother of God, be with them in battle, and if they should be called to make the supreme sacrifice, obtain for them that they may die in the grace of Thy Divine Son.

"May their guardian angels protect them. Amen."


Fr Randy Sly is the Chaplain of the ecumenical movement, Common Good. He is  a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He laid aside that ministry to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church a lifelong search for the fulness of Christian truth. He participated in Church history when he became one of the first former Anglicans ordained as a Catholic priest for the  Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter established by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, through the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus." He is currently the chaplain of the St. John Fisher Catholic Community, a priest in residence at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church and Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Ordinariate.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More U.S.

BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big and so powerful, you won't believe this MASSIVE SHOCKING fact about it! Watch

Image of Obama is the titular head of the world's most nefarious terrorist organization, a title he may have inherited from his predecessor, and that will be passed to his successor.


If you were asked, what is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in human history, how would you answer? Global warming? Vaccines? The Moon Landing? Entire religions?  (Not that we agree with these). But what would you say? In a moment, we're going to offer an answer ... continue reading

'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for best deals Watch

Image of Sales for pricey items such as electronic devices erupt into violence on


Everyone has had their turkey leftovers from the previous day's Thanksgiving Feast - and now it's out the door to the nearest "big box" store in a mad scavenger hunt called "Black Friday," where shoppers trample each other for the best deals then can get just before ... continue reading

President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in Thanksgiving address Watch

Image of The president then went on to say that, all Americans must open their neighborhoods, their homes, and hearts to Syrian refugees.


United States President Barack Obama called on Americans to welcome Syrian refugees this Thanksgiving season, who - like the pilgrims that set sail on the Mayflower, were likewise fleeing persecution in their native land. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - ... continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart Watch

Image of Around tables throughout America, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather with mothers and fathers, Grandpas and Grandmas, extended family, neighbors and friends to thank God and one another. And then, we feast; not only on the food, but even more importantly, on the gift of the love which informs all family relationships and true friendships, the real source of lasting joy, the love of the God who gave us life and liberty.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Happy Thanksgiving Day. May it be a day for love and gratitude. No matter how difficult the challenges we face as a Nation, we have much to be grateful for. As we give thanks, we will find the strength we need to love even more fully. As we practice regularly ... continue reading

New ISIS video taunts United States to 'bring it on' Watch

Image of While the video is pumping up Islamist State, the fact of the matter is is the group is suffering heavy losses on the ground form allied bombardment, especially since Russia began bombing the group


A new video from the Islamic State is highlighting the high number of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide, in effect to tell the world's last remaining superpower to "bring it on." U.S. President Barack Obama has since dismissed ISIS as "a bunch of killers with ... continue reading

Horrific outrage erupts over proposed mosque in Virginia after Paris attacks Watch

Image of The Muslim community in Fredericksburg, Virginia has received support from the local Christian and Jewish clergy.


"Nobody wants your evil cult," declared a man at a zoning meeting in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was lobbing his invective at several American Muslims there over a proposed mosque to be built there. "Every one of you are terrorists. I don't care what you say. ... continue reading

The revealing truth behind the traditional presidential Thanksgiving turkey pardon Watch

Image of President Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to use the word


President Obama will pardon two turkeys - named Tom One and Tom Two - from a turkey farm in Modesto California on Thanksgiving Eve as part of an annual presidential tradition. Obama will make a few jokes with his family and then pardon the turkeys to live out ... continue reading

'Domestic terrorism': 5 People shot during Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis Watch

Image of Despite a shooting at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protest, the group plans to return to the precinct to continue their protests.


Protesters were standing outside the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis for Black Lives Matter in the case of 24-year-old Jamar Clark when gunshots rang out. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -Five protesters were shot outside the police station Tuesday afternoon as one ... continue reading

Planned Parenthood sues the State of Texas: Find out why NOW Watch

Image of The complainants maintain that planned intervention of the government is a violation of the federal statute and the 14th Amendment, which ensures equal protection.


Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit this week against the State of Texas for blocking its Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood says that the decision was motivated by politics - and not because of health care concerns. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ... continue reading

Terror threats spark shocking WORLD WIDE TRAVEL ALERTS Watch

Image of In either case, travelers can expect beefed-up security at airports in the coming weeks - and longer lines.


It is the start of the holiday season in the United States - and with the world still thoroughly rattled after the attacks in Paris this past November 13, travel alerts are in high effect. Even worse, those who decide to stay home through Thanksgiving and ... continue reading

All U.S. News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • St. Saturninus: Saint of the Day for Sunday, November 29, 2015
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big ...
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • 'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for ...
  • Daily Readings for Sunday, November 29, 2015
  • President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in ...

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 7:15-27
15 'I, Daniel, was deeply disturbed and the visions that passed through ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87
82 Bless the Lord, all the human race: praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:34-36
34 'Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 28th, 2015 Image

St. Catherine Laboure
November 28: St. Catherine Laboure, virgin, was born on May 2, ... Read More