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Wanted: A few good chaplains

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Chaplains on Dec 02, 2011

I got two interesting releases today about the need for military chaplains.

First I got a mass email from Father James Joslyn, a retired Navy captain and chaplain, explaining that there aren’t enough Catholic priests these days to fill the needs of the military services.

So the Archdiocese for Military Services is actively recruiting “contract priests,” civilian priests who can help out for stretches as chaplains.  “The word has to get out to bishops, religious superiors and priests that contracting is a way to serve without committing to a twenty year military career and without having to meet the rigorous age and physical requirements for active duty service,” Joslyn wrote.

Many priests don’t know that the opportunity is even there to serve the military in this way, he wrote. He urges all Catholics to become a contract priest recruiter by referring priests to the archdiocese website or the website for Federal Business Opportunities.

“Together we can meet the needs of our Catholic service men and women and their families,” Joslyn writes.

Not long after, I got a release from the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect trumpeting the news that a Chabad rabbi has won a lawsuit and can become a chaplain — despite having a beard.

The release explained: “In keeping with Jewish teachings regarding preserving a man’s facial hair, Stern does not cut or trim his beard. This previously stood him in opposition to official military codes for dress and appearance. Back in 2009, he had received preliminary approval for a reserve commission in the U.S. Army, but he was twice contacted about errors that would delay his swearing-in because the issue of his facial hair was not resolved.”

Rabbi Menachem Stern filed a federal lawsuit in December, contending that the Army violated his Constitutional rights to religious freedom and equal protection under the law. But the Army has settled the case.

After his commission, Stern wants to request active duty. Chabad rabbis and their families travel the world to serve Jews in many capacities, so Stern is ready to head out.

He said: “A soldier, whether they’re Jewish or not, will see someone who is serious and standing by his faith without compromise. They’ll respect that person and come to trust him.”