Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Military feels priest shortage

With American soldiers facing more danger than they have in years, the Army's chief chaplain is asking bishops and cardinals across the country to help fill a critical need for Roman Catholic chaplains.About 25 percent of the Army is composed of Roman Catholics, with only about 107 priests on active duty, Chaplain Maj. Gen.G aylord Gunhus said during a visit Monday with Chicago's Cardinal FrancisG eorge. "Some of the Roman Catholic soldiers are being deployed without the opportunity for confession or thes acrament [of communion]," Gunhus said.The Army is not the only military branch that doesn't have enough priests, but the need in the other branches is not as acute, in part because of the difference in the size of the forces and the hardship of the service, officials with the Army and Navy said."We're kind of holding our own. ... They are really, really hurting," said Rev. Michael Dory, a chaplain commander assigned to the Marines. All sea services, including the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, draw chaplains from one pool. Roman Catholics comprise 28 percent of thoses ervices, and there are 170 priests to serve them, Dory said.