Amid chaplain shortage, military archdiocese appoints new vocations director

MarcelTaillon Father Marcel Taillon, 58, has been appointed the new interim vocations director for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. | Credit: Father Marcel Taillon

The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, has appointed a new interim vocations director to focus on recruiting more Catholic chaplains to address the ongoing shortage of priests.

Father Marcel Taillon, the new vocations director, told CNA Tuesday that after 17 years serving at St. Thomas More Parish in Narragansett, Rhode Island, he feels “called” to serve in his new role.

“I feel called to it. I do. I love priesthood. I love soldiers. I love seminarians. I love my life. I’m happy here, but I feel like I can hopefully bring something and bring some energy and some support to these guys,” Taillon said. 

Taillon, 58, has served as the vocations director for the Diocese of Providence and as the director of spiritual formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary. His parish currently serves the servicemen and servicewomen from Naval Station Newport. 

In addition to his longtime role as a host for the Catholic station Relevant Radio, Taillon is the chaplain for the Narragansett fire and police departments as well as the South Kingston Police Department. 

The priest in his new role will be tasked with guiding young men through discernment if the priesthood and U.S. military chaplaincy is God’s call for them.

“The need for military chaplains is profound,” Tallion said. “Most of the soldiers are separated from family, some are separated from their country, from their culture, and the last thing you want to be separated from is your faith.”

A press release from the archdiocese said that Taillon “will have his work cut out for him.”

“The U.S. military continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains as aging priests retire from all branches faster than they can be replaced,” the release said. 

The number of active-duty Catholic chaplains has been cut in half over the past 25 years, with about 190 currently serving. There were over 400 chaplains in September 2001. A quarter of the U.S. military is Catholic, but Catholic priests account for about 7% of the chaplain corps, according to the press release.

The archdiocese currently has 34 men in the chaplaincy, a rise from seven in 2008.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, was established in 1985. Priests are released from their local dioceses to serve men and women in uniform through the service. A priest remains incardinated in his local diocese but receives faculties and permission to perform priestly duties as a military chaplain if accepted.

Archbishop of the Military Services Archdiocese Timothy Broglio said in the press release that he was “so pleased to have a priest with Father Taillon’s experience in this very important role for the archdiocese. He will bring many gifts to the task.”

“I am also very grateful to Bishop Richard Henning for releasing him for this ministry. In a time when priests are low density and in high demand, I know that his absence from the Providence Diocese represents a sacrifice,” Broglio said.

Taillon said that anyone considering priesthood or military chaplaincy must ask themselves: “Is Jesus calling you to consider this? And if he is, you have to discern it.”

“It is very parallel to a regular seminarians’ discernment,” he said. “Someone feels called to priesthood, it’s best to make a phone call, call a vocation director, meet seminarians. All of a sudden, you see yourself sort of on the radar.” 

“You can compare yourself to other people and almost learn where you are in your discernment process. It’s hard to discern alone. It’s better to discern with the Church and other men that are discerning,” he said.

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“When I was in the vocational ministry here, the best thing a guy could do was come on a real retreat with people in his situation, his age group, and be together,” he added. “And then, hopefully, they would feel called to it if God’s calling them.”

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