My dear people of St. Mary’s:
On April 25, our diocese received a blessing – though one at a distance. One of our own priests, Msgr. Robert J. Coyle, pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Mineola, was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese for the Military Services. This took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The ordaining bishop was the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services; and the co-consecrators were our own Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, and Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina (and formerly of our diocese).
You may not be aware that the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) is a Catholic diocese without borders. It was created by Blessed John Paul II in 1985 to provide Catholic spiritual services to those serving in the United States Armed Forces, wherever they are in the world. This currently includes more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 V.A. Medical Centers, and federal employees serving outside the boundaries of the United States in 134 countries. The AMS is spiritually responsible for more than 1.8 million men, women, and children.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services serves as the sole supplier of Roman Catholic chaplains to the United States government. As the AMS website explains: “A Roman Catholic priest cannot serve within the United States Military as a priest without the express permission of the Archdiocese. As of 2008, 285 Roman Catholic priests were endorsed by the Archdiocese for active-duty military service. These chaplains serve on loan from their diocese of incardination or religious order/society, and are released for a term of military service. Chaplains never become members of the Archdiocese; instead, they always remain subject to their home bishop/religious superiors. The only clergy incardinated into the AMS are its archbishop and auxiliary bishops. Once a priest receives the endorsement of the Archdiocese, he becomes a commissioned military officer of the United States. A priest’s assignments are provided by the Office of the Chief of Chaplains of each respective branch of the U.S. military. The Archdiocese is the sole endorser of chaplains for the Veterans Administration hospitals.”
To meet the needs of the faithful, the Archdiocese has four auxiliary bishops to assist the archbishop in his pastoral duties. All are former active-duty chaplains; Bishop Richard Higgins from the Air Force, Bishop F. Richard Spencer and Bishop Neal Buckon from the Army, and now Bishop Coyle from the Navy. The Archdiocesan offices are headquartered in Washington, D.C., adjacent to The Catholic University of America. The AMS receives no funding from the United States government. Rather, the Archdiocese is solely funded by the generosity of its chaplains, men and women in uniform and private benefactors.
As one of four auxiliaries to Archbishop Broglio, Bishop Coyle, 48, will serve the Archdiocese as Episcopal Vicar for the Eastern Half of the United States. He succeeds the late Bishop Joseph Estabrook, who died last year following a lengthy illness.
I will write more about the Archdiocese for the Military Services and Bishop Coyle next week.