The prelate shared the extensive history of the military archdiocese, which served the troops even before it was formally instituted.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio was recently the guest speaker at an event for the Diocese of Cleveland, where the prelate spoke on his dual role as archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Military Services and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He spoke on the history of both organizations, while explaining his fondness for members of the military.
The archbishop spoke to a packed crowd at the First Friday Club of Cleveland lunch program on July 6. Broglio, a native of Cleveland, traveled to his hometown from Washington, D.C., where he is based. After an introduction by former US Army chaplain Father Joseph Brankatelli, Archbishop Broglio spoke on the long history the Catholic Church has shared with the armed forces.
He explained that George Washington was the first US leader to request chaplains to tend to the faithful of the armed forces. Due to the religious landscape of early America, however, there were few Catholic priests in the US in the early 18th century and none were available to take up such a position. It was not until the 1846 Mexican-American War that Catholic chaplains would deploy alongside the troops.
Catholic chaplains would become more prevalent during the Civil War, but this early arrangement had its own hurdles. During the Civil War, troops were divided by state and the chaplains were no different. Dioceses from each state had different requirements and priests would have to seek privileges from their own diocese as well as the military.
This would necessitate the creation of a military archdiocese, but it would not be formally instituted until 1985. Archbishop Broglio noted that he is only the fourth archbishop to preside over the Archdiocese of Military Services, and the first who has not served in uniform.
Today, the archdiocese covers over 220 military installations in 29 countries, as well as 153 V.A. Medical Centers all around the world. Catholic chaplains don’t just serve members of the armed forces, but also federal employees serving outside the U.S. boundaries in more than 100 countries.
When asked what his favorite part of his ministry was, Archbishop Broglio said simply, “The people.” He went on to note that the military is a hotbed of devout Catholics, from which the Church has sourced many ordination vocations. He explained that many of the men who discern a priestly vocation in the US are veterans or come from military families. Due to this trend, the military archdiocese has a co-sponsored seminarian program.
While the prelate’s favorite part of the job is meeting the troops and forging connections with them, the job has him on the road for a huge chunk of the year. Still, Archbishop Broglio was enthusiastic when he explained:
“I spend about 200 days on the road,” the archbishop said, noting the auxiliaries do the same. “We try to visit each military installation during the year,” he added.