Become a Chaplain
Military Chaplaincy is often described as a vocation within a vocation. This is because we are first and foremost diocesan or religious deacons and priests who have served our home communities for a number of years before following a particular sense of calling to serve as chaplains within the British Armed Forces. We are grateful to our diocesan Ordinary or Religious Superior for the opportunity to spend this time serving away from home, and we look forward to the day when we will return after our military service ends.
The life of the military chaplain is hugely varied and deeply rewarding. As in the parish, we spend our days providing for the spiritual, sacramental and pastoral needs of our Catholic people, in this case Service Personnel and their families (known as 'dependents' in military-speak). A number of fascinating features of military service, however, feel much different to day-to-day life in the parish and this provides the chaplain with unique experiences. Here are three characteristics of our ministry and work:
Firstly, on average our parish is made up of a much younger population and this brings both challenge and opportunity for the proclamation of the Gospel. The Padre (the everyday term used affectionately for all military chaplains) enjoys an amazing welcome at the very heart of the military community. This humbling acceptance brings significant responsibility and he is expected to perform a very full pastoral ministry, as he accompanies serving personnel both at home and when deployed overseas and at war. The chaplain's counsel is often sought out by the troops on the ground who are dealing with questions of life's identify and meaning, with anxiety and fear, and also with personal triumphs and successes. And, at the same time, he can find himself called upon by Commanding Officers to provide a trusted and objective sounding board when moral decisions must be made, some times under great pressure and at short notice.
Secondly, all Catholic chaplains fall under the ecclesiastical authority and pastoral care of the Bishop of the Forces, and at the same time they serve within one of the three single Services - the Royal Navy, the Army, or the Royal Air Force - and come under the institutional authority of the Head of Chaplaincy. Each Service offers its own unique opportunities, history, ethos and culture. You may have a strong sense of which Service you wish to serve in and yet as part of your discernment we would expect you to undertake an 'acquaint visit' to each of the Services to help inform your prayerful discernment.
Thirdly, the chaplain's day-to-day experience is often ecumenical in practise. We are often embedded, as vital team players, within Chaplaincy teams that are made up of ministers from across the Christian denominations and this is spiritually enriching. Wonderfully we, as Catholic ministers, are able to witness with our Christian brothers and sisters to the love of God for all across the Armed Forces and wider Defence community.
To express your interest and to find out more about becoming a military Chaplain we invite you to get in touch with Bishop Paul Mason (Bishop of the Forces) and/or any of the Principal Catholic Chaplains. Also, explore the single Service links below.
Step One: Write to the Bishop of the Forces introducing yourself. Include an up-to-date CV stating date and place of ordination together with the name and address of the ordaining Bishop. His address is on the Bishopric website https://www.rcbishopricforces.org.uk/bishop-s-office If all good, then:
Step Two: The Bishop will make contact and discuss options of Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force. If all good, then:
Step Three: The Bishop will direct to the relevant Principal Chaplain. If all good, then:
Step Four: The Principal Chaplain will require written permission from your diocesan Bishop which will be sent to the Bishop of the Forces. If all good, then:
Step Five: Formal interview with the Bishop of the Forces. If all good, then:
Step Six: Formal application to join relevant service. If all good, then:
Step Seven: Interview Board and Assessment. If verdict is a Pass, then assigned training place. If all good, then:
Step Eight: Join trained strength of relevant service.