Military Copes with Shortage of Chaplains

February 5, 2008

Author: Andrea Stone

Source: USA Today

Army Maj. Paul Hurley journeyed four days by convoy, aircraft and helicopter to reach the remote outpost in Iraq near the Syrian border where 50 U.S. soldiers hunkered down in November 2006. He was the first Roman Catholic priest to visit in six months.

"It was a very profound experience (to) visit soldiers who are facing their mortality every day," Hurley recalls. He celebrated Mass and heard confession from a dozen Catholic soldiers before leading Thanksgiving prayers for the base.

Hurley belongs to a dwindling flock of chaplains whose mission to support soldiers and their families has been strained by the demands of war and a shortage in their ranks. The Navy and Air Force usually recruit enough religious leaders, but the Army, which expects chaplains to be able to do everything soldiers do except carry a weapon and now relies heavily on reserve units, is hurting for spiritual aid.