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NH Army National Guard Scrambles to Fill Chaplain Shortage

July 9, 2007


The worldwide shortage of clergy has struck the state militia. Deputy State Chaplain Maj. Wayne Santos says the regular cycle of retirements means the Army National Guard has chaplain's jobs to fill, but the declining ranks of young pastors makes it harder than ever - despite an officer's commission and help with seminary tuition.

Santos is searching for young pastors and seminarians whose calling includes New Hampshire's citizen soldiers. The mission is especially important in wartime, says Santos, because chaplains play a vital role in counseling guardsmen before, during, and after active deployments.

“If they're having difficulties personally, or if they get wind of family difficulties, I know our phone here will ring.”

New chaplains enter the Guard with commissions as second lieutenants. Santos says there's also a program that commissions seminary students and helps pay for their training, somewhat like an ROTC for the clergy.

Santos notes that sometimes, the role of counselor is bigger than his preaching chores.

“I spend more time in visitation, talking with soldiers, working with them on various kinds of issues, than I spend actually on the religious part.”

John Robinson/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NH