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New Catholic Deacon Aims High for U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The Reverend Mr. Joshua A. Johnson, 2d Lt, USAFR, a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Thursday, June 6, in Albuquerque, NM, for the Byzantine Eparchy of Phoenix. The new deacon is on track to be ordained a priest next year and hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, providing pastoral care to Catholic airmen, space guardians, and their families, with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).During the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Most Reverend Kurt Burnette, J.D., Ph.D., Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Holy Protection of Mary Eparchy of Phoenix, Bishop Neal J. Buckon, Auxiliary Bishop of the AMS, was privileged to ordain the Rev. Mr. Johnson through the imposition of hands and invocation of the Holy Spirit in Perpetual Help Byzantine Catholic Church. 

Bishop Burnette’s father served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Among those in attendance were the new deacon’s parents, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Johnson and wife Carol. The Rev. Mr. Johnson, 38, holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree from North Park University in Chicago, a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from Boston College’s Gloria L. and Charles I. Clough School of Theology and Ministry, and a Master of Arts in Theology from Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

The Rev. Mr. Johnson traces his interest in a priestly vocation back to childhood. He says his parents “instilled in me a rich appreciation for the dignity and the duties of all baptized people to re-present Christ in the world through prayer and service. This led me to work as a lay minister in several contexts. After completing a Master of Divinity at Boston College, I worked as a hospital chaplain. As I prayed with patients and families, I had an increasingly desire to offer sacramental ministry, particularly anointing and confession. My pastor was immensely helpful in clarifying my vocation as one not only of service, but sacramental leadership.”

The eventual service of the Rev. Mr. Johnson and other Catholic chaplain candidates is greatly anticipated by the Air Force, which, like all other branches of the U.S. Military, continues to suffer a chronic Catholic chaplain shortage. Currently, the Air Force has only 63 priests on active duty and 21 in the reserves, serving a Catholic population of more than 80,000 airmen and U.S. Space Force guardians spread worldwide, not counting their families, whom Air Force chaplains also serve. Young men interested in discerning a priestly vocation, and the vocation within a vocation to serve those who serve in the U.S. military, can find more information at, or may contact AMS Vocations Director Father Marcel Taillon by at or (202) 719-3600. 

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