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U.S. Army Musician Trades Clarinet for Roman Collar

KNOXVILLE, TN — The Reverend Mr. Alexander Houston, (1LT), USAR, a former active-duty soldier and now a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, June 8, in his home Diocese of Knoxville, TN. 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. Army providing pastoral care to Catholic soldiers and their families with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).

The Rev. Mr. Houston’s diaconal ordination was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, KY. Bishop-elect Mark Beckman of Knoxville and AMS Auxiliary F. Richard Spencer concelebrated the 10:30 a.m. ordination Mass. Among those in attendance were the new deacon’s father, Mr. Charles Houston, who served in the U.S. Navy as a corpsman.

The Rev. Mr. Houston, 31, is a 2015 graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, where he earned a Bachelor of Music Degree. From 2015 to 2019 he served on active duty as an Army musician, playing clarinet in the 1st Armored Division Band at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. In 2021 the Rev. Mr. Houston earned a Master of Arts (MA) in Catholic philosophical studies from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana, where this year, he also earned a Master of Divinity (M.Div). He is on track to be ordained a priest next year, after which time he will serve as a diocesan priest in his home Diocese of Knoxville for three years before going on active duty as an Army chaplain under his co-sponsored seminarian agreement with that diocese and the AMS. After his military service, he will return to his home diocese to serve out his vocation.

The Rev. Mr. Houston says he began to discern his vocation in the military. “I felt the calling to ordained ministry while serving as an active duty Soldier at Fort Bliss,” he says. “I saw the need for priests to serve in the Armed Forces while deployed in Iraq, and I was inspired by the preaching and the joy of some Chaplains assigned to Fort Bliss.”

Indeed, the eventual service of the Rev. Mr. Houston and other Catholic chaplain candidates is greatly anticipated by the Army, which, like all other branches of the U.S. Military, continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains. Currently, the Army has only 82 priests on active duty and 53 priests in the reserves, serving a large population of more than 250,000 Catholic soldiers spread worldwide, not counting their families, whom Army 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 milarch.org/vocations, or may contact AMS Vocations Director Father Marcel Taillon at vocations@milarch.org or (202) 719-3600.

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