Retired Army Chaplain Becomes Auxiliary Bishop
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 4, 2011 Many retirees swap their business attire for shorts, but one retired Army chaplain hung up his black beret and Army camouflage uniform to don the "miter" hat and robes of a Roman Catholic bishop.
Retired U.S. Army chaplain Father Neal J. Buckon was ordained an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, Feb. 22, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Photo by Matthew Barrick
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Chaplain Neal J. Buckon retired as a lieutenant colonel on Dec. 31, 2010. On Jan. 3, he received the news that Pope Benedict XVI had selected him as a bishop and assigned him as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
Bishop Buckon will minister to Roman Catholics in the U.S. military worldwide. “I enjoyed two days of retirement,” he said.
On Feb. 22, Buckon was ordained a bishop during a ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, here. He joins three other auxiliary bishops and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who leads the pastoral team for the 1.5 million archbishopric.
Buckon will work with three other auxiliary bishops to assist the archbishop in “his role as shepherd of the Military's Catholic faithful,” Buckon explained.
Buckon will be the vicar for the western region of the archdiocese. The region comprises 18 states and includes Hawaii and Alaska. “I will conduct pastoral visits to the Catholic Faith Communities on Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard installations,” there, he said.
“I will also assist and advise the Catholic chaplains assigned to the installations in Catholic-specific pastoral leadership,” Buckon said, adding that a bishop is the minister of the sacrament of confirmation, which is the “final sacrament of initiation.”
Buckon has come a long way in a short time from his final Army chaplain days spent in South Korea with the 8th Army field chaplain for current operations, and as the Catholic chaplain for U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan/Seoul.
“The selection to become a bishop is a great honor and a privilege, and it is somewhat humbling to be chosen,” Buckon said. “I trust that God will supply the inspiration, the strength, and the courage for the ministry that lies ahead.”
“During many of the pastoral visits, I will confer the sacrament of confirmation upon the service members and family members who have requested and prepared to be fully initiated into the Catholic faith,” he said.
Pope John Paul II created the Archdiocese for the Military Services to provide a full range of Catholic Church pastoral ministries and spiritual services for U.S. military troops.
The archdiocese serves more than 220 military installations in 29 countries, 153 Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, in addition to federal employees working in 134 countries, according to the Archdiocese website.
Buckon is probably one of the few bishops authorized to wear a Ranger Tab. He initially served as an infantryman during earlier active duty service from 1975 to 1982. After seven years on active duty, Buckon left the Army and entered the ministry. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland, May 25, 1995, and later returned to the Army as a chaplain.
“Twenty-eight years of military service,” he said, “has prepared me for the responsibilities of a new ministry to the service members and families who selflessly serve in many parts of the world to protect the country we love.”