Former Anglican Army chaplain finds `wholeness' through the Roman priesthood
April 29, 2013
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The Army provides many areas to serve, but for one soldier, his path was always predetermined. It just took a specific point in time to acknowledge it to himself.
U.S. Army Maj. Kenneth Bolin, the chaplain for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, always knew he would end up serving in the ministry. He just didn't know how long it would take him to get there.
Bolin, a West Point graduate, served four years as an infantry officer, then three years as a signal officer before finally accepting his intended mission.
"That was God's calling. I had always known that I was going to end up in ministry, but I didn't know when. It was while I was in company command that God effectively said that it was time to go. Enough running from God," said Bolin.
Bolin entered the ministry service through a non-denominational Bible church and then became an Anglican minister.
"As an Anglican you're not tied into the greater church. Anglicans point to the history and tradition of the church, but they're not actually connected to it," said Bolin.
He went on to explain that, with Catholics, tradition is part of who you are.
"Becoming Catholic meant completeness and wholeness," said Bolin.
During his time as an Anglican minister, Bolin found that he had a presence in both the Catholic realm and the Protestant realm.
"What I found in military service was that I couldn't effectively minister to my Catholic soldiers in some ways, but yet my Protestant soldiers didn't fully embrace the ministry that I had to offer because I looked Catholic," said Bolin.
Bolin found military service was helping him make his decision to convert to a Catholic priest. He felt his faith was still the driving force in his true calling.
"That's how the military service influenced it, but that was not a driving force," said Bolin.
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI established the Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans, an ordinate which allows Anglicans in the United States to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while still preserving their traditions. This ordinate gave Bolin the path he was looking for to embrace his faith.
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, Bolin was involved in a formation program which consists of a three rank process toward the path of ordained ministry with the Catholic Church.
On March 7, 2013, a ceremony was held for Bolin where he became an ordained priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Anchorage, Alaska. As an ordained priest Bolin was given the authority to celebrate both the standard Roman missal mass as well as the adapted Anglican mass.
Bolin is one of five married Catholic priests to currently serve in the chaplain corps on active duty in the U.S. Army.
"I'm definitely more engaged in ministry," said Bolin.
He went on to talk about the daily tasks of a Catholic priest.
"Between daily masses and hearing confessions, saying weekend masses, being on call for baptisms, weddings, going to minister to the sick in the hospital or funerals. Because there are so few Catholic chaplains, those ministerial requirements are much greater," he said.
According to Bolin, roughly eight percent of chaplains are Catholic, but 23-25 percent of all soldiers are Catholic.
"So there's a big disparity there," he said.
Bolin also pointed out that since becoming a Catholic chaplain his love for soldiers has not altered.
"That's why I do what I do, to take care of soldiers," said Bolin.
Bolin said the Chaplain Corps follows three basic ideals.
"The three things the Chaplain Corps does and this is the historical quote: nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead. And becoming a Catholic chaplain doesn't change that at all," he said.