By Staff Sgt. Patricia Deal, USAREUR Public Affairs OfficeJuly 23, 2010
HEIDELBERG, Germany - Pope Benedict XVI appointed Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Richard Spencer, former chief of Plans and Training for the U.S. Army Europe Chaplains Office, as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese for Military Services and Titular Bishop of Auzia in May. His Episcopal Ordination is scheduled for September in Washington, DC.
The AMS, dating back to 1917, provides the Roman Catholic Church\'s pastoral and spiritual services to all five branches of the U.S. military, employees and patients of the Veterans Health Administration, and Americans in government service overseas. According to its website, the AMS Bishop and Auxiliary Bishop are the only clergy who are permanent members of the AMS. Typically, Roman Catholic priests are "on loan" from their respective Archdiocese to the military branch they serve.
As Auxiliary Bishop, Spencer will reside in Leuven, Belgium, near SHAPE Headquarters, and minister to all U.S. military members and embassy and state department employees throughout Europe and Asia.
"My years of service as an Army Chaplain have helped prepare me for these new responsibilities within our Church," Spencer said. A priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Spencer has served as an Army chaplain since 1991, ministering to Catholic Soldiers worldwide in areas such as the former Bosnia/Herzegovina, Korea, the Sinai Peninsula, and Germany. "I plan to emphasize and carry forward the gains we have learned and experienced in the Ecumenical endeavors by living our exercises in freedoms of religious expressions of diversity and of pluralism."
Spencer said he was surprised by the appointment. He was at the multi-nation 52nd annual Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes, France, when he received the news. "I had arrived in Lourdes as a 'pilgrim, a sinner, an Army SOULdier'," he said. "I returned to Germany as a 'pilgrim, a sinner and now as a bishop for the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and all the overseas employees of the State Department and from our embassies. What a deal the Lord had in mind for this exchange of titles and of profound responsibilities!"
USAREUR Chaplain (Col.) Charles R. Bailey said he was not surprised by the appointment. "We need the best chaplains to serve, especially with the stresses and trauma we all suffer from conflicts and combat throughout the world. Father Spencer brings a wealth of experience and hands-on knowledge to the table to support our critical missions," he said. "All Army chaplains serve in partnership with their faith group and the Roman Catholic Church has put great trust in Chaplain Spencer. He has successfully leveraged all his pastoral, academic, and military training to become more productive and efficient while serving the church and the Army."
Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Donald L. Rutherford, deputy chief of chaplains, said he believes Spencer is undoubtedly the right man for the job, naming him one of the finest priests that the Army has today. "He is the whole package--a well-rounded, true Soldier, tested in combat, who has served with distinction as a hospital chaplain and a division chaplain," said Rutherford. "Father Spencer is also a compassionate minister who unselfishly gives of his time to help any Soldier or Family member in need."