Catholic Bishop F. Richard Spencer, who serves as Episcopal Vicar for Europe and Asia of the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) of the U.S. military, arrived on December 5 in northern Afghanistan, where he will spend Advent and the Christmas holidays ministering to United States and multinational NATO troops as well as U.S. State Department staffers. During his pastoral visit, Bishop Spencer will celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation for six U.S. soldiers who have been preparing over the past few months to be received into the Catholic Church.
According to AMS, Bishop Spencer said, "It is a very humbling experience for me to join these brave military and State Department personnel during this holy season of Advent as they engage in an international effort to reduce outbreaks of terrorism that threaten both the people of Afghanistan and the people of good will everywhere. Spiritual fitness and resiliency are key tools for our personnel serving ‘God and Country’ in these peace-building efforts, which will hopefully contribute to a better world, just as we prepare the way in our hearts for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, during this holy season. I am thankful, by God’s grace, to be able to make a small contribution and sacrifice to that worthy cause." Bishop Spencer holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and serves as a clinician. He was named auxiliary bishop in 2010. An Eagle Scout, Bishop Spencer once served as a unit commander of a military police unit in South Korea before entering the seminary and the priesthood.
Bishop Spencer is one of four auxiliary bishops serving under Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who leads AMS. The AMS is the only jurisdiction of the Catholic Church responsible for endorsing priests for on-site ministry as chaplains at more than 200 locations throughout the country and around the world to Catholics and their families in the U.S. armed forces, VA Medical Centers and overseas civilian posts. Worldwide, an estimated 1.5 million Catholics depend on these priests for counseling, access to the sacraments, and other forms of spiritual support. The AMS receives no funding from the government and has no parishes to support its work with weekly donations. The AMS depends on grants and donations for survival.