Native Son Graduates From Prestigious Army Chaplaincy Program

Air Force Chaplain Mark R. Juchter graduated from the Fort Hood Family Life Chaplain Training Center and received a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas A&M Central Texas on December 12, 2015.

You may recognize the name, as Mark is a native son to our diocese. Mark’s father, John, was the deacon at St. Mark’s, Erie, for many years and his mother, Annabelle, is still a member there. Mark got his start in life at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Erie in 1972. He attended East High School and Gannon University. When Mark was 17, Bishop Rowley talked to him about the ordination process. As Mark puts it, “I didn’t really listen to him until I was 27.” Mark then attended seminary at Seabury Western and was ordained a priest in 2003. During his second year at Seabury, Mark was commissioned as an Air Force Chaplain Candidate. This began his passion for serving in the military and his journey to the Family Life Chaplain Training Program.

After his ordination and while serving in the Air Force Reserves, Mark served for two years as the curate at St. John’s in Sharon under the Rev. Doug Dayton.   He was then called to St. George’s in Pearl Harbor, HI. While there, he became a 1st Lieutenant Chaplain. He broke many a speed limit on Sundays going back and forth between St. George’s and the Hickam Air Force Base. At the time, Mark felt that he was leading two lives: the life of a priest and the life of an Air Force Chaplain.

In 2007, Mark felt that God was telling him that he was doing this all wrong. He felt that the bigger part of his call was the Air Force. And so he moved to active duty and was transferred to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He spent two and a half years there and then was assigned to a base in Nevada. He was there from 2011 until 2014 when he was accepted into the Family Life Chaplain Training Center program.

The Family Life Chaplain Training Center is staffed with specially-trained chaplains and provides counseling services to the Fort Hood community. Becoming a chaplain in this program is quite competitive.  Mark was one of only two Air Force Chaplains to be selected to this program in 2014. Mark spent 18 months and over 500 hours in field education (counseling) at Fort Hood. His focus was on trauma and he worked with many clients with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). His training included taking additional courses on a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR is a psychotherapy that uses eye motions to help those suffering with trauma “dislodge” or reprocess memories of traumatic events. Mark has become well versed in this technique to help his clients with PTSD. Mark stated that he is grateful to Bishop Sean for supporting his training in EMDR, funding additional training in the use of EMDR to help people overcome addiction.

Mark now sees himself as a chaplain who can counsel on a therapeutic level. When he first got to Fort Hood and the Family Life Chaplain Training Center program, he was tentative when someone with trauma would ask to talk with him. Now when asked, in his head he says, “bring it on.” Mark has just been assigned to be a teacher at the Air Force Chaplain Corps College (AFCCC), a training center for chaplains and chaplain assistants at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. Mark is excited about this next adventure and is grateful for all the support and prayers from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Bishop Sean. Mark’s advice to those considering ordination is to remember that there are many ways to live out your call other than parish ministry. He is happy to talk with anyone about the military path.

Julien Goulet, Assistant to Communications and Administration, Diocese of Northwestern PA

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