U.S. Army Musician Trades Clarinet for Roman Collar

by Madonna

The Reverend Mr. Alexander Houston, (1LT), USAR, a former active-duty soldier and now a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, June 8, in his home Diocese of Knoxville, TN. The new deacon is on track to be ordained a priest next year and hopes to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Army, providing pastoral care to Catholic soldiers and their families with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).

The Rev. Mr. Houston’s diaconal ordination was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the laying of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, KY. Bishop-elect Mark Beckman of Knoxville and AMS Auxiliary F. Richard Spencer concelebrated the 10:30 a.m. ordination Mass. Among those in attendance was the new deacon’s father, Mr. Charles Houston, who served in the U.S. Navy as a corpsman.


The Rev. Mr. Houston, 31, graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music in 2015 with a Bachelor of Music degree. From 2015 to 2019, he served on active duty as an Army musician, playing clarinet in the 1st Armored Division Band at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. In 2021, he earned a Master of Arts (MA) in Catholic philosophical studies from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana, where he also earned a Master of Divinity (M.Div) this year. He is on track to be ordained a priest next year, after which he will serve as a diocesan priest in his home Diocese of Knoxville for three years before going on active duty as an Army chaplain under his co-sponsored seminarian agreement with that diocese and the AMS. After his military service, he will return to his home diocese to continue his vocation.


The Rev. Mr. Houston says he began to discern his vocation while in the military. “I felt the calling to ordained ministry while serving as an active duty Soldier at Fort Bliss,” he says. “I saw the need for priests to serve in the Armed Forces while deployed in Iraq, and I was inspired by the preaching and joy of some Chaplains assigned to Fort Bliss.”


The eventual service of the Rev. Mr. Houston and other Catholic chaplain candidates is greatly anticipated by the Army, which, like all other branches of the U.S. Military, continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains. Currently, the Army has only 82 priests on active duty and 53 priests in the reserves, serving a large population of more than 250,000 Catholic soldiers worldwide, not counting their families, whom Army chaplains also serve.


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