Summer is the season of transition in many parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, with pastoral assignments shifting and priests moving from church to church.

Fr. Angel Anaya

But this summer, parishioners of St. Anthony and St. Hyacinth Parishes on the south side bid farewell to one of their associate pastors, Fr. Angel Anaya, who was bound for a rather more unusual destination than his brother priests: Iraq.

Fr. Anaya, who has been a member of the U.S. Army Reserves since 2015, received his orders on June 30 to report to Fort Bliss, Texas, by July 4. While there, he will complete training before being deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, where he will serve in active duty for operation support as a Catholic chaplain, said Vicar for Clergy Fr. Jerry Herda.

“As a member of the reserve, there was always a chance that he would be called to active duty,” said Fr. Herda. “His duty is for a period of 365 days, so he is scheduled to complete his duty July 3, 2021.”

Fr. Hugo Londono, pastor of St. Anthony and St. Hyacinth Parish, said this is Fr. Anaya’s first deployment.

“He’s very dedicated to the people, and he’s a very pastoral person,” said Fr. Londono. “We will keep him in our prayers that the Lord brings him back, safe and sound. That is our promise to him.”

Fr. Anaya is originally from Colombia and was ordained in 2009 for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Prior to ordination, his background included work in education and medicine. He has served at St. Andrew in Delavan as an associate pastor and later as an administrator. Since 2016, he has been the associate pastor at St. Anthony and St. Hyacinth.

A priest must obtain permission from his bishop to join the military reserve, said Fr. Herda. If the priest is then called up for active duty, he is on loan to the Archdiocese for the Military Service (AMS), which was created in 1985 and serves as the sole endorser, or certifier, of Roman Catholic chaplains to the United States government. As of 2020, a little more than 200 Roman Catholic priests were endorsed by the AMS for active-duty military service.

Chaplains who serve in the AMS are released from their own archdioceses for the period of their military service, but never become members of the AMS themselves, instead remaining subject to their home bishop or religious superiors. A priest’s assignments are provided by the Office of the Chief of Chaplains of each respective branch of the U.S. military.