From military honor guard to missionary, newly ordained priest carries on tradition


On May 25, Most Rev. Curtis Guillory SVD, bishop of Beaumont, Texas, ordained three men to the priesthood in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Techny. Divine Word Fathers Charles Anthony Moat Jr., Bau Van Nguyen and Victorin Oussoï have celebrated their first Masses and will travel to their first assignments soon. Today, we introduce you to Father Moat.

By Theresa Carson

These days, a person can talk to a dozen priests and hear 12 different vocation stories. Even so, Father Charles Anthony Moat Jr., 37, has a unique story. He felt a calling to the priesthood even before he was Catholic.

Raised in Maryland by a single mother, Father Moat spent holidays with his mother’s parents. His father was a part of his life but lived in Virginia, so the primary male figure in his life was his grandfather.

After serving in the Marines during World War II, Father Moat’s grandfather worked as a bellhop and elevator operator in Washington, D.C., while studying for a college degree on the GI bill.

“He wanted to work for the government,” Father Moat said with a slight Southern accent that makes Taurus sound like tourist. “He was an auditor for the State Department. One of his jobs was to go to different embassies. He shared stories of his travels to different parts of Europe. He motivated me to get out and see the world. Sitting and talking with him about his life experiences was like a living history book.”

Inspired by his grandfather’s example, Father Moat has participated in historical moments. He joined the Air Force after high school. As a member of the Air Force Honor Guard, he participated in the inauguration of President George W. Bush and the funeral of President Ronald Reagan. His military assignments took him to the White House and Arlington National Cemetery.

During that time, he traveled to Europe. Spurred by his love of history and appreciation of architecture, Father Moat visited churches on the continent. He toured the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. When he expressed an interesting in Catholicism, a friend introduced him to a Franciscan priest who was a Navy chaplain and to the RCIA program. Father Moat was baptized in 2006 at age 24.

“Even in high school, I entertained the idea of being a priest even thought I wasn’t a Catholic,” he said. “I feel like the Holy Spirit from day one when I set foot in the Catholic front door at RCIA was very much a part of my faith tradition at that time.”

Upon completing his commitment with the Air Force, he entered Divine Word College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He sees similarities between military and religious life. “With both the military and the Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP), you have to prepare yourself mentally, physically and spiritually,” Father Moat said. “Lucky for us we have a good formation to give us that foundation—prayer, community life and academics.”

He reflected upon notable men who had served in the military before undertaking religious life—St. Paul, St. Ignatius, Father Charles Foucauld and St. Francis of Assisi.

“A lot of the spiritual juggernauts in the Catholic Church were in the military like St. Francis of Assisi,” he said. “In fact, St. Francis showed early signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. St. Ignatius was influential in my vocation. When you’re dealing with life and death situations, it makes you reflect on what’s important in life. There’s wisdom to learn from veteran men and women, life and combat experience.”

After professing vows in 2013, Father Moat started graduated studies at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago. He also fulfilled the required CTP. He was assigned to Argentina for two years. He spent six months studying the Spanish language in Buenos Aires before heading to Cordoba in Southern Argentina. Later, he worked with Los Monoguillos, and the people of Jujuy who live on the Argentinian border with Bolivia and Chile.

His ministries were dependent upon the needs of the people. “We knocked on the parishioners’ doors and passed out Mass schedules and different various activities to keep the people connected with the church and parish life,” he said. “We played games [with the youth] and cleaned the local parks beautification.”

Father Moat professed perpetual vows in September and served as a transitional deacon at Queenship of Mary and Resurrection parish in Glen Ellyn, Ill and Wayne, Il. One of his duties is teaching religious education.

“I enjoyed teaching confirmation there because it reignites my faith, and I’m always learning,” he said. “I enjoyed seeing how the youth learn about their faith and be a part of their formation process. I still consider myself a student even though I’m a deacon and people look to me for leadership in these types of things. I continue to learn about the faith and be amazed by it.”

As a newly ordained priest, Father Moat will become a part of the Society of the Divine Word’s Western Province and will be assigned to a parish in Southern California.

“I felt the Holy Spirit working in my life,” he said. “The Holy Spirit has been a companion on the journey, I continue to trust as I go into the next chapter.”

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