Nashville seminarian’s vocation leads to military chaplain program

Jacob Telli

Thayer

Seminarian Brent Thayer has decided to serve his country while serving God.

This past January, Thayer, who is studying at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, was accepted into the U.S. Air Force chaplain candidate program. He will now be co-sponsored by both the Diocese of Nashville and the Archdiocese for the U.S. Military Services as he goes forth to fulfill his vocation with the armed forces.

Thayer has always been close to his faith, but he points to his parish priest as his earliest influence for joining the priesthood. Serving under him as an altar boy in Syracuse, New York, he watched the priest live out his vocation with dedication and joy. 

“I would describe him as a priest’s priest,” Thayer said, “very simple. He once said he wanted to go out with his boots on, and he eventually passed away after a funeral Mass. 

“Seeing his love for the Mass and his devotion to the people, it made a huge impact on me,” Thayer said. “It’s something I will always remember.” 

Thayer graduated from Franciscan University and began to take his calling to the priesthood more seriously. As he was going through his discernment, his family moved south to Nashville to be closer to his sister, Sister Mariana, O.P., who had joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation. He credits her example as the final confirmation that he wanted to pursue a religious vocation. 

“It took some of the fear out, knowing that she can say yes to God’s calling,” Thayer said.

Even as Thayer followed his calling, he continued to feel that he was being led further into his vocation. 

Both of his grandfathers served in World War II, and joining the military was always something that he had considered. After meeting two fellow seminarians in the Air Force chaplain program, the idea of becoming a military chaplain finally bloomed to life. 

“Hearing about guys who were actually doing it sparked an interest in me,” Thayer said. 

“Military chaplains are super rare. Not a whole lot of guys in the military are able to get the sacraments on a daily basis. People defending our country aren’t receiving the proper spiritual care. People get deployed and don’t see a chaplain for months,” Thayer said. “So, the need for military chaplains is high.” 

After about six months of talking with these two seminarians about their experience, Thayer came to the decision that he was being called to become a military chaplain. Following this decision, the choice of branch was an easy one. 

“Both my grandfathers served with the Army Air Corps in World War II before it became the Air Force,” Thayer said. “My family has a love for aviation. There was pretty much no doubt in my mind that if I was ever going to be in a branch that it was going to be the Air Force.”

He then started the process of talking to a recruiter last August. After lots of e-mails and paperwork, he was finally accepted into the Air Force chaplain candidate program this past January and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in March.

Thayer’s training to become a military chaplain will continue through education in a seminary. He does, however, have to attend officer training school at the Air Force base in Montgomery, Alabama. For eight weeks, he will receive the full military treatment of early wake up times, physical training, military history, and leadership development. 

Thayer is scheduled to finish his seminary studies in 2022, after which he will return to Nashville to serve in a parish for three years. He will then return to the Air Force to fulfill his five years of required military service. 

Through all of this, Thayer will continue to follow the example of that parish priest in Syracuse, New York, he said, leading with love for the liturgy and a devotion to the people.