Answering the call for 50 years

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Eydie Sakura
  • 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
He was certain there were two things in life he would never do after his ordination into the priesthood in 1957 and one was to serve as a military chaplain. Now, more than five decades later, Rev. Francis McInnis celebrates 50 years of ministry in the Air Force Chaplain Service. 

Affectionately referred to as "Father Mac," he has spent 35 years as a high school and college teacher, the second thing he said he would never do when he was 27 years old and just out of seminary. 

"I never intended to be a military chaplain because I was pre-med in college," he said. "Bishop Condon who ordained me assigned me to study education, which I deliberately avoided. Eventually, I became a science teacher at Sacred Heart High School in Miles City, Mont." 

Soon afterward, Father Mac was assigned as an auxiliary chaplain to the 902nd Air Force Station just west of Miles City, filling in whenever a Catholic priest was needed. Thus began his new life's journey as a teacher and a military chaplain. 

He was not commissioned as an Air Force chaplain until 1970 at the age of 40. He served the next 22 years in the Montana Air National Guard and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1992, the same year he retired as a biology professor from the University of Great Falls. 

The Great Falls native said he started his auxiliary chaplain duties at Malmstrom back in 1968 and has been part of the community ever since. 

"When I first started [at Malmstrom], they had three Catholic chaplains and they still needed me here," Father Mac said. "Now they have none. I've witnessed a lot of changes in the Air Force, especially with the change of missions over the years here." 

Today, Father Mac said there are three Catholic chaplains who take turns presiding over weekday and weekend Mass. Although he's technically retired, he stays rather busy. 

"I'm the chaplain at Central Catholic High School now," said the professor emeritus. "They needed priests and I was hanging around not doing much, so I decided to help out. It keeps me out of trouble." 

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Pat McCain, 341st Space Wing chaplain, said the military has had to rely on fewer and fewer priests, and believes Father Mac has been an inspiration to countless Airmen and their families. 

"Auxiliary chaplains like Father Mac have made sure the spiritual needs of our troops and families have been met, despite our priest shortage," Chaplain McCain said. "His life has been a wonderful legacy of ministry and service to our nation and God." 

This legacy of service was recognized Sept. 23 after Father Mac presided over Mass at the Malmstrom chapel. Col. Sandy Finan, 341st SW commander, presented him with the Exemplary Civilian Service Award for his 40 years of service to the wing. 

During Mass, Father Mac spoke to the congregation about his journey as a military chaplain and about how much he has grown to love being a teacher, two career choices he tried to avoid during seminary. 

"God speaks to us throughout our life," he said. "God's going to give us what we need. The Holy Spirit has given me a lot of neat surprises."