Joseph H. Penkaul – Brigadier General (Chaplain), United States Air Force


Retired March 21, 1996 – Died Sep. 2, 2008.

Chaplain (Brigadier General) Joseph H. Penkaul was the mobilization assistant to the Chief of Air Force Chaplains, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. He advised the Chief of Chaplains in directing and maintaining a trained, equipped and professional chaplain service in the Reserve forces.

Chaplain Penkaul is a native of Buffalo, New York. He enlisted in the Army in April 1958. After being discharged in January 1961, he attended St. John Vianney Seminary in East Aurora, New York, and Niagara University, Niagara Falls, New York. Chaplain Penkaul was commissioned as a Chaplain in the Army Reserve in 1970 and then transferred to the Air Force Reserve in 1973.

Chaplain Penkaul was ordained in 1968 as a priest for the diocese of Buffalo, New York, where he served as a parish priest, high school principal, and a chaplain at Attica Correctional Facility, Attica, New York, for 12 years. He is now pastor of three parishes in New York.


1964 Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy, St. John Vianney Seminary, East Aurora, New York
1969 Master of Arts degree in theology, St. John Vianney Seminary, East Aurora, New York
1974 Master of Science degree in education, Canisius College, Buffalo, New York
1977 Certificate in Secondary Administration and Supervision, Niagara University, Niagara, New York
1989 National Security Management Course, by correspondence


1. April 1958 – July 1958, trainee, Fort Dix, New Jersey
2. July 1958 – August 1959, administration specialist, Headquarters 504th Military Police Battalion, Fort Gordon, Georgia.
3. September 1959 – October 1960, administration specialist, Headquarters 7th Infantry Division, Camp Casey, South Korea
4. October 1960 – January 1961, administrative specialist, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey
5. January 1961 – June 1970, civilian status
6. June 1970 – February 1973, Catholic chaplain, Headquarters 2nd Battalion, 98th Combat Training Division, Amherst, New York
7. February 1973 – November 1973, Catholic chaplain, individual mobilization augmentee, 416th Bomber Wing, Griffiss Air Force Base, New York
8. November 1973 – May 1976, Catholic chaplain, 914th Tactical Air Group, Niagara Falls, New York
9. May 1976 – January 1987, Catholic chaplain, 107th Fighter Interceptor Group, Niagara Falls, New York
10. January 1987 – February 1990, Air National Guard assistant to the Command Chaplain, Military Airlift Command, Scott AFB, IIIinois
11. February 1990 – February 1991, senior IMA chaplain to the Command Chaplain, Military Airlift Command, Scott AFB, IIlinois
12. February 1991 – June 1991, Catholic chaplain, Operation Desert Storm, 55th Combat Support Group, Offutt AFB, Nebraska
13. June 1991 – October 1991, senior IMA chaplain to the Command Chaplain, Military Airlift Command, Scott AFB, IIIinois
14. October 1991 – January 1993, senior IMA chaplain to Air Force Reserve staff chaplain, Robins AFB, Georgia
15. January 1993 – present, mobilization assistant to the Chief of Air Force Chaplains, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.


  • Army Good Conduct Medal
  • Army Overseas Service Ribbon
  • Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
  • Air Force Commendation Medal
  • Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with two oak leaf clusters
  • Air Force Organizational Excellence Award
  • National Defense Service Medal with bronze star
  • Air Force Overseas Ribbon – Short
  • Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver oak leaf cluster
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal with oak leaf cluster
  • Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
  • Air Force Training Ribbon


  • Air Force Association
  • American Legion, Belmont, New York
  • Reserve Officers Association
  • Lions Club, Scio, New York


  • First Lieutenant  May 25, 1970
  • Captain  Feb. 23, 1973
  • Major  Sept. 17, 1977
  • Lieutenant Colonel  Jan. 28, 1983
  • Colonel  Dec. 22, 1986
  • Brigadier General  Feb. 9, 1994

The Rev. Joseph H. Penkaul, a longtime Air Force Reserve chaplain who presided at funerals for some of Western New York’s fallen soldiers, died Tuesday in Millard Fillmore Hospital after suffering a stroke. He was 69.


Father Penkaul was pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church on Losson Road in Cheektowaga since 1996 and was called upon to offer words of wisdom and comfort at the 2003 funeral of Marine Corporal Eric J. Orlowski, the first Western New Yorker killed in the war in Iraq.

He also presided at the December 2004 funeral of Army Sergeant Cari Anne Gasiewicz.

In 1994, Father Penkaul was promoted to the highest rank, Brigadier General, a chaplain can achieve in the Air Force Reserve Chaplaincy.

He served as chaplain in Korea, Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Father Penkaul had questioned the U. S. invasion of Iraq, but never in his funeral remarks, because he was concerned about how it would be received by military personnel and their grieving families, both of whom he respected and admired.

He acknowledged in a May 2004 interview with The Buffalo News the difficulty of preaching under those circumstances.

“There is the hesitancy about whether we are doing the right thing and if it’s worth it that these young men and women are in Iraq,” he said. “It’s hard to preach that way, because some people think that you aren’t supporting the government, that you are contrary to what everyone else feels. “When [Cpl. Orlowski] was killed, some asked why I didn’t speak out against the war,” he added. “It’s not that I was for the war — but I found it hard to say anything that would cause more hurt at a service, especially one where there were a lot of military. It’s a time to honor the person who died and comfort those suffering his loss.”

A Buffalo native, Father Penkaul was a graduate of Diocesan Preparatory Seminary and St. John Vianney Seminary. He received a master’s degree in education from Canisius College and a certificate in secondary school administration and supervision from Niagara University.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1968 and served briefly at St. John of the Cross Church in Whitesville and St. John the Baptist Church in Lockport before moving into education.

Father Penkaul was on the faculty of Notre Dame High School in Batavia from 1971 to 1974, when he became assistant principal of Bishop Turner High School. In 1977, he was named principal of Baker-Victory High School in Lackawanna.

He served as chaplain at Attica Correctional Facility from 1979 to 1991. He was pastor of several parishes in Allegany County from 1991 to 1996, when he was appointed to the post at St. Philip.

“He was a real people’s priest,” said the Rev. Paul Sabo, a friend and seminary classmate. “He was out working, supporting, whatever could be done, no matter what his health condition was.”

Survivors include a sister, Jacqueline Ann Woloszyn.

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec will celebrate a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 a. m. Friday in St. Philip the Apostle Church, 950 Losson Road, Cheektowaga.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 11/02/1938
  • DATE OF DEATH: 09/02/2008


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