Skip to comments.Debt, the Vocation Killer [Catholic Caucus]
Posted on 08/07/2007 10:10:52 AM PDT by fr maximilian mary
You think you know what factors pose a barrier to religious vocations? Think again. A group met in Chicago last month to discuss an emerging and growing barrier to vocations financial debt, particularly that acquired from student loans.
The Chicago-based Institute on Religious Life organized and the Arlington, Va.-based Fraser Family Foundation sponsored a diverse gathering of grant-makers, college presidents and vocation directors at Marytown Feb. 20-22 to examine the growing problem. As most religious orders will not accept someone with debt, it places many vocations in jeopardy.
Brother Matthew Ball of the Franciscans of the Immaculate at St. Francis Hermitage in Maine, N.Y., said that his debt nearly led him to abandon his vocation. A graduate of Ohio University, Brother Matthew had educational debts totaling $30,000 when he approached various religious orders inquiring about the possibility of entering. Debt prevented him.
I was ready to drop my vocation because of the debt. I figured that if too many huge walls were in the way that maybe God wasnt calling me, said Brother Matthew. I was ready to give it up, but had one more phone call to make.
Before giving up his vocation, Matthew Balls final call was to the Franciscan Friars in December 2005.
I spoke with the vocation director, Father Joseph, said Brother Matthew. Near the end of the call I said, Everything sounds great, but I have one more thing for you. I have an education debt of $30,000.
Father Joseph responded, Is that all? Youve got to have faith! Our Lady has all the money you need for your vocation, said Brother Matthew. Father Joseph put the young man in touch with the Fraser Family Foundation, a private foundation set up to help aspirants relieve their educational debt. Ball received the foundations final grant, enabling him to enter the community last summer.
The need is great. One of every two aspirants will have had student debt at one time, said Corey Huber, executive director of the Fraser Family Foundation. One of every four aspirants will have debt in excess of $25,000.
Thats a problem particularly for religious orders.
Its a very real problem. As more and more girls come out of college and seek religious life, it will become more of an issue for them, said Sister Mary Emily Knapp, vocation director of the Nashville Dominicans. For some young women it delays entrance. Of the orders 13 postulants this year, debt was an issue for two of them.
This is an important and challenging problem emerging in the Church, said Michael Wick, executive director of the Institute on Religious Life. He likens the problem to the rich young man in the Gospel who couldnt follow Christ. Instead, its the debt-laden young person who cant follow Christ.
At least two Catholic colleges have programs in place to provide debt relief for those pursuing religious life Christendom College, in Front Royal, Va., and Magdalen College in Warner, N.H.
At Christendom, the college has always had a policy that if a graduate takes final vows with an order that has canonical status with the Catholic Church, his loan will be canceled. Magdalens policy, while not official, has helped to defer and forgive loans on a case-by-case basis. Both Christendom and Magdalen are able to do so because they do not receive federal funds and are able to make their own loans.
As a lay organization, weve been tithing our 10% through our vocations, said Tom McFadden, director of admissions at Christendom. Its the idea that if we take care of God, he will take care of us.
To date, approximately 60 men and 40 women alumni of Christendom have entered religious life. Magdalen has seen approximately 30 religious vocations among its graduates.
Leaders agreed that more universities need to come to the table to develop ways to address this crisis.
Attendees also agreed that another response, of last resort, includes creating charitable funds that can assist aspirants with significant debt. Two such funds have already been created in recent years to address the issue.
Corey and Katherine Huber of Alexandria, Va., began issuing grants to aspirants in 2004, following Coreys retirement from America Online.
I had a lot of extra money floating around and our pastor told us of a young man who was interested in religious life but had a huge debt-load, said Huber. Our pastor asked if we could help this guy out.
The obstacles they faced in providing that help eventually led the Hubers to create the Fraser Family Fund and Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations. As a public charitable organization, the program allows individuals to make charitable contributions for the purpose of tackling the debt problem.
The Eagan, Minn.-based Laboure Society, founded by entrepreneur and management consultant Cy Laurent, is similar, yet has a unique difference.
Laurent shares the vocation story of aspirants they help. Laurent then works with the aspirants to help them develop lists of family, friends and others from whom they can solicit charitable contributions. The Laboure Society then acts as the intermediary, allowing individuals to make tax deductible donations to a central pool of funds that are used to help candidates reduce their debt before entry into religious life. To date, Laurent has assisted 82 candidates who are currently in formation 16 to the priesthood, 59 sisters and seven religious brothers.
While the need is great, professional fundraisers dont see the barrier as a significant problem.
Michael Browne is managing partner of Lincoln, Neb.-based Labadie Communications, a database marketing group. Browne is convinced that the money is there, its just a matter of communicating the need to benefactors.
Over the next 45 years, older generations will leave $41 trillion to their heirs, government and charities, said Browne. If donors knew that potential vocations were being turned away because of money, they would react. Theres never been a better time to face a problem such as this.
Tim Drake is based in St. Joseph, Minnesota.
That’s unfortunate that they can’t afford to take on new applicants; but all the more incentive to pray that souls will help them with the needed funds. I know the couple that started the Foundation and it is a labor of love (they get nothing for the work they do, that is, on the temporal plane—but feel they are rewarded most amply for their work in seeing young men and women respond to their call). So a prayer for the success of their mission. God bless...
**The need is great. One of every two aspirants will have had student debt at one time, said Corey Huber, executive director of the Fraser Family Foundation. One of every four aspirants will have debt in excess of $25,000.**
This has to be in undergraduate degrees from secular colleges?? Correct?
YLI, Young Laides Institute, is also a national level women’s group that offers scholarships.
Congratulations to the Knights of Columbus. I know they do a lot of helping along the way.
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College is expensive.
Even a year at Christendom, tuition, room, and board, is $24,000 per year. It’s just not tough to run up the debt.
Even state schools have gotten more expensive. Here in Maryland, the University of Maryland, College Park, is about $17,000 for tuition, room, and board for IN-STATE students! My understanding is that freshmen are required to live on campus.
EVERY seminarian should become a Knight. The RSVP Program is Order-wide:
Just as every Catholic man who is a fireman, policeman or in the Military should be Knights for the insurance benefits of a First Degree Member alone!
Please check into your local Councils! The Councils give or pledge $500 to the RSVP program and they receive a refund for their efforts. My Council funded 6 seminarians each year. The last was “free” due to the $100 per capita refund from the other 5! Note that more than one Council could fund a seminarian and that we sent them CARE packages at key times in the year (like Christmas). One man asked us to cut back as he was gaining too much weight! We also gave them free tickets to any Council event. And, many came over the years for the “home cooked meals.”
Are you a Knight? Have you signed your form 100 yet? You could end up on EWTN one day at the 130 Annual Supreme Convention!
This sounds like a fabulous program! Wow!
bumpus ad summum
The $$ is not much, Salvation, but you should see the look on these men’s face’s when 20 Knights showed up at their first Mass within the Diocese. We took them all out to lunch after that Mass, presented them with a K of C stole, and have made contacts that have lasted 20 years. One of our seminarians is now a local Pastor. To say he is fond of our Council is an understatement.
Thank you, Lord, for blessings like these Knights and the priests and seminarians they sponsor!
The Burse from the Knights is to help pay for Books or some pocket change like 1000 bucks for one of our seminarians..
Yeah, right. That way it’s easier for the predators to pick out the virgins and have sex with them without the parents’ protection.
That reminds me of the Jackson 5 tour and the outlandish price of a ticket to their show...and you had to buy four tickets if you wanted to get in.
Cost of education up, quality of education down, price of freedom astronomical because the young adult is dim of thought, lazy in skill, and over burdened beyond belief. This is the nature of American socialism. It’s our style of Communism not unlike what Asia and Europe suffer.
Solution: THE NATURAL FAMILY!!!!! Parents guard your children (without nagging them), children honor your parents (and don’t be a rebel). Society starts with the family.
Debt consolidation as a family (especially among siblings) team effort helped cancel out individual debt, and that’s how my grandparents made it to America and through the Great Depression.
Thank-you for the excellent article.
Yes, mostly undergraduate degrees. About 25% of our applicants can’t enter right away due to college debt and others that come to us have delayed applying because of college debt.
Unlike the Knights of Columbus who help with donations and out of pocket expenses, the Mater Ecclesiae literally takes over the seminarian, sister or brothers debt--they can enter formation without any concern. The Foundation is obviously limited to how many loans it can take on. I'm hopeful that some big benefactors will donate to them so that they can help many more than 100. Let us pray...
Some of our men have tried the Laboure Foundation, but it is a lot of work--people have to donate to the Laboure Foundation in the candidates name which means the candidate has to write lots of begging letters and thank you letters and if enough money isn't being donated in their name they have to write more letters still (our experience is that this method is unnerving and a great distraction for the brother in formation).
At any rate, the article clearly shows that the need is there and that there are groups like the Knights of Columbus and Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations out there to help.
“Unlike the Knights of Columbus who help with donations and out of pocket expenses,...”
The Knights do a little more than this. As I pointed out in a previous post, in addition to donations for out-of-pocket expenses, the Knights provide scholarships of $2,500 per year for about 130 seminarians in the United States and Canada.
It isn’t at the level of what Mater Ecclesiae is doing, but it’s a bit more than covering some out-of-pocket expenses.
Only incoming freshmen have this requirement. Folks who transfer in (a common practice) aren’t required to live on campus.
“Yeah, right. That way its easier for the predators to pick out the virgins and have sex with them without the parents protection.”
That would be the cynical view of it. I’m not sure that I disagree with it. However, the university has a perspective and it’s not without some validity. Maryland’s a big place. Over 30,000 undergrads. The university believes that students are less likely to drop out if they exercise a bit more supervision the first year.
“Cost of education up, quality of education down,...”
At the college level, I’m not sure it’s fair to say generally that the quality of education is down. In some places, it probably is down, especially in the first year at places that are open enrollment. This is because folks come in so poorly prepared from high school. Open enrollment colleges become remedial education centers. Fortunately, many of them do a good job at it.
But frankly, our better universities are the best in the world. And many have improved in recent years. When I was in high school, U of MD was a party school. When applying to schools, we’d put it down as our “safe” school - just in case we didn’t get into where we really wanted to be.
Now, U of MD has a multitude of programs that are in the top 25 in the country.
Maryland’s a big, tough place. It’s definitely not for everyone. I’m not sure it’s such a bad idea to require freshmen to live on campus.