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.
I found the article title to be rather ironic. There was a time, not all that long ago, when many dioceses would subsidize (eat the cost) a seminarian who clearly had a true vocation. Many religious orders would do something similar for women religious. The abuse scandals and the previous, general erosion of participation in Catholic life by a large proportion of the laity have dried-up whatever financial help could be given to those with a vocation. THIS kind of debt, rather than student loan debt, is possibly more of a vocation killer than anything else. Twice over. It has not only removed the financial capability to help many people become priests or religious, it has also troubled the faith of many others who may have had a nascent vocation, but are now just hanging on as catholics in any capacity. Jadot’s proteges and their ilk have certainly woven a tangled web in their attempts to turn the priesthood into a giant Club Med over the last few decades.
I disagree 180 degrees from your position on other points.
Firstly, I couldn’t imagine how naive and vulnerable young women are their first year away from mom and dad (and that’s if both her biological parents are still living as a family; it’s worse when she’s from a broken home). Oh, and it’s far easier to “pluck” a young man when in the company of incorrigible “friends”. Those unscrupulous young men who learned the knack of taking off a young girl’s knickers off said that it was easier than taking candy away from a baby...and that the girls thought that easy sex was suppose to be the norm.
Perhaps Maryland would do more favor for freshmen if the anti-God state didn’t play surrogate parent. Yes, Maryland is a socialist state, pro-abortion/homosexuality/sin etc. The type of “authority” not to be allowed to have ANY power over your children, and the type of local government not deserving of your money. Why would anyone trust such a government who’d say that the Teachings of Christ are considered “hate crimes”? Why would knowing parents willingly sacrifice their children to such a beast? Why would knowing citizens surrender their retirements to a blindly indoctrinated generation that will eventually support and harness state sponsored euthanasia? AND, how far off is it that a nanny state college system would have your pregnant daughter get an abortion without your knowing because she's a first year college kid fresh for the picking?
Secondly, I don’t doubt that today’s college kids are “technically” more adept than those who graduated 3 decades ago, but many of the young adult I know don’t know spit about why state sponsored Atheism is so horrible. And many don't know why the pro-sin politics today is the exact same environment that drove Europe and Asia into Socialist/Communist Atheism and perpetual total war. Sure, our youth can cruise the Internet to find any easy fact about how to fix up a car, build a house, invest finances, discover ancient arts of fine cooking, and how to clean tattoo needles, etc. But, they’re also the generation who looked to MTV and college professors who smoked their brains out with drugs to form a worldly opinion. If younger generations have learned to reject sin, then I’ll be happy to be shocked at such an occurrence. It would mean that sin has lost it’s fancy even for the youth that’s easily bored and easily succumbs to passions. But reality usually reveals terrible weaknesses in youth—I know, I was once young. Maybe others around here were young once too.
"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." It's really not much of a statistic when the only real chance of dropping out is when your heart ceases to beat. I really don’t care about the numbers of grads per college, especially when most of them know only too well the disheartening answer to the joke, “What does a (fill in the blank) graduate say at his/her first job?” Answer: “Do you want fries to go with your burger?” I'm a graduate too. I found Catholic grade schools more challenging for the mind, body, and soul. How accurate would it be if the paper company that prints college degrees uses the same paper size and format for the local fish market to wrap the daily catch?
Another point of “safety” on campus: Virginia Tech. I don’t think Colleges are all that safe unless you’re talking about the FBI Academy. Boosting a more secure environment means a direct increase in the very cost of education. But that’s only physical safety. Spiritually, universities and colleges are a lot worse for the soul. College student morals are literally the blind leading the blind. Considering how our education industry is suffering the string of professionals that loathe America and honest work, if the spiritually blind students are bad enough leaders already, then many professors are literally the devil in the flesh.
Thankfully, many Internet savvy students are quickly policing their own campus and there are web sites where students rate teachers. That doesn't do much good, though, if students can't discern right from wrong. Since many have grown up within the nakedness of sin on exhibition, many yet to question the reason why sin is so awful (why is pornography bad? What? Porno and masturbation is bad? Impossible! Smoking Pot is bad? How? it's less dangerous than shots of whiskey!). Though, I doubt change can come quick enough (and the reactionary fixing of heavy liberal bias could lead to worse hardened hearts, ie extreme patriotism and mere human zeal for worship can get unhealthy like the 1950’s red scare), we’re going to have to slog through many decades of reconciliation from having moved away from “Free Market” education.
What do I mean by Free Market Education? Simply that school systems must have Right to Work environments (that can reject a union monopoly), and the customer chooses the product and can “fire” the teacher and school simply by switching schools and classrooms. “Public” education needs massive deregulation of funding and simple regulation via standards. If teachers and students don’t meet the standards, then it’s unfair for them to receive their documents. OR, we’ll just have to become the underperformed nation on the global market which eventually chooses better leadership. Who would that be? I suppose it would be whomever hustles more for it.
Another Catholic college helping their vocationally inclined students:
Interesting comments. Thanks.
I didn't mean to downplay the role of the Knights! Yes, donations (sometimes very significant donations) and help with expenses. The Knights of Columbus have been very generous to us here, both in monetary donations and offering to help with manual work (we just built a new friary with Friars and volunteers).
Also, praise God for Christendom College in Front Royal, VA. For any student who enters the seminary or religious life they will drop the debt entirely!!!
Thank you, Father, for your kind words.
“Yes, donations (sometimes very significant donations) and help with expenses.”
And SCHOLARSHIPS!! And LOTS OF SCHOLARSHIPS!! To about ONE HUNDRED THIRTY SEMINARIANS!!
I’m sorry. I can’t help myself. It’s the Grand Knight coming out in me. LOL.
“Firstly, I couldnt imagine how naive and vulnerable young women are their first year away from mom and dad (and thats if both her biological parents are still living as a family; its worse when shes from a broken home). Oh, and its far easier to ‘pluck’ a young man when in the company of incorrigible ‘friends’. Those unscrupulous young men who learned the knack of taking off a young girls knickers off said that it was easier than taking candy away from a baby...and that the girls thought that easy sex was suppose to be the norm.”
One hopes that by 18, one has done enough of a job of parenting that one’s son or daughter has some moral fiber. As well, in particular, the University of Maryland has a thriving Newman Society for the support of young Catholics on campus. As far as I know, the university creates no impediments to participation therein. Thus, one’s son or daughter may choose the company of friends he keeps, and that company of friends need not necessarily be incorrigible.
“Perhaps Maryland would do more favor for freshmen if the anti-God state didnt play surrogate parent. Yes, Maryland is a socialist state, pro-abortion/homosexuality/sin etc. The type of ‘authority’ not to be allowed to have ANY power over your children, and the type of local government not deserving of your money. Why would anyone trust such a government whod say that the Teachings of Christ are considered ‘hate crimes’?”
Having lived in Maryland since 1966, I’m not altogether enamored of the state government, nor its politics. However, your statements here are exaggerations. The fact is that, as I’ve said, the College Park campus has a thriving, orthodox Newman Society chapter, faithful to the teachings of the Church, and has not been banned for “hate crimes.”
“Secondly, I dont doubt that todays college kids are ‘technically’ more adept than those who graduated 3 decades ago, but many of the young adult I know dont know spit about why state sponsored Atheism is so horrible.”
My sons know. And I expect that any sons and daughters of devout Catholics would know, as well, in that it is the obligation of Catholic parents to see to the proper education of their children. Certainly, one doesn’t send one’s children into the world with no armor.
“It’s really not much of a statistic when the only real chance of dropping out is when your heart ceases to beat.”
Actually, going back a way, Maryland routinely flunked out 20% of its freshman class every year, and saw another large chunk leave of its own accord. That’s after one year.
Part of that was due to the fact that the university once had much lower entrance standards than it had graduation standards. By raising its entrance standards, it’s helped reduce the drop-out rate. The university also believes that by more closely supervising incoming freshmen, it has helped reduce the drop-out rate. Your statement that one’s only chance of dropping out at Maryland is if one’s heart should stop beating is just plain old false.
“What does a (fill in the blank) graduate say at his/her first job?’ Answer: ‘Do you want fries to go with your burger?’
This is a false generalization. For folks who graduate with degrees in medieval literature who don’t go on to graduate school, this may be true. But Maryland’s strengths are primarily technical programs. I know folks who graduate with engineering degrees who are keenly sought after at graduation. Even when I was graduating from college, when Maryland’s programs were not nearly as prestigious, I knew fellows who, upon graduation, took very nice, very good junior engineering jobs in some very prestigious places. These weren’t top-of-the-class sorts, either - just competent, reasonably well-trained engineers.
“Another point of ‘safety’ on campus: Virginia Tech. I dont think Colleges are all that safe unless youre talking about the FBI Academy.”
You seem to be veering off into a condemnation of colleges generally. Is the suggestion that one avoid college altogether? After all, all those Virginia Tech kids were slaughtered while they were in class, whether they lived on or off campus.
Your last paragraphs seem to address elementary and secondary education, as opposed to post-secondary education. As I haven’t sent my children to the public schools, I view that part as not relevant to the discussion.
The bottom line is that Jesus told us that we are in the world but not of it. We are to be the salt, the light of the world. We can’t do that if we’re not in the world.
I will do my best to prepare my sons to be in the world but not of it. In preparing them, I’ve shielded them from as many of the corrosive elements of the world while they’re young. We homeschool our guys; our older son will be off to a Catholic high school on a part-time basis this coming year. They watch little television, have no video games, we’re careful about the literature that they read, and how they make use of the Internet. Their curricula includes the things they need to become men of God. They receive spiritual guidance to that end, as well.
But at some point, they will actually have to go into the world. Not without support, not without assistance. Nonetheless, as painful as it can be to anticipate, they will have to face the world.
I know that this isn’t your fault or your family’s fault, and perhaps not your immediate communities fault either; because, it’s not my fault that my state is in love with death too.
I wouldn’t live in your state. Taxes are too high, and the supposed “Catholic” politicians make voters feel too warm and fuzzy about wedding homosexuals, murdering unborn children, and playing Frankenstein scientists. My state is far worse...but then I don’t get enslaved financially to these monsters either. Likewise, I’ve avoided the pitfalls of college politics. The need of academic stability does not outweigh the responsibility of the Natural Family.
Your state might climb out of the death trap faster than mine. It’s probably because of the blood and persecution of Maryland’s Catholic Martyrs and the Blessed work of the Baltimore Catechism. Also, the sin-loving party is loosing arguments to keep voters from voting for family friendly issues. My state would rather get high on drugs and wait for the sky to fall on their heads (and I mean that literally).
I don’t look at Maryland with the vision of seeing it through my state’s experience. I see Maryland as having worked in and around the area and attending the Catholic Churches there. I see the heavy brochures and (gasp) speeches from the pulpit of “war=bad and worse than abortion and homosexual ‘love’; so vote democrat because Bush is the devil...seamless garment...Frankenstein science on harvesting human zygotes for the ‘common good’ stem cell research”. So, perhaps the urban churches are a far cry from the countryside (and the countryside Churches were far more obedient to the Word than the inner city).
So, I don’t have hope in human politics and its laws to force freshmen to leave the shelter of home even if your kids are going to an excellent school. I’m sure it’s getting better. But, if you still hold these offspring as “tax deductibles”, then shouldn’t you have decision making power in where they live during their college years if they, themselves also want to live at home? But to have a state “authority” usurp that decision from you...now that seems more than just a tad tyrannical by way of morals. The cops in the big city have more to worry about than playing truancy officer to college kids that should be studying. Yes, I’ve been to Baltimore (drove down the wrong streets even...thank you God in Heaven for protecting me). Cops were not looking for college kids and asking them if they studied for that upcoming test.
But, if you don’t claim the young tax deductible on your IRS account, then perhaps the youth can live entirely as an adult of their own free will and a budget independent of the family from which they sprung. Then there’s no worry about where the adult lives on their own...with or without mom and dad. But why should a college or state care? Does a university and oligarchy of politicians really know better than you, the tax deductible’s parent and rightful authority and first friend in this world?
State and education institutions have overstepped the bounds of Natural Family. I don’t think that a State U is previlged enough to claim the sort of responsibility that a military academy has. If your kid was going to the USN Annapolis, then I would think that your argument for college kid protectionism as sponsored by the college itself might have a wee bit of clout. But since this is merely a secular college, I think that you have far more authority in deciding the security needs of your offspring, in spite of the legal “adult” age of the youth, then ALL state sponsored universities and colleges (and private ones, too) put together.
The world didn’t copulate your child into existence. That was God as Author and you and your spouse co-joined in worship that brought such creation. It was wrong for the secular state to impose itself into your family’s existence. Families should be telling the state where to go. Maybe your kids feel safe enough to live away from home. What about the freshman who doesn’t want to live in a dorm? What if she feels uncomfortable with students who are hostile to the “freaks” who call themselves Christian? Does she really have to live on campus? Will she get to carry a weapon for protection against those who stalk her the way the Virgina Tech killer had stalked classmates?
No. I think the child going to college should not be barred from going home to her parents ESPECIALLY during the freshman year. Laws should not be made that rip the Natural Family apart. Using academic stability as an argument is a lie. The many massacres, stalkings, date rapes, and naked political/religious hostility on multiple college campuses expose that lie. Laws like these are meant silence the lion within the sheep. Parents teach kids how to roar—not college professors nor students. Professors merely pass on knowledge of the world. Students are merely friends to pass time and releive stress. Parents are the true extension of Authority. The godless state can go to hell.
**some dioceses are willing to work with seminarians to deal with debt; **
Aware of this.
**Do the Knights of Columbus help?**
Yes, other organizations too.
Likewise, YLI, Young Ladies Institute, has a seminary burse fund. Our chapter, alone, donated nearly $3000 last year.
If this problem is laid out for folks in Parishes, there may be some who might feel called to help these young men. I'm sure that they, like I, would hate to think that there are young men who are foregoing the priesthood, or men and women the religious life, because they don't see a way clear through the financial problems posed by the undergraduate degree.
Thanks for that information, I’ll pass it on to folks in our Diocese of Worcester,MA, and the Diocese of Biloxi MS, in which my hubby’s brother is a priest.