Skip to comments.Attorney struggles to pay off student loans to enter cloistered monastery
Posted on 10/22/2012 1:34:16 PM PDT by NYer
.- Like many young urban professionals, Anchorage attorney Tara Clemens is gradually chipping away at her burdensome student loans.
Unlike everybody else in town, though, Clemens’ motive for paying off the debt has to do with a desire to become a cloistered Dominican nun.
Having already been accepted into the Dominican convent in Menlo Park, Calif., Clemens has been forced to put her religious vocation on hold until she pays off the debt.
Clemens, who has been profiled in two previous Catholic Anchor articles, is not alone in her situation of having to postpone a religious vocation because of large student debt.
According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, one third of people inquiring about potential study at Catholic training institutions already had student debt averaging $28,000. Although some dioceses and religious orders are willing to help with debt, it’s a financial burden few can carry. Given that many enter religious life at an older age with advanced degrees, student debt is a growing obstacle to religious vocations.
Clemens, however, speaks with optimism about her present situation and her desire to enter the cloister. Raised as an evangelical Christian, in college she found herself searching for the right church. She asked God to lead her.
When a classmate invited her to Mass she went, confident it would verify her conviction that the Catholic Church was the wrong church. Instead God began to pull her towards conversion, and she entered the Catholic Church in 2008.
“I’ve been discerning religious life ever since I entered,” Clemens told the Catholic Anchor.
And she felt called to the Menlo Park Monastery, where she found a profound sense of peace in the monastic community, which she visited several times before making her decision to apply. She was accepted by the order for her aspirancy, in which she spent a month living in the cloister.
But then it was back to work to get rid of the debt that’s standing between her and the Dominican community. She’s living with her parents to cut costs.
Although Clemens’ parents are not Catholic, she says they’re supportive.
“I love my family, and I know how much they love me,” she said. “Ultimately they want me to be happy.”
Keeping in touch with her new religious family is important to Clemens as well.
“I keep up with the nuns through correspondence and email,” she said. “This year I’ve been down to visit twice, with another trip planned this fall.”
A native of Wasilla, she grew up and did her post-high school education in Washington and Oregon. After college she worked for an Anchorage law firm, briefly founded her own firm, and now she works as a paralegal, all the while chipping away at a mountain of debt, which at one point topped $114,000. She has reduced that to under $100,000 and hopes her involvement with the Laboure Society will pave the way for what she feels is her true calling.
The very existence of the Laboure Society underscores the growing problem of pursuing a religious vocation while straining under oppressive student debt. Founded in 2003 by two Minnesota Catholic businessmen, the Laboure Society is a non-profit organization that has assisted over 230 people in paying off loans before entering religious life.
Clemens belongs to an “aspirant class” at Laboure. Stories about Clemens and the 10 other people in her Laboure group are on the organization’s website. Members of her class met in Minnesota, and they continue to support each other through correspondence, calls and prayer.
“We all meet once a month via telephone. It’s been a way to support each other, and build our relationship as the Body of Christ.”
Each member of her Laboure class has a goal to raise $45,000 this year. Clemens has about $38,000 to go. Grant determinations will be made in January or February, and Clemens has her hopes set on a positive outcome.
With the crushing debt burden and the realization that she won’t be practicing law, does she regret her law school education?
“Sometimes, because of the debt, I wonder,” she said thoughtfully. “But I see how God used my law school education to bring me to the Catholic Church. Law school teaches you to think analytically, and it developed my logic and reasoning skills. This helped me in my search for the truth.”
Our life of contemplation, work, and silence is a joyful, total self-giving for the salvation of the world. Our main focus is prayer. We chant the full Divine Office in Choir each day fulfilling what the psalmist has said: "Seven times a day I will praise Thee." Each Sister also spends an additional two hours each day in private prayer, Adoration, and spiritual reading. This intercession of prayer extends beyond the monastery walls to all the corners of the world. While we live an enclosed life, this separation paradoxically opens our heart wider in love and concern for God's people.
Dominican Contemplative Nuns - Corpus Christi Monastery
Personally, and as a Catholic, I don’t think this woman knows what she wants. She was/is an attorney and only became Catholic in 2008? Maybe God is telling her to take a little more time (by paying off that huge loan) and think about if you really want to become a nun.
Is she trying to scam the nunnery??
Sh’s living with he parents now....Sweet life...
St. Faustina, as she is known today, couldn’t join the convent until she was able to buy her habit....she worked as a nanny for over a year to earn the money.
A lawyer turned nun?
The mind boggles....
Part of a steady drip...drip....drip of articles I’ve noticed over the past couple of years.
Obama is getting ready to announce a Student Loan Forgiveness program. They’re just lining up all the victims to help him make his case.
Obama cannot unilaterally, by executive order, absolve federally guaranteed student loan debt. He cannot amend the Bankruptcy Code by executive order either. I don’t care what anyone says, the fears of a lame duck session are overstated, tempered by the fact of a GOP majority in the House.
I know someone with more than a quarter of a million dollars in GSL’s. He earned 4 degrees with that borrowing. But it’s not going anywhere. It can’t be discharged, and it won’t be forgiven.
The various articles entitled “Student Loans - the Next Ticking Time Bomb?”, etc. seem to forget that the thing which was purchased with the loans is an intangible, supposed enhancement of the value of the student who borrowed for an education. There is no separate collateral to repossess. So there isn’t a market to crash, as in housing.
I think one of the most important concepts that has to be ushered in with Mitt Romney is responsibility, personal responsibility. That not everything can be deemed a public good and therefore be supplied on the backs of the general revenue taxpayer. Nothing is more personal that the supposed enhancement of human capital that comes from an education. The fact that I have 3 degrees does not add value to the guy who lives next door. So, he shouldn’t be responsible for repaying student loans I may undertake to pay for said education.
By the grace of God, I have NEVER been tempted to obtain a student loan. I applied for a Pell grant once and was denied because me and my family were not destitute and living under a bridge. So, between my GI Bill and my paycheck and going to school at night, I managed to work my way through school and, when I graduated, I had no school debt.
Right now, student loan debt exceeds 1 Trillion dollars and enslaves college graduates for YEARS!!!! We have GOT to get back to a time when people don't expect to attend college while collecting a mountain of debt. It's ridiculous.
I couldn’t get fed. gov. student loans so I got regular bank loans for college 1970-1973. My parents “made too much money” even though they were Dirt Poor, drove old cars, lived in same tiny house they always lived in, lived paycheck to paycheck. And they weren’t helping me, not one penny, so their financial shape shouldn’t have mattered. But back then you could go to univ so cheap. Tuition was about $200 a semester, and dorms were about $98 a month room & board. Apartments were even cheaper. So you could go for about $1300 a year back then, not including books. I worked summers at a hot glass factory in Okla - no AC there. But I did it and repaid my loans. My son cost us $75K a year room/board, tuition, books, etc. Private college. We paid for all of our kids’ college. Didn’t buy a new car for almost 20 years!
My sister went back to school evenings and got her law degree, and had no loans.
Well, do not be SURPRISED when once Obama gets defeated, in order to make life really, really hard for the new incoming GOP majorities, he WILL play “fast and lose”, so as to make it hard, including a LOT of EO’s.
“Obama cannot unilaterally, by executive order, absolve federally guaranteed student loan debt.”
Sure he can and he’s done such a thing already. He amended the 1996 welfare laws requiring work by simply saying his admin won’t require it. He can simply erase all student debt by setting all accounts to zero.
My first thought.
Get the govt. out of the SL business and watch tuition tumble.
Obama cannot unilaterally, by executive order, give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. He did it anyway.
We used to be a nation of laws. Hopefully when Obama is gone we will be again.
He didn’t amend the laws. He granted waivers to states (including those who didn’t ask for them), which was something he can do as an executive administering the laws passed by Congress via implementing rules promulgated after the law was passed by Congress. Congress gave him the latitude, unfortunately, he used it. Congress should remember this the next time they visit the subject of welfare laws, and take away the discretion of the President to have such leeway in implementation.
Minor point come January 20th, 2013.
I would think that she would be of use to a local chapter of Catholic Charities. She could fill a vocation and pay her loans off that way.
A lawyer enters a life of seclusion? I’m all for it! Only 1,225,451 more to go.