Question: Who Pays for Seminary?

stack of dollars

Not all the questions about the seminary experience deal with weighty theological issues.  Some of them are, in fact, pretty mundane.

Seminary — like most higher education — isn’t cheap.  So, who is paying for the training for the next generation of priests and religious?

The answer is: it depends.

As we mentioned a while back, there are two kinds of priests:  diocesan and order.  (Sometimes referred to as secular and religious priests — toss out that bit of trivia at a party and watch your friends try to puzzle out the difference.)  Among the other differences, diocesan priests generally draw a salary and are expected to pay for their own food, transportation, etc.  Order priests generally do not draw a salary and are dependent on their order for all of their material needs.  In practice, this means that diocesan priests need to be careful managers of their money as the salary isn’t that great while order priests rely on the order to balance needs the of the entire community.  As our previous pastor put it (with tongue firmly in cheek), “Order priests take the vow of poverty, diocesan priests live it.”

This is important because diocesan seminarians often attend seminaries which aren’t associated with the diocese and will be assessed tuition.  This responsibility may be picked up by the seminarian, their parents or the diocese or some combination thereof.  The Office for Vocations for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis addresses the question by saying:

How much does it cost?  Who pays?
Everyone is concerned about the high cost of education, including potential seminarians and their families.  In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the archdiocese will pay for the room and board cost of our college seminarians as a scholarship. This does not need to be paid back. In addition, the University of St. Thomas offers a 35% discount on tuition for seminary students. The seminarian and his family are required to fund the rest of the cost through regular scholarships, financial aid, and loans.

There are (not surprisingly) many scholarships available to seminarians.  Often, there is also a distinction between those entering “college seminary” for the purpose of earning an undergraduate degree and those who have earned a bachelors degree and are moving to the next level of formation.  The Diocese of Des Moines outlines such a program:

How much will it cost to go to the seminary?

This depends on which level of Seminary formation you enter.  For those that enter as college seminarians, the cost will be the responsibility of the seminarian.  As would be typical for any other college student, you will fill out FAFSA forms for student loans.  The college seminary programs we use typically have reduced tuition for seminarians as well as scholarships that are available.  One college seminary program gives a scholarship that covers your full tuition.  Regardless, you can expect significant expenses for college, which will remain your responsibility regardless of whether you are ordained for the diocese.  The rationale behind this policy is that college is a pre-requisite for professional life in any capacity in our culture, and whether or not you become a priest your degree will serve you well into the future.  The Diocese does provide college seminarians with re-imbursement for books and certain travel required by the diocese, as well as a monthly stipend.  You are encouraged to work during the summer for extra spending money.

The policy is different for men that enter seminary for Pre-Theology (those with a college degree but in need of required philosophy before studying Theology) or Theology.  The Diocese will cover the entire amount of your tuition, room and board, as well reimburse you for books, certain travel required by the diocese, and will provide a monthly stipend.   These expenses do not have to be re-paid in the event you discern out of seminary formation.

What do I do if I have previous student loans that are not fully paid off yet?

The diocese, while it provides for much of your training as a seminarian, cannot offer assistance in paying off previous college loans. However, many loans can be deferred, some without accruing extra interest, until the time you finish seminary training and are ordained a priest, at which time you receive a salary and can pay off your loans.

As much as possible, Vocations Offices and Seminaries try to remove the obstacle of money.  And there are plenty of private donors who are doing what they can to aid in preparing the next generation of priests. An article on the Vision Vocation Network website notes:

Fortunately there are many benefactors who donate directly to seminaries or make funds available through scholarships or grants. Two Catholic organizations that have generously supported vocations are the Knights of Columbus (contact your local council) and the Laboure Society (www.labourefoundation.org).

At the diocesan level, the Vocations Director would be able to provide better information for a particular case.

Seminarians who enter as part of an order, often have their training provided for (in whole or in part) by the order.  The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary uses a mixed approach:

How much does it cost to educate a seminarian?

he actual cost is about $22,000 per year. Most of this cost is paid through the generosity of our benefactors, who deserve our prayers every day. The cost that FSSP seminarians currently are responsible for is $7,000 per year for tuition, room and board.

What if I cannot pay for my annual tuition and room/board?

We ask all seminarians to do their best to pay everything they are able to pay. This includes actively seeking benefactors, running an ad in your home parish bulletin, asking priests for financial help, and applying for scholarships with various Catholic support groups. However, if you do not come up with all of the tuition money you will not be required to leave. Nor do we deny entrance to men due to an inability to pay these costs.

In Evan’s case, he was required to be debt-free (with the exception of his student loans) before he could be accepted as a novice.  His room, board, and training are all provided by the order and he is given a small stipend each month for incidentals such as toiletries, clothing, and personal transportation.  Living in DC (and having to switch for a college wardrobe of jeans and t-shirts to a wardrobe of business casual) the stipend is adequate, but not excessive.  Fortunately, two different Utah Councils of the Knights of Columbus (St. Olaf’s in Bountiful and St. Mary of the Assumption in Park City) have adopted Evan under the RSVP program.  He wasn’t aware of the program until they contacted him.  He was (and is) touched by their generosity.

— Dad

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Question: What is the Paulist Mission?

Hecker1This past week the novices spent some time with Fr. Colgan learning more about the Paulist mission.  Seemed a good excuse to post a few words about what make the Paulists unique.

In short, the Paulists are a missionary order who work primarily in North America.

Their three-fold mission is:

— Evangelization, by giving the Word of God a voice “using tools of the modern age”

— Reconciliation with Catholics who have left the church

— Ecumenical outreach to build bridges with other faiths

All of this relates back to Fr. Isaac Hecker, a Redemptorist priest who was called by the Holy Spirit as a missionary to the people of North America.  This puts the Paulist priests out into the community as much as possible, finding ways to build bridges and understanding.

A couple of notable examples of this ministry include The Busted Halo and Fr. James DiLuzio’s Luke Live.

Busted Halo is a far reaching ministry designed to reach out to the young who have questions of faith.  (Although those of us who are “older” can learn a lot there as well.)  Among the tools of Busted Halo you’ll find a comprehensive and frequently-updated website, a daily radio program on Sirius XM, and a variety of podcasts which include homilies and a more-or-less-weekly Q&A show with Fr. Dave Dwyer and Fr. Steven Bell.

Luke Live is a parish mission in which Fr. James brings his considerable vocal and theatrical talents into play to illuminate and instruct around the Gospel of Luke.  We’ve been privileged to have him bring the mission to our parish twice now and both visits were remarkable and uplifting.

And, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two of their more well-known ministries; Paulist Press and Paulist Productions.  The first of these is a publishing house and the second a film production company.

One last note, this week Evan will be meeting with a Sulpician priest.  I had never heard of the Sulpicians and was surprised to discover that they are an order which is dedicated to the formation of priests.  Kind of neat that such and order exists.  I look forward to hearing more about them in the future.

— Dad

Question: What Does A Novice Do?

The first few weeks of Evan’s Novitiate have been somewhat busy, but things are beginning to settle down.

In addition to the initial retreat, his unexpected trip back to Utah, and his brief stay in New York City, he’s had the privilege of attending Jimmy Hsu’s Final Promise Mass and Mass of Ordination as a Transitional Deacon.  The participation of the entire Paulist Community in DC in these events underscores the deep commitment these men have to the order and their connectedness and it was — by all accounts — a joyous celebration.

With that past, the novices are beginning to settle into the routine that will serve them in their discernment during the coming months.  I’m going to share (as best I can) a snapshot of that life.  If I miss something, I’ll ask that the novices be generous and gentle in correcting my errors.

7:45 a.m. — Morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.  (If you’re interested in sharing that experience, you can find out more at Universalis.com and DivineOffice.org)

Breakfast after prayer

9:30 a.m. — Conference with other novices.  This may be discussions of the texts the novices have been reading, current issues facing the Church or the order, events of the day, explorations of different forms of prayer and spirituality, and theology discussions.  From what I gather, this is sort of an updated version of the old academic notion of a colloquy or seminar.

Noon — Lunch, like all meals, taken in common with the community.

The afternoon is free time during which the novices engage in personal prayer and study as they seek to enter into a deeper relationship with God.  They have all been given a number of books — some of which are mandatory reading and some of which they selected themselves.  The mandatory reading includes 101 Questions and Answers on Paul and the biography of Isaac Hecker (founder of the order), among other books.  For the self-selected reading, Evan just finished a book on Native Meso-American Spirituality and Dan (another novice whom I have gotten to know through Facebook) is reading Where the Hell is God?

4:50 p.m.  — Prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

5:15 p.m. — Mass in the adjacent St. Paul chapel.

5:45 p.m. — Pre-Dinner Social.

6:15 p.m. — Dinner, again taken with the community.

7:30 p.m. — Communal prayer, led by the novices.  Each day (in rotation) one of the novices selects the prayer.  Sometimes they pray the Liturgy of the Hours for the evening, sometimes other prayers.  Evan chose the Chaplet of St. Michael last week when it was his turn.

In addition to the daily routine, there are certain special days during the week.

On Wednesday, the schedule is altered to accommodate Mass at noon in the Holy Spirit Chapel and the evening prayer at 5:15 is led by the students.  (Once a candidate complete the novice year and make his first promise, he is considered a student.)

On Friday, Mass and prayer are at 7:30 a.m. and the novices have the rest of the day free.  Evan has been using his time to explore DC a bit and spent last Friday visiting the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian.

Saturday is the work period for the novices when they are assigned chores such as cleaning and mopping.

Evan also tells me that a Paulist Father (Tom Ryan, I believe) has generously allowed the novices to participate in his class “Body, Mind and Heart” which connects Christian prayer to the meditative practices of yoga.

They novices are also being trained for their apostolates.  These involve the novices working the local community and parishes to help out.  I don’t have a clear idea of what Evan will be assigned yet, but once I do I’ll be back with another post.

As always, questions are welcome.

— Dad

Question: What is a Vocation?

imageWhen I set out to write this particular post, I thought it would be easy.  You hear about “vocations” all the time.  Except, when I started researching, it seemed to be more subtle and complex than I expected.

I’m going to take my best shot and hope that if I stray, someone will be kind enough to correct me.

I’ll start with a quote from St. John Paul II.

What is a vocation? It is an interior call of grace, which falls into the soul like a seed, to mature within it. (Angelus message, December 14, 1980)

The Lumen Gentium, (one of the principle documents to come out of the Second Vatican Council) explains that there is a sort of universal vocation:

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history. (40)

My first thought was, “Oh.  Is that all?”  The “perfection of charity” and “holiness” seems like something of a tall order.  But it’s right there in black-and-white and (just in case you missed it) there’s a reference to this in paragraph 2013 of the Catechism.

Both those quotes contain within them the notion of a “call” from God; an invitation to live a life of holiness.  What’s interesting is that the Lumen Gentium acknowledges that there are many different ways that this life of holiness can be lived.  Section 41 speaks eloquently about bishops and priests, other consecrated clerics, lay ministers, married couples, widows, single people, “those who engage in labor”, the poor, the infirm, and the sick.  It concludes by sweeping them all up into a final paragraph:

Finally all Christ’s faithful, whatever be the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives—and indeed through all these, will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the divine will. In this temporal service, they will manifest to all men the love with which God loved the world. (41)

This is often referred to as the “universal vocation” and I’m taken with this notion that we are all encouraged to pursue holiness as our primary vocation, by acting out our calling.  It’s the word “calling” that most Catholics think of when they hear the word “vocation”.

Traditionally, Catholic thought turns to three different vocations as “primary” vocations or callings; holy orders, consecrated life, or marriage.  Holy orders refers to those who are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops.  Consecrated life refers to those who have taken vows to live “the evangelical councils of poverty, chastity and obedience“; the most common of which are those who live in religious communities such as monks or nuns.  Marriage is also a vocation, although one that is often held in too little regard in the common culture.

All of these primary vocations — these paths to holiness — are a response to God’s call and all of them involve a total gift of self.  For married couples, we are called to give ourselves wholly and unreservedly to our spouse.  For those taking vows, they are giving themselves totally to God.

I found a wonderful article on OSV.COM that explains it very eloquently:

In the case of each primary vocation, that gift of self is not a transitory or temporary thing. It’s not given one day and taken back the next. Rather, the central relationship of each is spousal. It’s exclusive, total and enduring. When the gift of self is made to God, enduring is a “for all eternity” kind of enduring. When the gift of self is made to another person, it’s just an “until death to us part” kind of enduring. Nevertheless, the idea is the same: You fully and freely give yourself to another, and through that giving you pursue your universal vocation, holiness.

One of the keys — if not the key — to working toward holiness is surrender.  It’s that wonderful paradox that comes up again and again in Christ’s teachings — the idea that to attain the most that God has for us, we have to give up our self.

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily* and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

Which doesn’t mean that we turn our backs on life.  Most of us have bills to pay and families to raise and (yes!) parishes to support and that means taking up some form of worldly labor.  You’ll sometimes see this referred to as a “secondary vocation”. Having a job (or even a career) facilitates our survival and it can also be part of our journey toward holiness  The Lumen Gentium recognizes this when it says:

Finally, those who engage in labor—and frequently it is of a heavy nature—should better themselves by their human labors. They should be of aid to their fellow citizens. They should raise all of society, and even creation itself, to a better mode of existence. Indeed, they should imitate by their lively charity, in their joyous hope and by their voluntary sharing of each others’ burdens, the very Christ who plied His hands with carpenter’s tools and Who in union with His Father, is continually working for the salvation of all men. In this, then, their daily work they should climb to the heights of holiness and apostolic activity. (41)

There is — as I discovered in writing this — a lot more territory to cover when it comes to vocations including the question of discerning God’s will for our lives.  I’ll end this now, though, with an encouraging quote from Thomas Merton.

Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.

Thomas Merton

–Dad

Question: Can You Talk To Evan?

Phone_numberpadThis past Wednesday we took Evan to the Salt Lake airport at an early hour. (Did you know there’s a five in the morning now?)  As I’ve been talking with my colleagues and telling them that he’s gone to the seminary, one question keeps coming up over and over:

Can you talk to him?

Ummmm….yeah.

In fact, on Friday he took a few moments out of his day to call and wish my mother a happy birthday.  On Saturday, he gave us a call to update us on his first three days at St. Paul’s College.

All along, he’s been swapping texts with his older brother and we’ve been able to send him e-mails.

I think the reason the question keeps coming up is that many of my colleagues are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — Mormons — and they speak out of their experience of sending children off on religious missions.   Although it is not required, young Mormons are encouraged to serve a voluntary mission.  During the time that these young people are away from home (two years for men, eighteen months for women) they are not permitted to call home except on Christmas and Mother’s Day.  Beyond that, Missionaries are encouraged to write a letter home once a week.  In recent years, these letters have come in the form of weekly e-mails.

Since many of these missionaries are young and serving in distant lands, parents are understandably concerned and eager to hear that their children are safe and well.

And, perhaps, some of my colleagues are confusing seminary with a cloistered order in which all communications are strictly controlled.  To be fair, there are seminaries which are more strict and seminaries which are less so.  The Paulists seem to be interested in having their seminarians engaged with the world and so Evan is readily available to communicate with us.  When he was away at college, he called us once a week to chat.  I expect that will continue so long as he’s available.

While we’re on the topic, let me share a few highlights of Evan’s week.

I asked Evan how he was doing and he admitted that it was a lot to absorb in just three days.  He was looking forward to this week’s opening retreat at Lake George.

–Dad

Question: What is a Vocations Director

riceOne of the things that’s impressed me the most about Evan’s journey is the level of support that he’s had.

See that smiling fellow on the left of the page?  His name is Fr. Larry Rice and he’s the current Vocations Director for the Paulists.  His job is to guide men in the process of discernment.  He talks to them, prays for them and with them, and assists them on their journey.

The Vocation Network website puts it this way:

A vocation director is designated by a religious institute to promote vowed membership, to help others discern their vocation, and to oversee the application process of new members entering the community as a postulant. They assist those who are considering the possibility of religious life by providing support, discernment counseling, and information.The Vocation director for a religious congregation answers to the elected superiors of their congregation. The National Religious Vocation Conference is the professional organization for vocation directors of religious communities.

Vocation Directors who work on behalf of a diocese answer to the bishop.They have  their own professional organization, the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors.)

It might sound (a little) like Vocations Directors are recruiters, looking to grow the ranks.  This isn’t the case.  In fact, anyone who has been pressured is not (by canon law) permitted to take vows.  The ordained life — like marriage — is only legitimately available to those who choose it freely.

It might interest you to know that there are Vocations Directors for nuns as well.  Sister M. Consolata is the Vocations Director for the Sisters of St. Francis of Alton, Illinois.  She describes her role in working with young women in the process of discernment.

My role is to help you.  Do you feel a tug on your heart to give everything to Jesus?  Do you desire to live only for Him?  Or maybe you are just wondering what religious life is all about.

I am here to help answer your questions and walk with you during your time of discernment.  Remember, the Lord takes the first initiative.  He loves you.  Yes, YOU!  Then He invites you to make a response to His love.  Be not afraid! I would love to hear from you and about your journey with of faith.

Whether you’re a woman considering a vocation as a nun or a man considering the priesthood, your first contact should be with a Vocations Director.  There will likely be one in your diocese and there are plenty of links on the web that you can use to contact them.  Communicating with a Vocations Director will be an important step in the vocation journey — not just for the discerner, but also for that person’s family.

We haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet Evan’s current Vocations Director, Fr. Rice.  We did get to meet Fr. Rice’s predecessor, Fr. Dave Farnum when he came through Utah to meet with Evan a year ago last spring.  Fr. Dave is a wonderful man who told us about his own call to the priesthood.  He reassured us about the process of discernment and gave us insight into what the ordained life would be like.  We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him and are grateful for everything that he — and Fr. Rice — have done for Evan.

–Dad

Question: What is an "Order" Priest?

In an earlier post, we mentioned that our son will be attending the Paulist seminary.  That invites the question, “What is a Paulist?”

Before we can get to the answer to that, it might be helpful to explain the difference between diocesan priests and order priests — sometimes referred to as secular and religious priests.

The word “priest” often conjures up the image of a kindly fellow in a roman collar who works at the local parish.  Sort of a latter day version of Bing Crosby’s character in Going My Way.  There’s a bit of Hollywood hyperbole going on with Bing Crosby, but the image of a diocesan priest is essentially correct.

A man who is ordained as a diocesan priest promises to obey and respect the diocesan bishop and his successors and to live a life of chastity.  His task is to serve the people of the diocese primarily by administering the sacraments.

In a 2009 article from the Catholic News Service, Father Brian Doerr, vocations director for the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana says:

From the beginning, you’ve discerned that you’ll be ordained and be in the world living and working

Most diocesan priests serve as pastors or associate pastors at local parishes, but some are assigned to other ministries such as teaching in parochial schools.

Order priests, on the other hand, belong to a particular religious community.  Religious communities are formally organized catholic groups working on the particular mission or charism of their founder.  For example, Pope Francis is a Jesuit.  That means he is a member of a religious community for men that is known as The Society of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyla in 1540.

Fr. Warren Sazama (a Jesuit) uses a healthcare metaphor to explain the differences:

One diocesan priest I know referred to diocesan priests as the general practitioners of the clergy and compared religious to specialists. As in medicine, the Church needs both. So, while for the most part diocesan priests serve in parishes, religious can serve in a variety of ways according to the “charism,” or unique vision and mission of their founder. That might be in schools, hospitals, orphanages, missions, retreat houses, social justice centers, or other ministries in accordance with the inspiration, special vision, mission, and spirituality of their founder

Finally, just because I find it amusing, I wanted to share something I found while researching this post.  The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Department of Labor includes Roman Catholic Priest among the many thousands of other job titles it lists.  I’m not sure it’s proper to refer to a priestly vocation as a “job”, but I can’t disagree with the government’s assessment that:

Many priests will be needed in the years ahead to provide for the spiritual, educational, and social needs of the increasing number of Catholics.

–Dad

So Many Questions

In the two-and-a-half years since my wife and I became aware of our son’s vocation call, it’s been interesting telling people about it.

I remember telling some good Catholic friends about it the December after he told us. Their first response was surprise, followed closely by something that looked almost like sympathy.

We’ve seen that look over-and-over among our Catholic friends. They are all pleased, but they also understand the level of commitment that comes with the vocation.

“Is he old enough?”

That’s an interesting question. When I was his age, I was newly married. I’d made a lifelong commitment of fidelity and obedience and no one seemed to mind overmuch. It would be wonderful to believe that everyone knew how mature I was for my age and that I’d make a wonderful husband. It would be wonderful…and inaccurate. Nobody really knew what lay ahead for me — for us — but I guess we trusted in God’s grace.

As an aside, it is interesting that many people perceive priestly vows as more binding and difficult than those of marriage. Perhaps this is because a priest is taking a vow of service to God. Or, perhaps it is because people don’t fully understand the rewards of the priesthood.

Whatever the case, God has blessed Cathy and I with a long and satisfying marriage.

We approach our son’s vocation with the same faith. (We try to, at least.) His period of discernment has already lasted longer than our engagement and he has quite a bit of time yet to go. If he continues on this path to the point of ordination, he’ll be blessed with the ontological change which occurs in all priests.

Is he young? Yes. But so were we when we got married. So were thousands of priests. All any of us can do is put our trust in God and move ahead.

P.S.
Of course, this isn’t the only question we’ve been asked. There have been lots of others. We’ll be addressing them in future posts. If you’d like to ask us a question, feel free to post in the comments or e-mail us at SeminarianParents@gmail.com

–Dad