QUAERITUR – For Readers: Religious Life and Debt

I get quite a few email asking for advice/help from people who want to enter religious life, but cannot yet be accepted into a community because they have debts, usually student loans, etc.

Do you readers know of any group, organization, institution, etc., which can help people with this problem?

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49 Responses to QUAERITUR – For Readers: Religious Life and Debt

  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I know there are some organizations for that, but I don’t remember their names. (Argh!)

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    http://labouresociety.org/
    The Laboure Society

    http://fundforvocations.org/
    The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations

  3. Supertradmum says:

    I would like to chime in with some advice. It is not wrong to get a job and pay off debts and then go into a religious order. Any work one does adds to character-building, and if it is a true vocation, it will survive. If one is entering a religious order because of unemployment, that is not a good test of discernment. Let me make a comparison. An older woman was talking about her son, who could not find good Catholic girl to marry. I asked her is he was working and saving money for a family, and she said no, he was traveling through Europe. I was astounded. Well, that to me is an impediment to a Catholic marriage-unemployment for a male.

    Those groups which help may be the answer, but a real Catholic man would exhaust all possibilities of paying it himself first before begging, I think. I know two young men who are doing manual labor jobs, like cleaning and doing gardening work, to pay off college debt, and have been accepted into seminaries. I would hope parents would help as well.

  4. ray from mn says:

    I know a little bit about the Laboure Society. They do not assume responsibility for your debt immediately. They will begin to make your payments, if they decide to. But if you, or your religious order or diocese, decide that you don’t have a vocation, you will again be responsible for all remaining loan payments.

  5. Philangelus says:

    I’d like to chime in with Supertradmum. A second job and an extra year of spiritual formation while the pre-seminarian lives a life of voluntary poverty would in some ways be a better foundation for the religious life, and certainly God can make use of it.

    While it would be awesome to get all our debts written off (like an indulgence), it’s also a kind of “purgatory” to have to defer our desires while working off the debt we’ve incurred. The frustration of having to wait another year or longer could be offered up, and the individual would have a better understanding of the plight of the souls in Purgatory who ardently desire to be with God Himself, except that they’re paying off their debts too.

  6. APX says:

    It is sometimes not feasible to get a job and pay off student loan debt. I’ve looked into this, as I am too poor to take a vow of poverty at the moment. I can’t speak to US student loan debts, but it is not uncommon to graduate from University after a 4 year degree with a $50-60,000 in student loans, and no real good-paying job prospects. If you’re a woman, the cut off age for many women-religious groups is around the 30-35 years old range. The amount of time it will take to realistically pay-off that loan is too long. Sometimes extra help is needed. This is actually a real issue for vocations. I was Googling it one day, and I was astonished of how much it affects people’s vocations.

    I have heard of religious orders who will take people with student loans (within reason) and make the minimum payments during discernment, and once final vows are made, make arrangements to have the debt paid off.

  7. flyfree432 says:

    “Those groups which help may be the answer, but a real Catholic man would exhaust all possibilities of paying it himself first before begging, I think. I know two young men who are doing manual labor jobs, like cleaning and doing gardening work, to pay off college debt, and have been accepted into seminaries. I would hope parents would help as well.”

    That amazes me that they can pay off seminary on a manual labor job before they turn 90 years old. The sheer cost of college is prohibitive for some of those around here with vocations. Not that they aren’t willing to work, but paying for college at $7.50 an hour is tough to do. Let’s be honest here – the greed of the previous generation has left a ridiculous number of young families and others with exorbitant amounts of debt.

    The Laboure Society isn’t begging, and calling it that, I think, will decrease the number of men and women willing to seek vocations. The Church wants them to have advanced degrees, so let’s do what we can to help them get through without debt so they can give their lives to the kingdom.

  8. Gail F says:

    Gotta chime in with the last few people here — getting help with debt is not begging, and a debt that might take 10 years or more to pay off is a huge impediment to entering a seminary (which will take about 7 years MORE) or to religious life. Many people in this country were not wise and took out huge student loans at the recommendation of all sorts of people who assured them that they could pay them back with their future large salaries — only to have the economy tank and be facing, not just large loans, but large loans they may NEVER be able to repay. There IS a difference between being unwilling to pay (or help pay) your student loans and expecting people to bail you out. I think we are going to see more of these groups spring up — at least I hope so!

  9. diem says:

    Any work one does adds to character-building, and if it is a true vocation, it will survive.

    This strikes me as tremendously naive. Certainly there are heroic young men and women who can and do work menial jobs–resisting the perfectly natural urge to settle down and start a career and family–and at the same time stay resolute in their purpose and vocation, all while living in a supersexed and materialistic world for the years that it can take to pay off student debt.
    But I suspect there are an awful lot of good vocations that are lost for lack of care. “True vocation” does not mean that God has Providentially destined one to be a priest. There is, after all, such a thing as a lost vocation.
    I think it might be good for orders to start accounting for people in such a position, and let them attach themselves to the order (i.e., live and pray in the house) while they work off the debt.
    While I’m on it, I think we need junior seminaries for just this reason. Boys’ high schools that offer a robust and an ordered lifestyle (such as one would find in a religious house) that will allow young men to nurture their virtue and spiritual life (with or without a vocation) and discern their vocation.
    As a closing thought I give you Trent: “Youth, unless rightly trained, sinks to the pursuit of the lustful pleasures of the world. Unless a boy has been formed in habits of prayer and religion from his tenderest years, before the habits of adult vice can take root, he will never perfectly persevere in ecclesiastical discipline, unless by some very great and more than ordinary grace from God.”

  10. Supertradmum says:

    diem, I can assure I am not naive. I taught in a seminary and have much experience with encouraging vocations, as I worked with youth groups in college and high school. This generation expects, without learning consequences. The entitlement mentality of our culture has seeped into the best of minds. On the other hand, many orders for women are taking girls as early as 18. The older, and newer, more conservative women orders in England take girls young, like the Benedictines at Colwich, as do the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Kansas City. There is not a need to get a college degree before applying to some men’s orders as with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the Transalpine Redemptorists and others. That a young person can plan to apply to an order outside of the college -university option is there. If an older person is discerning a call, the debt is part of the discernment process, which is why many orders have this rule, and for the sake of good stewardship. If someone wants something badly enough, he or she will strive for it.

    I pray that those who need to do so, will get help, but that those who are able to meet their own responsibilities for paying for a university lifestyle will also do so. Not every has to go to college. And, if a person has a four-year debt with a degree not being used, why are they assuming that debt is not part of the discernment process, which I think it is? Two young men I know with great debts are still very immature and need work on growing up and need time before they go in. They are impatient, but must face four years of doing what they wanted and pay for it. I know some men who have never worked, even in the summer, which is not a good thing. I think the question of debt may be connected to other things as well. Why these things are not planned earlier is another question, as most vocations are given early, unless one is converted to Catholicism later in life. One cannot get married with great debt, either. This is a sad commentary on the society which allows young people to put off responsibility and interferes with many vocation choices, like having children. I pray for all those who have real vocations and pray that those who need to get help. And, where are the parents in all of this? If a man has a real vocation and has debt, if the family is Catholic, that could be a sign of goodwill for the parents to pay for the debt. I know of some families in England where this has happened.

    Discernment looks at the entire lifestyle, not merely debt. But debt is part of the lifestyle choices one makes. We need to talk about impediments-to marriage, to having children, to vocations, and wisely help those who need I pray for these groups to aid those they can, but one must not expect it.

  11. JaneC says:

    A friend of mine is in this position of struggling with debt and needing help. She converted to Catholicism near the end of her time at law school, and soon after realized she was called to the religious life. She is receiving help from one of the societies mentioned above. This does not mean she is not also working–not at all! She passed her bar exam and is working in a law office. Rather than take an offer in the town where she went to school, she moved back to her home town and lives with her parents so she doesn’t have to pay high rent and can have more to put toward paying off her loans–note that this is a sometimes awkward situation, because her parents aren’t Catholic and don’t really understand her desire to become a nun.

  12. MissOH says:

    I can understand the comments of those commenting that it is important for young people to pay off debts, but there are many issues that have made organizations such as the Mater Ecclesiae fund necessary. Yes, there are orders that accept young people beginning at 17-18, once they have graduated from high school. That takes young people who realize their vocation early. Based on vocation stories I have seen, there are many young people who don’t realize their vocation until they have started or finished college. Also, there are those who are converts who find the church during college. Given the state of rampant secularism of public universities (which are increasingly expensive), there are those who choose the solidly Catholic colleges, all of which cost a good amount. I know at least one of the notably Catholic colleges does forgive loans for any graduates that enter the priesthood or religious life, but that is not possible for those who took out federal loans. Many of the solid woman’s orders have age limits of 30 and I have been told by some men that over a certain age, they can find it difficult to get a good reception at diocesan vocations offices.

    College costs, largely driven by the college loan industry, has gotten incredibly high and the job market has not been kind. Not everyone can move home and live with parents or relatives and with the cost of living, a menial or basic job (retail, coffee shop barrista) will not provide enough to make the extra loan payments necessary to take care of a $15,000-$30,000 loan undergraduate loan. Of the vocation stories I have read from the Mater Ecclesiae fund, all of the young people were working, they were not just waiting for a hand out. I know of young people who used numerous creative ways to raise money (in addition to their job or jobs). The funds are a wonderful way to help assist some young people to insure that they are able to pursue and test their vocation.

    A lost vocation is a loss for the church, but also is a burden for the person aware that they lost a beautiful gift. We should do all we can to promote and help vocations.

  13. Cavaliere says:

    @supertradmum, I can assure I am not naive. “Not every has to go to college.”

    Perhaps not naive but a little insulting.

    If they want to become a priest they do. You too easily dismiss students with debt as reckless spendthrifts or plug them into your “entitlement mentality” category. Young men studying at a college seminary like St. John Vianney are forbidden to have any type of job during the school year, including work study. Sure they can work in the summer but in this economy summer jobs are hard to come by. Even with a subsidy of their tuition they can easily accumlate $50-60K in debt after four years.

    And, where are the parents in all of this? If a man has a real vocation and has debt, if the family is Catholic, that could be a sign of goodwill for the parents to pay for the debt. I know of some families in England where this has happened.

    This sounds like something Mitt Romney has said, but Mitt and I don’t have the same circle of friends. As a father of 7 with a son entering the seminary I would love to help him pay off his college. I would love to know how though since we basically cover current expenses each month. Heaven forbid if two of my children have a vocation.

    I also disagree that vocation and debt have any connection. One either has a vocation or they don’t, debt isn’t nor should it be a part of the equation. As a Serran I am active in vocations and I have discussed the financial situation with the seminary’s. It is outrageous that good priests are suffering under the burden of the debt they incurred in college. The costs of priestly formation are ridiculous and real changes need to be made in order to ensure that the next Cure d’Ars is not prevented from being ordained.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Cavaliere , my father was president of the local Serra club for a very long time. My family was involved in raising money for over fifteen years for boys and men. Why is it insulting to say that not everyone has to go to college? I taught university and college for years and 60% of the students did not need to be there. I know students who chose to go to cheap colleges, or local colleges and stay at home in order to go into the seminary and not incur debt. That should be considered. One does not have to go to an expensive private Catholic college in order to pursue a vocation. I think Jane C’s friend is amazingly admirable and doing the right thing.

    My point is that a young person, and parents, and even diocesan vocations directors help those who are discerning and debt is part of the discernment. If God wants a man or woman to enter, there will be a way.

  15. sophiamarie3 says:

    Fr. Z, Thank you so much for posting this discussion!

    I am one of the young people with debt and a desire to enter religious life…I have been accepted for entrance into the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (www.sistersofmary.org) on August, 28, 2012. I do have work as an RN in a hospital that pays very well – so I am working as many hours as possible to contribute to my own debt. However, my debt is still too great and I need help from others. I can’t explain why God has called me to enter the convent now, but through much spiritual direction and prayer, I know that God has called me to enter this August. God is so good and I trust Him with all my heart!

    Maybe you’d like to read more about my story: http://www.psalm63ontheheart.wordpress.com

    God bless you!

  16. diem says:

    The entitlement issues that GenY have are not the issue I’m pointing out; the fact that a perfectly good vocation can be snuffed out with lack of nurturing is.
    Maybe some of these would-be priest and religious have entitlement issues, and maybe in those particular cases having them spend some time paying off debt will be a good character-building experience in which they learn to work for what they want rather than have it handed to them, but that’s another issue.
    Likewise, the problem that we are seeing with the current generation’s taking on too much student debt is not the issue I was raising. If it were I’d point out that a significant part of it is poor mentoring all around (e.g., everyone and his brother telling 18 year-olds that if you have two wits to rub together–and even if you don’t–you’d better get a four year degree regardless of cost or–God forbid–you will be a menial laborer the rest of your life), to say nothing of government meddling in the economics of higher education.
    Again, the fact that some orders may accept young postulants without a degree is not germane.
    My sole point was that real vocations can be and are lost, and one way to lose them is by turning people–already in their 20s–back into the secular workforce indefinitely. The “if it’s a true vocation it will survive” attitude just isn’t universally accurate, cf. the quotation from Trent, with which I should have been able to rest my case.
    Whether the loss of those vocations is on the whole worth the financial savings is another question that the communities involved and the Church as a whole have to answer.
    Kind regards, diem

  17. monmir says:

    I agree with Supstradum not everyone has to go to college. I redid college in the US more than half of the students received Pell Grants etc…and did not care much about attending class and giving back papers, a little less than half had failing grades.
    There are solutions before going into such level of debt which most of the time does not make sense. Working full time and studying full time needs a commitment to leave friends and the movies behind for 4 years and it is no big deal, it builds commitment.
    I am against student loans, they are a trap to refuse to live within our means and impair our freedom of choice later. They have become no more than consumerism and perhaps in some cases the source of pride.
    Debt does not make sense at any level. I have unfortunately no idea for paying off debt, but I do have an idea to prevent incurring it.
    We have to help young people review their ways of thinking before they fall into the trap.

  18. SKAY says:

    Apparently student loans are a way to get votes. Who would have guessed?
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/1025/Obama-s-student-loan-debt-relief-plan-Too-good-to-be-true

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Before I leave this computer, I want to add that I support the young woman above, who is very brave and working very hard. She is obviously a rare and wonderful person. However, I think any parent who lets their child get into debt to the tune of fifty or sixty thousand dollars is not only not helping their child’s sense of value and stewardship, but simply being irresponsible as a parent. Sorry if I offend people by saying this, but working is good and paying as one goes along is good. Looking at alternatives before spending money one does not actually have is better, and one can be creative. In a bad economy, no offense again, but I am suspicious of young people looking at the religious life when jobs are rare. One out of four boys, St. John Bosco said, has a vocation. A parent should help that one, or two in a big family, early on, and prevent a life style and choices which lead to debt. Even if a family is poor, there are ways to do this. I know one young man who worked three jobs while in college and is a seminarian without a debt. He never went on holidays and was careful with his money. I know another seminarian who asked the chancery for a job in the summer in order to continue. The chancery said yes, as a support to that young man. He is also poor. His mother is a widow with three children and two are at home still.

    Late vocations are rare, and conversion vocations are rare, and for those, I support these charities. It is the duty of the parent to help a child discern a vocation before the burden of debt destroys freedom of choice. But, one chooses debt. One does not have to choose debt.

  20. Imrahil says:

    I once read that the beggar is a useful member of Catholic society.

    That said, student loans as far as I see them from afar are meant to be paid for in decades of working life. And as a rule of thumb, even by a reasonable amount of living according to bare necessities, you can cut that time perhaps (let us be inexact and generous) by half, but not for any time longer.

    Then there is still unemployment. Who wants to work must be lucky to survive in, nay: even be allowed to enter, the economy, even as a hired worker.

    Saying that they have no right to be helped out is one thing, which perhaps is true (and perhaps isn’t; I give no opinion); saying that it has a tendency to be either un-Catholic or un-male if they choose to mention their state of affairs to some people that might possibly change the situation by gift is, dear @Supertradmum please take no offense, totally impossible, all the more since it does allude to ethical values that really exist. Ethical values that are – I’ll be frank – , in Chesterton’s words, virtues gone wild, and can in this state and not put to their right place only lead to despair, along the “now I’ve got me into this mess and I’m to fix that or perish in the attempt”-path. The very best result, excluding special heroism, is “I accept that I’ve messed up any chance of special vocation.” Another quite naturally possible reaction is: “The Church does not want me [unsaid because undistinguished, but implied: even for ordinary vocation]“.

    But, coming to think of it, if it is about an order that actually puts the acquired degree into use (orders are sometimes said to do so; even contemplative ones, at least if they run schools), the order itself should pay. Of course the prospective monk can earn nothing for himself; but the monastery would have had to pay him college anyway, otherwise.

  21. Imrahil says:

    In a bad economy, no offense again, but I am suspicious of young people looking at the religious life when jobs are rare.

    Suspicious of what? Of wanting to make a living by embracing the religious life?

    I do not think this is a sin. Religious vocations are effected by grace but they do not enter into the void. It is no mystery that bad employment expectations may foster “leaving the world” (in the truest sense of these words). So, no offense taken, as I’d be much surprised if it were not as you are suspicious it is. I just do not think it is wrong.

    It’d be wrong, of course, under such and such reasons… hypocrisy comes to mind… but a faithful Catholic that prefers to sit in a cell and pray seven times a day and be given (especially menial) work instead of sitting uselessly at home and being unemployed, such a man is not a hypocrite.

  22. Dorcas says:

    I had 63k in debt 8 years ago, and I have been teaching English overseas to pay it off; I couldn’t have done this back home. I recommend this as a possibility for paying off debt. I will be debt- free soon, and hope to find a Benedictine community that will accept a 41 year old woman as a postulant…

  23. A person’s vocation is not the place to fight a cultural battle. Put another way, don’t punish the child in the place of his parents. The reality is that education and personal debt are a reality in the United States. The majority of solutions I have read here are typically American (read: Pelagian).

    It is good for the person to work but it is also good for them to beg. Institutional begging through a group like mentioned societies is not bad but sometimes impossible because the person has not yet been formally approved for entrance into an Order. Sometimes it is necessary to knock on doors and ask for help. That builds greater virtue in both the asker and the one asked than the typical American Puritan work ethics.

    How a person got into debt is irrelevant. What is important is that we help each other out in these situations. I’ve seen too many people forgo their vocations (including marriage) because of debt. It is a cancer that we should be happy to help eliminate. If its elimination results in a young person entering a religios community or a young man the seminary, or a couple matrimony, then all the better.

  24. mamajen says:

    You may have heard of the site indiegogo.com in the recent news stories about the bus monitor who was bullied. That site can be used to raise funds for specific projects. They do take a cut for administering the fundraiser, but the good thing is that they check into the projects and make sure they’re legit before any money is distributed. I think people (especially strangers) feel more comfortable contributing that way than through PayPal. It might be a good fallback if one of the aforementioned charities cannot help.

    I sympathize with those who have student loans. I have an architecture degree that I am now “wasting” because I decided after 4 1/2 years in the professional world that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom. My student loan will finally be paid off this January (2 years early) because my husband and I have been very frugal and careful, and we’re paying more than the minimum. Even so, it has taken 8 years, and I only went to a state university. I think a college education is a good thing no matter what you end up doing with your life. It’s unfortunate that it’s so expensive and the debt can be crippling.

  25. Magpie says:

    ”In a bad economy, no offense again, but I am suspicious of young people looking at the religious life when jobs are rare. One out of four boys, St. John Bosco said, has a vocation. ”

    Supertradmum, you quote St. John Bosco saying how common vocations are yet you judge young people with suspition when they express interest. They can’t win, can they?

    Rather than judge them/suspect them, I suggest you pray for them quietly instead. That would do a lot more good.

  26. AnnAsher says:

    I’m pleased by the comments against incurring debt.

  27. LisaP. says:

    I had a friend whose son was attending a Catholic University, he was looking at exiting with a BA and $200,000 in debt. He had a full ride scholarship to a local four year college, and wanted to transfer. My friend was horrified, she thought it was terrifically irresponsible of him to want to change schools.

    I am shocked by how many young people today think it’s reasonable to indebt themselves so deeply at the beginning of their lives. But the reality is, many are taught this is the right thing to do. It’s insane, and their folks need a good twack on the back of the head. Unless you’re paying it yourself, encouraging your child to sign on for $50 a year in tuition when state schools will educate you for $6 is just nuts.

    But there are many young people who figure this out after college, not before, and are in a bad spot. This post reminds me, also, of the sad stories of women who don’t realize until their first child is born that all their previous assumptions were just based on propaganda, and now they want to raise their child themselves — but they can’t, because they were talked into thinking they needed as liberated, modern women to incur hundreds of thousands in debt to get a degree that’s nothing but an albatross to them now. The mom who stays home with 5 kids and a PHD in chemistry with no debt, she’s enriched by her education. But the mom who owes $250 because someone convinced her the world needed yet another lawyer, she’s enslaved.

    So I think it’s imperative that we teach our young people that living radically to avoid debt is righteous, that they shouldn’t accept it as normal, that they can do what they want without going into debt they simply have to make some sacrifices (the big name school, full time education, going in right out of high school, a social life while in school, etc.).

    Post that, I don’t know about these assistance organizations, but I think a good dose of Dave Ramsey thinking has helped many people get out of debt and live in hopefulness until then.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    Dorcas, the Benedictines at Colwich in England may be interested in you. I would ask….

  29. Imrahil says:

    Dear Hon. Brother Gabriel, thank you very much for your comment.

    On another note, let us speak about actual wastefulness, luxury and the need of studiousness as much as we want, but I find it astounding that some actually seem to think not having a social life a desirable state of affairs. It is a state of dire poverty. Sure people can master it virtuously, but that also is true about an actual battle in war.

    The idea behind student loans is that the student is a worker and as such deserves payment, taken from his future gains. It may be true by far that indebtment is not a desirable way to achieve that (student corporations with lifelong membership come to mind), but that does not mean that those who want to study but do not want to live as if under a temporary vow of poverty to do so, and still study, can be dismissed as wasters.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    Magpie, I pray for specific seminarians daily and for priests daily. I was referring to parents who do not use the graces of matrimony and child-bearing to help their children discern their vocations. This is a duty of parents. Many parents encourage their children wrongly in getting into debt at college or university. In fact, in a excellent book I have used with young people, by Father Gautrelet, S.J, a desire for higher education may be a contradictory sign of a true religious or priestly vocation, and to be a religious, either male or female, higher education is not necessary in many orders.

    Orders, on the whole, do not have money to pay for degrees and if a young person is planning on entering a nursing or teaching order, the responsibility is on the young person and the parents. Teaching and nursing are separate vocations anyway, and need to be carefully discerned as to whether lay or religious.

    As to planning getting married, the same should apply. If a parent helps a child determine they have a marriage vocation, a suitable career path for a man to raise children so that his wife can stay at home should be part of the training. Too many marriages implode because of debt and unrealistic expectations. The vocation crisis has partly been caused by the world and the siren song of success, but partly by parents not paying attention or too afraid to form a vocation at home.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    Imrahil, being a university student should be a time of poverty, or at least, a simple life-style, as it is a temporary mode of living under a discipline. Going out once a week or twice at the most is fine, but not a steady diet of parties or DVDs or whatever modern society has ordained as supposedly necessary for life.

    My brothers and I had scholarships. We lived very simply, and, at the time, some universities did not allow cars. We managed and were debt free. I had some considerable help from my parents as well. My nephew and nieces and my son had scholarships, work-study and jobs while at college and still do. This should be the norm. If a person must pay all of the expenses, that could be a sign that their career path needs adjusting. No one should be so much in debt as to put-off vocations to the religious life, priesthood, or marriage, but one should realize that every life-style has consequences. Sadly, the younger generation has not, for the most part, learned consequences in life are real and painful. You deserve nothing, sorry, but the life you choose to live and accept the consequences. None of us “deserve” anything.

  32. mamajen says:

    @Supertradmum

    You’re painting everyone with a wide brush and doing little to answer the question that was actually posed.

    I am the oldest of five, and my parents could help me very little with college. I went to a state university with a mix of scholarships, financial aid, and federal student loans. I had an excellent summer job that paid more than most, and saved that to pay for some of the cost. One summer I had two jobs and worked seven days per week. My major, architecture, was extremely demanding with the expectation that students would skip sleeping in order to get projects done. That left little time for a job at all during the school year. When I did find a work study job that would fit my schedule, I was told I wasn’t eligible because my dad was over the income threshold. I was chronically trapped in a situation where my parents’ income was “too much”, yet we never actually had enough money. I came out with around $16,000 in student loans, and I have NO regrets. All of the specific choices I made led me to where I am today, and I think that’s where I’m supposed to be. There is so much good that would not have happened in my life had I limited myself to your rules. Interestingly, the people I know now who struggle the most financially never went to college, and the ones who most like to lecture everyone else had a free ride.

    Good things happen all the time to people who don’t “deserve” it. We should support vocations however we can.

  33. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Supertradmum,

    thank you very much for your answer and also that you, as I asked (well, “ask” may be too friendly a word; sorry for any undue tone, anyway), went back to discuss the real issues of wastefulness and luxury on the one and studiousness on the other side. (Whatever the applications in detail, on which we might differ but which do not belong here.)

    However, what I said was that “no social life” is not desirable. In this, I rest my case in that you graciously allow students not only silently keep intact some friendships, but even to go out once or possibly twice a week, or, I might add, save the expenses to by some DVDs. ( :-) )

    Sadly, the younger generation has not, for the most part, learned consequences in life are real and painful.
    They have learned that well enough. That is actually why they go so much to parties, etc.: because they’re terribly at odds with the World, and need breaks.

    None of us “deserve” anything.
    Which is why some of them even go more to parties than they should, and drink more than they should, because after all they don’t deserve anything anyway. Why not then just take what by some chance we can get? (Legally, if we’re not yet into criminal behavior.)
    (Not that this wouldn’t in a sense be true. But then we also must carefully count the air to breathe into the things we don’t deserve.)

  34. Magpie says:

    It sounds like supertradmum comes from a pretty well-off, privileged background with parents who lived the faith and were able to guide their kids. Not everyone is blessed in that way. A lot of people have to just stumble along making the best of the situation they find themselves in and making lots of mistakes along the way.

    Things are a bit different in the UK. We get a student loan from a government owned low-interest loan company. I have a debt of about £11,000 which I will begin to pay off once I get a job earning £15,000 or more per year. If I reach the age of 65 and still haven’t paid it off, I believe the debt is written off.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    Magpie, I came from a middle-class background (American translation, not British) and my parents sacrificed. No vacations, no luxuries, small house, eight children, four of whom have survived, and lots of prayer and hard-work. Yes, that Faith was a priority is my biggest legacy. However, we went without things…and that is the key to both holiness and discerning a vocation. Catholic education was a priority, not an after-thought. And, the second legacy was to learn to try not to be in debt, ever. One chose poverty rather than debt, and that is a good lesson. The third legacy was to live within one’s means and to be good stewards of whatever was given. Not bad lessons, but sadly, at least in the States, not passed on by the consumer generation, which has claimed vocations in more than one way. I am privileged, but in my Catholic heritage, not in wealth or status.

  36. Sissy says:

    Most people have only seen life on the student side of college. Supertradmum has taught in a university setting, and you see things there that really open your eyes. It gives you a different insight into cause and effect: students who sleep late, party early, and try to slide by doing the minimum, will not succeed, and it is their own fault. I’m sorry to say that I agree with most of what Supertradmum has said because I have witnessed the same things, as have all of my former teaching colleagues. I could predict with 100% accuracy each semester which of my students was paying her own way through college just by observing classroom behavior and by the grades earned. I saw literally hundreds of students who were wasting vast sums of money of both parents and the state. College isn’t for everyone, and far too many young people are being encouraged to attend when it is not in their best interest.

  37. LisaP. says:

    @Magpie,
    The situation is not different in the U.S., most student loans are government loans, which means they are given with less regard to whether the student will be able to pay them back, and which means they are not bankruptable — if I can’t pay my private loan I have legal recourse in bankruptcy, if I am in debt to the government, it never goes away. Not a good thing. The only difference here is that our population has idiotically allowed the tuitions in the U.S. to inflate to bloated tick proportions, so that the guy who comes out of school a lawyer who can only get a job waiting tables is in debt for about ten to twenty years worth of salary. Coming out of school with, as in the above example, $15,000 in student loans is do-able. Young people are walking away with $50 to $200,000 in loans today. It’s beyond ridiculous. The university regents should be ashamed of themselves.

    I take issue with the idea that being conservative about spending and debt is a luxury only the privileged can afford. It’s a choice those in more difficult circumstances without privileged backgrounds can ill afford to dismiss.

    Any young person who enters college determined to finance all his living and tuition, often over a quarter of a million dollars, by borrowing from his future rich self, is a fool. He may well have been taught to be a fool by society and his family, but he’s a fool. It’s similar to the advice we got over and over about houses before the bust, to go ahead and buy the house that is bigger than you can afford because it’s in the neighborhood with the good schools, it will be a great investment in the end, and while the mortgage payments may be a struggle now you’ll surely be making much more income in ten years and by the time your 30 year mortgage is over you won’t feel it at all. We know how that advice has turned out now.

    As for a social life, my social life costs me nothing now. The best parts of my social life in college cost me not a cent. What is does cost is time, and I do think it’s a shame if a young person has to work full time during college, but if the choice is that or go into debt, there’s no question which is better.

    Debt kills, debt enslaves. Debt is not normal. Usury used to be labeled a sin by the Church, and in my opinion still should be. If someone has fallen into its clutches, mercy is in order. And if someone is kept from a vocation because she or he has been talked into going into unreasonable debt, that’s the devil’s work. But like other great sins, suicide comes to mind, while we practice mercy towards those who fall prey to it we must never let up on the drumbeat of insisting it is a horror to be avoided.

  38. LisaP. says:

    All this is also a great argument for postponing college a few years after high school.

  39. Sissy says:

    LisaP: couldn’t agree more with both of your posts above! Postponing college would be a very good thing for many (most). I’d also like to see high school students encouraged to consider vocational schools. I have two young relatives who are both discerning vocations, but they are preparing for useful careers in community colleges first – and paying their own way by working and living at home. These young women are not well-off, just determined to avoid debt.

  40. mamajen says:

    I, too, have been a college professor, and the types who are partying and blowing off class are absolutely the last ones who I would expect to be desperately trying to find a way to enter the religious life later on. Of course miracles happen, but in general I doubt those are the types we’re talking about here. Debt can happen to good, honest, hard-working people for a variety of reasons. You can’t use your own life experiences as a template for everyone else.

    And, again, why are we speculating about how these people acquired their debt and whether they could have done things differently? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that “I know, I’ll just become a nun so I can just blow off my student loans!” is really a thing…or at least not at all widespread. We pray for vocations, God gives us some in this unlikely day and age, and now we’re complaining about the specifics? Really?

  41. Sissy says:

    You’re right, mamjen. My comments were off-topic. Many are called to vocations after the damage has been done. The issue is: what can be done to help if that is what stands in the way.

  42. Springkeeper says:

    We currently have six children and the oldest three are college age. Our income has been way down for the last several years and only now is coming up. My oldest went (temporarily) to a community college and found school wasn’t for her and became a flight attendant. Son #1 was in the gifted program and taught himslef to read/write Russian but nontheless chose to join the USMC rather than so to college. Son#2 is currently at college. He is an extremely dedicated student and world class level athlete. He never “parties” but has been known to hang out in the dorm or attend free movies with his friends. He has to pay him own way and he is receiving Pell grants, scholarships (athletic and academic), and works 6-7 days a week during the summer so his debt is very small so far (and he is honors level pre-med). We have taught our children to be disciplined and avoid debt which was how we were reared as well. No one should saddle himself with outrageous debt. Get your associates at a community college (which you can pay for on minimum wage, like I and my daughter both did) and then go up from there if you can’t afford otherwise. Schools (and some parents) need to stop pushing the “everybody has to go to college” nonsense.

  43. Springkeeper says:

    As far as those individuals called to a vocation after they have already accumulated debt, I am thankful that organizations exist where one can donate and help out those dedicated souls. If I should be so blessed that one of my children became a priest/brother/siste/nun, I would move Heaven and earth to help pay off their debts so they could join the priesthood or an order.

  44. chantgirl says:

    I agree with others that we need to rethink the automatic scenario where people graduate from college and go straight to taking on enormous college debt, as it can be a hindrance to the married vocation and the religious vocation. When I graduated from high school in the 90s, summa cum laude from a college prep school, all expectations were that I would go to college. I was accepted by a prestigious college to study vocal performance. When I found out that the scholarships went to med school and law school students and that I would be looking at $30,000 per year in loans, and I looked at what most Church vocalists are paid, I turned down the college. Instead, I studied privately with a voice instructor from the college. I think that if I had started married life off with that much debt, I would have put off having children, or wouldn’t have felt free to get married when I did. Student loan debt is probably a factor in lost vocations. I will probably encourage my children to look into trade schools or apprenticeships, perhaps some mission work right after high school so that they can get some real experience and see a little of the world before making any decisions about insanely-high college tuition.

  45. chantgirl says:

    Sorry, that would be “graduate from high school and go straight to taking on enormous college debt”.

  46. Sissy says:

    chantgirl: that is an excellent point that debt inhibits the vocation of marriage, as well. I wonder how many young couples start out with a huge burden of debt and use that fact to justify contracepting?

  47. Supertradmum says:

    Sissy, I made that point way above. The answer is yes. Contraception and debt are part of the same pressures a woman can have in a marriage from a man.

  48. Sissy says:

    Thanks, Supertradmum. Sorry I missed it in your earlier comments.

  49. Seattle Slough says:

    Supertradmum: I so appreciate your post. What a thoughtful and enlightening response. Thank you.