Prayer Request

I have received several emails recently which run along the same lines.

Several writers have asked me to pray for them in a special way about their vocations, to priesthood or religious life.

All of them have a common dilemma: they have debts and cannot easily be accepted until their debts are resolved.

Would you readers do a kindness for a few people whom you have never met?

Pray that whatever human agents there may be in the lives of these people will be moved by, perhaps, their Guardian Angels and that they will respond well to help these people in their aspirations.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. carolg says:

    Calling all Guardian Angels! On guard and motivate all the obsticles to move aside for the faithful that are trying to move forward with their vocations and stations in the Church.
    Will take these intentions to prayer everyday.

  2. Thanks Fr. Z. I think many people don’t realize the crosses that ‘we’ aspirants to the religious life and diocesan Priesthood face. I’ve been quite worried about what to do with my own debt, I think the lesson that Christ is trying to teach me is to trust in his divine providence – after all; everything is in his hands. Please do not forget to pray for us – we in turn will be praying for you all.

  3. Will Elliott says:

    This would be a good time to plug the Labore Society and the Mater Ecclesiae- Fund for Vocations which both help people in formation resolve their personal debts. See also “Debt, the Vocation Killer”.

  4. wanda says:

    Will do. Decades of the Rosary coming up in addition to calling upon the Guardian Angels of those who can help these worthy petitioners.

  5. Onesimus2 says:

    Yeah, yeah…the need for Guardian Angels with $$$$$$ is important as dioceses are strapped for $$$ and willnot accept a candidate whose financial situation is dicey. This is where the “faithful” need to pool their brains and practical $$$ resources into some sort of fund or group that oversees a fund that can assist these candidates. We need piety AND prudence along with magnaminity AND a LAY faithful who WILL buttonhole a bishop about such needs.

  6. lmgilbert says:

    Karl Denninger of Market Ticker posted this comment on student loans on May 14, 2010. This obviously has huge implications for all our young people, and will heavily impact our vocational situation down the road. This is obviously something that bishops, vocation directors, parents and students need to be made aware of ASAP.

    If you’re a youngster graduating from high school or in college, do not, under any circumstance, take debt to continue your education. The collapse in the Ponziconomy for education has barely begun. But it will come and with it will come severe devaluation of your college education and tuition. If this means you have to go to a cheaper college or work while attending, then do so. Perform a strict cost:benefit analysis of your educational expenses vs. expected earnings improvement vs. a different career path. If it does not pencil out where you can recover the entire booked expense of college within 5-10 years, don’t do it! Why 10 years at the outside? Because you must build in a risk premia and this is the easiest way to do so. Remember that the years you put into education are years you can’t put into becoming entirely self-sufficient. If you bypass an economic downturn and come out the other side when the economy is recovering, you win. But if you come out of college with $40, 50 or $100,000+ in debt and can’t get a job at anything close to enough to make the payments and remain solvent you are [in trouble]. Further, be aware that student loans are the most-toxic debt of all, as they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and as such the arrears of interest will be capitalized if you default, meaning the PRINCIPAL will grow without boundary, they WILL garnish your wages, intercept tax refunds and in general make your life a living hell. High Schools, Colleges and their “counselors” will not tell you this as they are fully-invested in feeding themselves. They’re salesmen, not counselors, and you had best never forget that.

    Karl Denninger, Market Ticker, May 14, 2010 in Ten Tips

  7. Emilio III says:

    Will pray.

    Many years ago a friend from school had this same problem, having to pay off his student loans in order to enter the seminary. It so happened that we had four schoolmates who had had their own studies paid by the Jesuits but left the order before ordination and were then married and doing well. To my surprise, they all got together and arranged to pay off his loans. Maybe it was their Guardian Angels working behind the scenes…

  8. Imgilbert you have a great point with this post. Most people do not realize the dangers of these big student loans. Unfortunately for me, the order I was accepted in, would have accepted me with my debt and deferred it for me if it had been a college loan, however since this was medical and stupidity… alas I am in a quandary. Students need to be educated on the dangers of loans, I worked with a gal who went to an art school for 3 years and amassed over 130k in student loans and then dropped out before getting her degree. At the time, that was 2 yrs ago, she was having her wages garnished, taxes taken, ect.. She wasn’t even making enough each month to keep up with her payment. It is madness out there.

  9. Emilio III says:

    I might have mentioned that tuition at Loyola was then $450 per semester, so student loans were not as big a burden then.

  10. archambt says:

    Do include me in those prayers as well!

  11. Emilio,

    Wow, that is awesome. When was this? My tuition for this 1st year at St. Charles Borromeo will be around 20k and that is 10k less since I am living off campus in the Monastery.

  12. Emilio III says:

    It was for the 1966-67 year. Tuition went up around $25 per semester per year, which we thought was outrageous. I believe room and board was $500 per semester for all four years. My student loan ended up being $5,000 at (I believe) 2% interest. I’m not sure about the interest, but it was very low.

  13. JuliB says:

    I’ve donated to this group once or twice: . They are very serious about only helping those who plan on attending orthodox/ faithful places.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    I think part of the problem is that parents do not help their sons and daughters to discern vocations at an early enough age so that these children can avoid debt. In addition, many good men I know who have wanted to join religious orders or the secular priesthood have been converts, and have no support from their families.

    I do think, however, that it is important to teach young people not to expect a job which will pay back a debt such as most college students accrue today. I encouraged two who are now going into the seminary not to get into debt by going to community colleges and by getting scholarships. Their debts are extremely low, but they will still have to pay those back.

    What worries me are the number of dioceses who pay for seminarians who end up dropping out. This is a waste of money. The discernment should happen outside the academic mode,in an apprentice-type year, as in the English dioceses, so that a diocese does not have to pay $25,000.00 per year for a student who ends up leaving and does not have to pay anything back. Not all dioceses do this, but many do pick up the tab. Some ask the students to get their own loans and then the diocese will pay those loans after ordination, as in the Davenport Diocese.

    So, in summary, parents help your children decide early what they are going to do. Some parents have fallen into the lie that kids cannot decide before 22 or so, which is not the case. Two, keep costs down by getting general education courses done locally at community colleges, then to on for specializations. And three, do not expect the dioceses to pick up the tabs. Good stewardship is necessary. Lastly, be realistic about the current economic crisis. In some areas of the United States, unemployment is as high as 27%-30%. This is not a time to get into more debt.

    Personally, I think that parents need to be more proactive in the planning of vocations, just as some are so in other vocations.

  15. Super, you make a great point. However, in my Diocese of Arlington, they pay 50% of the tuition while you pay the other 50%. The religious order that I am joining has taken an approach that you mentioned, they expect me to take out my own student loans. If I decide it is not for me and leave, I will have to pay the loans back. However, when I make my final vows, they will eat the cost for me. I heard they had to do this because people used them just for educational purposes and once some people got their degree’s, they would leave the order. As scary as it is for me to take out loans, I think this was a good idea for them, it is another way of discernment, if a person is really not interested in the order and only want a free education; this will weed out the flaky from the devoted. Parents do need to take a proactive approach to this, I think that would save their children from making bad mistakes.

  16. lmgilbert says:

    In our archdiocese we are paying $40,000 per year per student for seminarians to attend seminary.

    Meanwhile, I am attending John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego on a distance learning basis at a cost of $400 per undergrad course, and $800 per grad school course, or approximately $1600 per undergraduate quarter. My Philosophy courses are taught by the head of the nearby Chaldean Seminary and fulfill the philosophy requirements for his seminarians.

    My point? There is another, far lest costly way to educate our seminarians and religious. We have empty rectories all over the place. Let the seminarians live there and take their academic work online. Or implement one of the very many possible variations on the same theme. There is no reason why educating a priest ( or anyone) should cost more than $12,000-15,000 per year.

  17. Could the presence of a debt be a possible sign that someone’s vocation is not to the religious life? Or is the fact of the matter that the debt is preventing them from fulfilling the vocation that God has called them to?

    I suppose that either is possible.

  18. frobuaidhe says:

    Anyone know if the Scottish bishops are still requiring their students to accrue debt while studying for the priesthood by taking out student loans from the government during their 6/7 years of formation?

    I succeeded in paying off my debt around eleven years after I was ordained: I didn’t owe a penny to anyone when I went in the door.

    Prayers promised that true vocations will be provided for.

  19. La Sandia says:

    A friend of mine who recently started a novitiate had to defer her vocation for a few years because of student loan debt. She helped to pay it off by soliciting pledges from family and friends and by holding fundraising dinners at her parish, so she was able to enter the convent just three years after graduation.

  20. Pater OSB says:
    The above society tries to make the most of benefactions going toward the relief of school debt – I suggest aspirants look into it. Be assured of my prayers.

  21. Re: “Could the presence of a debt be a possible sign that someone’s vocation is not to the religious life?”

    The poster is apparently unaware that, for the last twenty years at least, university tuition amounts (even at state schools) have assumed that the student is supported by both his parents, and is receiving government funding, and has taken out a large college loan. The standard guides have advised students to go to the most expensive school they can afford, and that “afford” means big huge loans. Student loans used to be a cute little bank sideline; now they are a mighty industry. You can probably count on two hands the number of students per class who get any amount of higher education without taking out substantial loans.

    So… if you believe that the presence of a debt is a sign of no vocation, you obviously believe that we don’t want priests or religious with American degrees. Since the vast majority of orders require degrees for entrance, this might prove a problem.

  22. The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations is a charity I donate to monthly. They assist men and women seeking to enter religious orders by helping them pay off their college debt. They can only help as many people as they have funds for… so give them funds!

  23. Mike says:

    Off to morning Mass now, Father, and will pray!

  24. Flambeaux says:


  25. robtbrown says:

    The poster is apparently unaware that, for the last twenty years at least, university tuition amounts (even at state schools) have assumed that the student is supported by both his parents, and is receiving government funding, and has taken out a large college loan. The standard guides have advised students to go to the most expensive school they can afford, and that “afford” means big huge loans. Student loans used to be a cute little bank sideline; now they are a mighty industry. You can probably count on two hands the number of students per class who get any amount of higher education without taking out substantial loans.

    I would say those guides are giving bad advice. IMHO, the best approach is a state university for the undergrad degree. There are some very good state universities that offer fine educations and are much less expensive than the high dollar, private schools. Further, universities should not be compared–only departments. Look at course requirements, availability of elective courses, and the professors (how many, how many have doctorates, and where they were obtained).

    I had fraternity brother who went to a JUCO for two years. he later became President of a corporation’s USA office (it’s a large, USA company whose yearly gross is more than $2 billion). And I know a woman, now a lawyer, who also did the JUCO route.

    After the undergrad degree, then I would say CONSIDER a high dollar grad program.

    So… if you believe that the presence of a debt is a sign of no vocation, you obviously believe that we don’t want priests or religious with American degrees. Since the vast majority of orders require degrees for entrance, this might prove a problem.
    Comment by Suburbanbanshee —

    I don’t think it’s a sign of no vocation, but it’s certainly an impediment.

  26. UbiCaritas says:

    Will pray. I know how nasty student loan debt can be, and I’ve pretty much discerned (as a senior) that marriage (and not the religious life) is my calling; while I would prefer to get married after paying off the vast majority of the student loans, they won’t keep me from getting married, y’know?

    God bless these folks.

  27. cblanch says:

    Will pray.

  28. Onesimus2 says:

    Some American dioceses, on accepting a candidate for seminary study required them to sign a prommisory note to repay that diocese the funds (1) should they leave the seminary before ordination-in toto, (2) when ordained — in part or not at all. Some dioceses would pay room & board alone, others would pay for courses and require the seminary student to cover room and board. Some would provide a FULL scholarship for theologate only. There were and remain MANY variations that emerged from economic necessity — diocesan seminaries in the early 20th century were staffed by religious and diocesan clergy and a support staff whose salary scale was nominal at best. That situation is no more.

  29. servusmariaen says:

    I’m very grateful for this posting. I’m one of those “older” people (44) who has been in serious discernment regarding my vocation for the past few years. I must say that I had felt called to the priesthood/religious life at a very young age. I began before the age of 10 to write off for information from various orders before I turned 12. I also at the same time felt a strong attachment to tradition. I found that after making this known to my diocesan vocation director and the directors of various religious orders to be an impediment. I remember distinctly being labled a “reactionary” (among other things)… however I was finally told that in order to be considered for admittance to seminary in my diocese that I needed to have a 4 year degree first. I made the mistake of going to a University that I could not afford and I left it because of blatant heresy. Needless to say now many years later I believe that I am closer now to trying out my vocation. Part of my incurred debt will be (if God willing I am accepted to the order as a postulant) taken over by Mater Ecclesiae fund for vocations. This has been (and continues to be a great trial) as there still is lacking sufficient funds (because of an early lay off last month) to finally get enough together to try out my vocation. Before I applied to Mater Ecclesiae I placed my vocation in the hands of the Mother Thrice Admirable from Schoenstatt and St Joseph and I am confident that if it is indeed God’s will that I go that a way will soon be provided through the providence of God. I am grateful for your prayers.

  30. Tee J says:

    A young lady I know who is hoping to enter a religious community this fall has spoken of The Laboure Society. In their own words, they “exist for one purpose: to foster priestly and religious vocations through student loan resolution.” The way I understand it, they help fund raise by having the aspirant write about his vocation story, and then sending out those letters to prospective donors. (probably from a list generated by the aspirant). I don’t know any more details than that, but anyone interested could look them up.
    Here is the pertinent information:

    The Laboure Society

    Cy Laurent, Executive Director
    1365 Corporate Center Curve
    Eagan, MN 55121

    It’s not a money give-away, but I imagine it could be helpful in getting the aspirant organized and serious about finding some financial help.

    And we will keep all these aspirants in our prayers.

  31. Forty percent of Notre Dame law school’s class of 2010 have no jobs. But they have huge student debts.

    These burdens will not only keep them (and working lawyers who discover a late vocation) out of the seminary, it will tempt them to postpone another vocation — marriage.

    When they can afford marriage, they will be tempted to postpone childbearing.

    Federal aid to higher education began in earnest with Lyndon Johnson’s Omnibus Education Act. That brought on Land O’Lakes and the mass collapse of once-Catholic universities.

    But it also caused tuition rates to rise three times the official rate of inflation (fueled by “Pell Grants,” named after the senate’s richest member, Claiborne Pell. He was a true gentleman, to be sure, but not a penny of those grants was his own money.)

    The answer? Distance learning, community colleges, and employer-subsidized education. And a strict, disciplined reading program to get your own liberal arts foundation, coupled with a lifetime of Catholic formation.

    That is the most effective way to avoid debt, to prepare for life (marriage, religious life, and the priesthood included), and to avoid the expensive drivel that all too often is required reading in “major” universities.

  32. Louise says:

    Check out the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations at

  33. MEFV says:

    I am very happy to see this topic come up. I am the treasurer of the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations (MEFV –, which many posters have been kind to mention. A few points about our work:

    We raise funds to make grants to men and women with vocations to the priesthood and/or religious life. We do not depend on our applicants raising funds for us.

    We accept applications from individuals who have been accepted to religious or priestly formation in faithful, orthodox religious orders.

    The MEFV does NOT pay an individual’s debt up-front. Loan payments are made over the period of formation, with the debt being paid in full by the fifth anniversary of final vows or ordination. If the individual leaves formation, there is no required re-payment. This is to prevent interference with discernment.

    We have given grants to 86 men and women, 59 of whom are still in formation. We have grant recipients at many communities that are mentioned on this blog: the FSSP, the ICKSP, the cloistered Dominican nuns, Sisters of Life, Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

    Because of funding limitations, we have to turn away about HALF of the people who apply to us each year.


  34. Supertradmum says:

    lmgilbert, What an excellent point. And, the community college road is very cheap, as I mentioned above. Why parents are not more proactive, I do not know..

    I am going on record disagreeing with the current American seminary necessity of requiring an undergraduate degree in philosophy before the men go into theology. I understand that we have a public education system which is fourth from the bottom out of the top one-hundred in the world and students are not taught how to think at an early age-I have taught classical education, logic, etc. which does this, but where are the high schools which provide these except for a small number of private or charter schools?

    I still disagree that a four-year philosophy degree is a “must”. Students who have business degrees, history degrees, etc. can serve the Church, as they do in other countries If the Church wants philosophy teachers or philosophers, the local diocese can pick out those few who have gifts in this area and allow them to pursue those degrees. Why the USCCB puts a financial burden on the dioceses and individual seminarians, I do not know. I think this another sign that they are out of touch. St. John Vianney, St. Giuseppe Benedetto Cottoleng, St. Joseph Cupertino and others, would have never been ordained under the present system in the US. I am sure there are more saintly priests who would fall into that category. I think St. Damien of Molokai had educational difficulties.

    I do not think all priests have to follow the same educational track.

  35. Jack Hughes says:

    Does anyone here know if there is a British equivalant of Mater Eccleasia or Laboure society?

    I ask because having contacted the Laboure society they told me that they only deal with Americans (and rarely Canadians), I’m absoutely positive that I’m meant to be a religious priest (so Mater Ecclesia won’t help + I’m sure that they will prefer americans over foriegners) but I’m currently saddled with £20,000 of student debt and the only way I can figure of paying it off quickly is enlisting in the Navy for three years, three years in a organisation with a reputation for blasphomy, sexual imorality and general anti-catholocism – Something I’d rather not do if possiable.

  36. MEFV says:

    To Mr. Hughes:

    On the contrary, we do give grants outside of the U.S. We haven’t had anyone from the UK, but we have helped people from Canada and New Zealand, and Americans going to the UK and to Austria. And, we certainly DO assist vocations to the religious priesthood.

    Though I cannot guarantee that you would receive a grant (did I mention that we have to turn away half of our applicants for lack of funds?) we would welcome an application from you.


  37. Jack Hughes says:

    TO Katherine from MEFV

    As far as I am aware from looking at your site (I confess that was a few months ago) you only help young men whose orders will place them in parishes, whereas I feel the call to be a Priest in a Monastary – and yes you mentioned that you turn away half of your applicants.

    If you wish to contact me further you should click on my name which wwill take you to my blogger profile where you can find my email address.

  38. MEFV says:

    To Mr. Hughes:

    Thank you for letting me know how to contact you. You could probably tell that I am new to this form of communication.

    I do wish to reiterate that the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations does assist men with vocations to the religious priesthood, not just men who will be formed for the parish priesthood.


  39. KevinSymonds says:

    Laboure Society and Mater Ecclesiae Fund are both good programs. I went through the Society for the retirement of my academic debts.

    I encourage people to read my article on Catholic Exchange about this very topic:

    Sorry but I don’t know how to turn the above into a link here on Fr. Z.’s blog.

    If you would like, please visit my blog, Desiderium as well:


  40. ckdexterhaven says:

    I have a 16 y/o son discerning a vocation to the priesthood. For the college years, our diocese (Raleigh) pays $5K only of a $30K/per year tuition. Even the $25K left might as well be a million bucks a year for my husband and I. I’m leery of allowing my son to take out student loans that will amount to $100k in 4 years. I’m praying about it, but I’m hesitant.

  41. Thomas S says:

    Is it still possible to apply for admission to seminary for this coming academic year? I’d have thought that would be too late. Or perhaps they’ve already been accepted but on the condition of paying off their debt.

    Anyway, I’ll happily pray an Angelical Salutation for them.

  42. Supertradmum says:


    No offense, but that does not sound like something I would let any young man in my family get into. I think the son should pray about a religious order, or another diocese. Is that for the undergraduate degree? Can your son take his general education requirements at a local community college and then transfer? That would be much less expensive. Most undergraduate seminaries I know take transfer students.

    Thomas S,

    Like most private colleges, entrance to the seminary is a long process which starts at least the year before one enters. You have to be interviewed by your diocesan vocations team. the vocations director and the bishop of your diocese. Most dioceses plan the budgets a year before, or at least from July to June, a typical fiscal year. In any case, you would be too late for most dioceses. As to religious orders, some take new men a bit later, but you would still need to meet the requirements. One of my dear friend’s sons is entering a traditional order this Fall and all the requirements for entrance were made months ago.

  43. catholictigerfan says:

    father z

    i will pray but also if you don’t mind and commentators too but pray for me im also discerning a call to a religious life, more specifically priesthood, even though right now my discernment is focused on when to enter seminary I may transfer in about a year from LSU I’m currently a freshman. But i don’t fit under the boat of finical trouble.


  44. Mike says:

    “I still disagree that a four-year philosophy degree is a “must”.”

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful but: In 30 yrs as an adult Catholic, I have rarely seen a diocesan priest manifest ANY philosophical knowledge whatsoever.

    Can count ’em on one hand.

    So we have a legal requirement here, with zero substance, or what…I simply don’t know.

  45. RichardT says:

    Since there have been a few mentions of UK students, how does it work over here?

    UK student loans are from a government body, and you only have to make repayments if your annual income exceeds £15,000. If you reach 65 without having had to pay it back, the loan is written off.

    This loan will cover full tuition fees (which are only about £3,000 due to government subsidy) and personal maintenance (admittedly not generous, but just about OK if you work in the holidays). So it should (with care) be possible to go through university in the UK without having any other loans.

    Since £15,000 is more than a priest earns (I think – the only online reference I could find said Catholic priests in the UK are paid “about £10,000”), the debt is only theoretical. Yes, it is there, but will never have to be repaid.

    So could one still become a priest with this sort of debt?

  46. RichardT says:

    Mike (8:15pm),

    That’s my experience here in England as well.

    In fact, I would be surprised if most of our priests have any sort of degree (I say that as one who teaches at a university, so have some idea of what to expect). Does anyone know if that is a requirement in England, or can they just do seminary training?

  47. Jack Hughes says:

    Richard T – You can go straight from Sixth-form to Seminary in the UK but the majority of priests/seminarians do have a secular University degree.

  48. Supertradmum says:

    Richard T.,

    The requirement of English priests is a degree in Theology if they are accepted into the undergraduate seminary. Theology is also studied after a young man enters the seminary with either a degree in anything (well, maybe not dog grooming) or “life experience”, such as many years in the workforce. The majority of priests in the UK do have degrees and some more than one degree. Those who do not have an undergraduate degree in Theology have a year before graduate Theology. I cannot remember what this year is called, but this is for those men who have degrees in something else, like business, literature, history, math, etc.

    The theology requirement is standard. Seminary training gives that degree, either at the BA level, or at the MA level, as explained above. As to a Sixth-form college, which most Americans may not understand as a term-a Sixth-form college is a college prep college, as English students leave “high school” at 16. Two years in a Sixth-form college gives the student preparation for a college degree in specific areas, somewhat how some prep schools in America do. The older prep schools in America sometimes follow this form.

    One can also join a diocesan seminary with work experience, if one is deemed “mature”. The pre-seminary year in a parish working with a priest is the initial seminary experience for some dioceses, followed by acceptance into the year before and then MA Theology program. It takes less time to get an MA in the UK than in the US, as the studies are more intense.

    Some students are sent to the Venerabile in Rome, which gives an BA and an MA. Not all students have the correct transcripts, that is, classes, to go there. As I have taught in a Theology department in England at the university level, and as a member of our immediate family has taught in a Sixth-form college for fifteen years, we are familiar with the system. However, each diocese and indeed, each student, does not do the pre-seminary year. It is a discernment year.

    For example, I got an MA in English from Notre Dame without having an undergraduate degree in English. I had degrees in Theology, History and Philosophy. The same type of admittance would be true in some dioceses in England, where a man can proceed to the Theology MA with a degree in something else and little “catch-up”.

    Hope this helps.

  49. Supertradmum says:

    Sorry, Richard T,

    If the debt is too large, the young man cannot enter, but if it is “small”, the young man can enter the seminary, as the debt may be absorbed by the diocese. Again, this varies.

  50. Supertradmum says:

    If I could add something without hogging the com-box, I believe that the UK model is much more “personal”, that is, individually assessed than the American model, which, although varies a bit from diocese to diocese, demands the same criteria overall for the secular seminarians. Older seminarians, for example those in the Midwest who go to Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corner in Wisconsin, do break the mold.

  51. frobuaidhe says:

    @ RichardT

    I can’t say what happens in England & Wales, but see my post above about Scotland! Your calculations are exactly what the bishops are banking on: that the loans will never have to be repaid if the candidate is ordained.

Comments are closed.