The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, like nearly every diocese in the country, assumes financial responsibility for the preparation of priests at a major seminary. This financial commitment includes tuition, room and board, health insurance, travel and living expenses.
Years ago, before the full impact of the priest shortage began to be felt, it was not at all uncommon for a priest to spend 10 to 20 years or more preparing for his first assignment as a pastor, by serving as a parochial vicar (assistant to the pastor) under the tutelage of three or four different pastors. The new priests benefitted from watching the more-experienced priests exercise both their priestly ministry and pastoral responsibilities. Today, however, nearly all seminarians can expect to receive their first pastorate within two or three years of their ordination to the priesthood.
This dramatic shortening of the learning curve brought about a critical need to provide more parish-life experiences to these men during their seminary years. As a result, rather than asking them to work during the summers to provide for their annual living expenses — which was also done years ago — seminarians are instead placed in unpaid summer internships at parishes across the diocese and provided a monthly stipend.
For many years, the expenses related to the education of priests were fully covered by the support received during the Annual Bishop’s Appeal. But the continued growth of vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend — a blessing from God, to be sure — coupled with the rising costs of seminary tuition, has pushed traditional diocesan resources to their limits.
The diocese has 33 seminarians studying for the priesthood – 15 more men than it had in 2010. These vocations are an incredible gift, and it is the responsibility of the diocese to meet the costs of educating and housing these young men. During the past decade, the annual cost to educate a seminarian has increased threefold. Currently, the average annual cost to educate one seminarian is $47,000, putting the total annual need for seminarian education in the diocese at more than $1.5 million.
It is critical to the future of the diocese that parishioners, as they are able, support these courageous young men as they discern their call to religious life. The most direct way to do this is through prayers and contributions to the Pentecost Collection for Seminarian Education. Although this special collection takes place only once each year, on Pentecost, the need is year-round; as such, contributions to the seminarian support fund can be made anytime throughout the year.
The growth of the Pentecost Collection will allow the diocese to continue to attract outstanding applicants and give them the best training and education possible, equipping them well for a lifetime of service. The future of the diocese rests on its priests, who serve as shepherds, administrators, counselors and teachers for all. It is vitally important that the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend continue developing men who possess the skills, character and commitment to serve in diocesan parishes and the world, as priests dedicated to Christ.
Contributions to the Pentecost Collection for Seminarian Education can be made at any parish on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, or throughout the year by visiting www.diocesefwsb.org/Diocesan-Donations. Gifts of all sizes are needed and very much appreciated.
Jeff Boetticher is director of the Secretariat for Stewardship and Development for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.