Joshua Schipper
Video/Digital Content/Graphic Design Producer
May 28, 2023 // Diocese

Seminarians Grateful for Education Funding 

Joshua Schipper
Video/Digital Content/Graphic Design Producer

Through donations to the St. John Paul II Endowment Fund, the Catholic Community Foundation of Northeast Indiana helps seminarians of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend with not only the practicalities of paying for school, but also with reducing stress and external factors in their continuing discernment process. 

At a fundraising event on Tuesday, May 16, at The Lodge at Camp Red Cedar, several seminarians spoke about how they are affected by the educational funding.

Samuel Martinez, studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, said that the event helped him to realize the direct impact between the donors and those studying for the priesthood. 

“It’s funny because without going to these dinners, you don’t really notice that there’s a direct impact. Then, when you actually get to meet the people who are organizing this and making donations for us, it all comes back to when we first got accepted. The vocation director tells you outright, ‘Don’t worry about the money. Don’t worry about the fact that, yes, seminary is expensive. And yes, we’re talking about six to eight more years of schooling.’ Our vocation director, our diocese, members of the Catholic Community Foundation — they all want us to be able to just discern God’s will. And if finances are going to sway us one way or another, then it’s not real discernment.” 

Michael Hickey, another seminarian, noted that, as a seminarian for the diocese, “If something does come up where it’s maybe not something like related to my formation directly, but let’s say I have a car right now that’s being held together by rust and the Holy Spirit. If something comes up with that, I don’t have to worry about, ‘How am I going to get this?’ It allows us to focus strictly on formation, and the phrase ‘God provides’ — it really rings true with that. They eliminate all that worry, all that stress.” 

Deacon Jake Schneider speaks to attendees.

Seminarian Andy Barnes said that the funding that comes from the Catholic Community Foundation and others is “such a huge help to us so that we don’t have to take on that burden personally for our seminary education. We simply get blessed with this time that really nobody else has, that’s four to six to eight years of just being completely devoted to growing in our relationship with the Lord and diving into studies related to that, in preparation to not only serve in the priesthood to answer that calling that God has for each and every single one of us, but also just to grow as men of faith.” 

Aaron Kennerk, Business Manager at the Catholic Community Foundation, has taken Seminarian Barnes on as his seminarian that he sponsors. “He reaches out to me, checks up on me, and sees how I’m doing. Most importantly, he and his family keep me in their prayers. And it’s such a comfort to know that the Body of Christ in our diocese is connected in such a profound way that we’ve got people like him and his family and all sorts of people around the diocese constantly praying for us, especially when we’re 550 miles away at the seminary.” 

Seminarian Noah Isch, who studies at Mount St. Mary’s, said that because of this funding, he does not have to stress about expenses, Rather, he can focus on growing in ways that will let him become “an effective priest and an effective minister of the Word.” 

Joshua Schipper
Seminarian Noah Isch talks with Chistine Bonahoom-Nix, Administrative Assistant in the Vocation Office, during the Our Shepherds-Our Future fundraising event at The Lodge at Camp Red Cedar on Thursday, May 16.

“I’ve known other guys in seminary who haven’t had as much financial support, and it is a big stressor. It pulls you away from what you’re doing. I get to really enter into my classwork. I get to really enter into times of prayer and really try to embrace what the Lord’s calling me to and embrace all that seminary has to offer for me to grow in the way that I need to grow.” 

Funding for education, Seminarian Isch said, gives seminarians the freedom to discern whether to continue toward ordination or to pursue a different path. 

“It gives us the freedom both ways: to enter and to leave. I’ve known guys who have been in situations where they’re going to have to pay stuff back if they leave, so they feel a little stuck when they feel like they might actually be called to leave the seminary. So it does give us a lot of freedom, and that’s the pillar of discernment.” 

St. John Paul II Endowment Fund – Give A Gift That Lasts a Lifetime 

“Bishop Rhoades saw the need for long-term support for our seminarian’s education,” said Aaron Kennerk, Business Manager at the Catholic Community Foundation of Northeast Indiana (CCFNEI). This insight ignited the start of the Blessed John Paul II Fund for Seminarian Education endowment. 

Now known as the St. John Paul II Fund for Seminarian Education, this special endowment managed by CCFNEI is currently at more than $1.2 million. The initial donated amount of money was never spent or disbursed, but invested in a socially responsible way allowing a non-profit organization like the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to receive a percentage of the funds through a disbursement. That money is used for expenses surrounding the education of a seminarian. 

An endowment is an opportunity for donors to come together and put a sum of money into an account that is invested and continues to grow each year. This fund guarantees income every year for the planning of the seminarian education budgets. 

“We want to grow that fund to take some of that burden from the diocese,” said Lynda Houk, Director of Community Outreach for CCFNEI. This will free up funds within the diocesan budget to use towards other programming and outreach efforts. “We are very blessed with how many seminarians we have. They are the cornerstone of our faith and our Church. With our Catholic faith, we are always going to need priests and this fund will last forever and have an impact forever.” 

The endowment benefits the diocese and also has a big impact on the seminarians who are the recipients. 

“It’s so important that they can freely discern their call to be a priest without the burden of finances,” said Kennerk. Without the burden of financial obligations for education, seminarians can focus all their time and energy on discernment, prayer, and preparation for religious life. “It’s truly the work of God working through us to serve the Church.” 

The CCFNEI has several ways people can share a gift to this special endowment. 

Visit and use the donation page to find the St. John Paul II fund to make a one-time online donation or you can set up regularly occurring gifts to the fund. 

Giving stock, noting the fund as a beneficiary through IRA, 401K, or other retirement plans, leaving life insurance, or other estate planning options are also available. Donors are encouraged to contact the organization at 260-399-1436 to schedule an appointment to discuss options. 

Lastly, anyone wishing to mail in a gift can send a check made out to CCFNEI noting the funds are for the St. John Paul II Fund for Seminarian Education to CCFNEI, 9025 Coldwater Rd, Suite 300, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 46825.

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