One of the primary components to the upcoming Return to the Lord Capital Campaign will be to ensure young men contemplating a life in the priesthood have the support they need throughout their formation process. The campaign is dedicating 20 percent - $3,200,000 of the $16,000,000 total goal - to the Seminarian Education Fund.
The Diocese covers 40 percent of the cost for a young man in seminary training as he begins his discernment. This happens over the first two- to four-years depending on the level of education the individual has beforehand. When the seminarian student moves on towards his theology degree (equivalent to a four-year graduate school degree), the Diocese pays 100 percent of the education costs.
The Seminarian Education Fund fuels the diocese’s efforts to attract quality young men to the religious life. Recent efforts for the diocese have been successful in recruiting a record-breaking number (16) of men to the seminary. Monsignor Daniel A. Torres, Vicar General and Director of Seminarian Education, believes that trend appears likely to continue. “Higher numbers of students, mean higher costs for the Diocese. But, it is a good ‘problem’ to have. It means we have more young men ready to fill the role of shepherd to Christ’s flock throughout our diocese,” said Monsignor Torres. Diocesan officials said the funds of the campaign will be endowed so interest earned can be used to help cover the $34,375 average annual cost of educating and forming our future priests.
The support from the diocesan faithful is not lost on seminary students either. Trey Ange, a Lake Charles native, who is a third year theology seminarian at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, said “I appreciate that God has chosen me to this calling. While it is filled with challenges, the blessings of this vocation are so much more rewarding. To know that parishioners I have not even met yet have sacrificed for me is very humbling. It makes me realize that my service to them is all part of God’s plan.”
The diocese utilizes three main seminaries to help educate and form young priests. St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana, Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, and the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Monsignor Torres explained how the diocese tries to take advantage of opportunities to send seminarian students to Rome for part of their education. “Not only is it an eye-opening and heart-opening experience for their mind and soul, but because the North American College provides scholarships from its own foundation to help subsidize some of the costs of our seminarians’ education expenses, the North American is actually less expensive than seminaries here in the United States. It’s a win-win for us and them.”
The diocese uses the annual special vocations collection to meet current, ongoing costs. Special offertories and income from seminarian burses make up 39 percent of the annual costs. The rest is covered from the diocesan operating budget (from the general fund which was shared in the last issue of the Catholic Calendar). The plan for this campaign is to build the Seminarian Education Fund to generate income to make up the remaining costs and put the diocese in a stronger position to maintain a high number of seminary enrollments for the future.