One of the most memorable experiences that the IRL took away from the January Labouré Society boot camp was hearing the story of Sarah Meier. Sarah knew that she had a calling to a contemplative, cloistered community but could not enter because she had $250,000 in student loans to retire.
Sarah worked hard on her own to reduce what was owed but it was not enough. To the rescue came The Labouré Society whose mission is to help those who aspire to religious life but cannot do so due to college debt. Aspirants to religious communities are teamed with an accountability partner, meet weekly to discuss fundraising activities, and at the conclusion of the class are allocated funds based on effort, success and need.
Sarah knew from a young age that she wanted to be a nun but ended up with a doctorate in physical therapy. When her identical twin sister died tragically, Sarah found that she had grown closer to God as she worked through her grief.
She asked God to show her the way and the response she received back was: “Pray, pray for my people.” Her remembrance of a childhood desire to become a nun came flooding back to her. This led her to the Poor Clares of Barhamsville, VA.
The sisters’ monastery is new but in many ways of traditional design. There is a wonderful tour of the monastery inside and out on their website. They certainly need the room in their new location for there are now 20 Poor Clares in residence! Here are the guiding principles that guided the design process:
Christ in the center of each sister’s heart;
Christ at the center of our community life;
the church at the center of the monastery;
the tabernacle at the center of the church.
On January 23, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations issued the results of a survey of 107 men and women religious who professed perpetual vows in 2013. The annual survey was conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
There were some interesting discoveries in the data.
First, the youngest respondent was 26, the oldest 73! Don’t give up hope if you have a call to a belated vocation! Most respondents were born in the USA but the next most common country of origin was Vietnam!
Almost half of the respondents had four or more siblings. Compared to the rest of the Catholic population, they were more likely to have gone to a Catholic high school and college.
Youth activities were important. World Youth Day, Newman Centers, Campus Ministry were common experiences. More than half were discouraged from considering a vocation, women more so than men.
Almost all participated in a vocation program such as a “Come & See.” Some had college debt which delayed entrance, on the average two years. There are foundations and groups that can help. Please visit our Affiliates: The Labouré Society and the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations. The Serra Fund for Vocations and the Knights of Columbus Fund for Vocations are also wonderful organizations.
For more information on the study, please visit the USCCB website.
The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University recently published the results of a study on religious vocations and educational debt.
Highlights from the 477 respondents include:
There are currently about the same number of men as women in initial formation. Institutes of men are more likely than institutes of women to have more than ten in initial formation.
Institutes with at least one serious inquirer in the last ten years report that for about a third of these inquiries (32 percent) the person had educational debt. The average amount of debt was $28,000.
Religious institutes with at least three serious inquirers in the last ten years who had educational debt at the time of their inquiry, seven in ten (69 percent) turned away at least some inquirers because of their educational debt.
Although there are a small number of organizations that provide funds to assist candidates with educational debt, most responding religious institutes (or their candidates) have not received funds from any of these sources.
The IRL collaborates closely with two organizations that do assist with educational debt. They are The Labouré Society and the Mater Eccelsiae Fund for Vocations. The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations has helped 67 men and women follow their vocations (and have helped another 39 to try their vocations). The Labouré Society has assisted over 220 individuals into priestly and religious formation since 2003 while currently helping over 30 men and women pursue their vocation.
Please support these organizations who do so much to support the priesthood and religious life.