Faithful answer God’s call to support those discerning priestly vocation

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

Average costs per seminarian
during 9-year formation *

Total Room and Board
$15,200 x 8 years = $121,600

Total Tuition and Books
$23,500 x 8 years = $188,000

Total Annual Collegiate Stipend
$1,800 x 4 years =  $7,200

Total Annual Theologian Stipend
$2,400 x 4  years =  $9,600

One-year Pastoral Internship Costs
$4,800   x 1  year =  $4,800

Total Annual Insurance
$10,500 x 9 years =  $94,500

$425,700 = Total cost per seminarian
during 9-year formation

$47,300 = Average Annual Cost Per Seminarian

($425,700 Total Cost Per Seminarian ÷ 9 years =  $47,300 per year)

* Estimated annual costs and total cost for seminarian training. Tuition rates, room and board and other costs vary, depending on the seminary attended, scholarships, and total years in education. Costs listed are intended to give readers an estimate of financial resources necessary to fund those called to follow priestly vocations in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

The life of a man can change forever once he decides to follow Jesus Christ and devote his time on earth to serving the Church. In the Diocese of Fort Worth, on average it requires a nine-year commitment, including four years of undergraduate work, four years of masters-level theological studies, and a one-year internship at a parish. In addition, seminarians are expected to be fluent in at least two languages — English and Spanish.

The extensive education is necessary for the responsibilities associated with the job, said Father Jonathan Wallis, director of Vocations for the Diocese of Fort Worth. As Vocations director, Fr. Wallis also oversees seminarians and currently helps guide 31 young men along their journey to become priests. A 1996 TCU graduate who was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Worth in 2007, Fr. Wallis can closely relate to the sacrifices each of the men must make to take up his call.

“Personally,” said, Fr. Wallis, “I feel blessed and honored that Jesus Christ would trust me with the obligation of priesthood.”

Fr. Wallis said he also considers it a blessing that an increasing number of men are studying at seminaries with the goal of becoming priests in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

The increasing number of seminarians, which has nearly doubled since 2001, is welcome news for the rapidly growing Diocese of the Fort Worth, but presents its own set of challenges. The cost to educate each seminarian averages approximately $47,000 per year.

To meet those costs, the Diocese of Fort Worth has implemented several programs that are striving to support those who are called by God to serve the Church.

Following is an overview of those funding sources:

GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY (MAY 10-11, 2014)

The Diocese of Fort Worth has designated the fourth Sunday of Easter as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Launched in 2010, the name was inspired by John 10:11. In that Scripture passage, the apostle tells us that Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

A special collection on Good Shepherd Sunday supports seminarians, who are dedicating their lives to serve the faithful and follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. The Good Shepherd Sunday collection is designated for the Seminary Formation Fund, which supports seminarians throughout their discernment, education, and training.

Pat Miller, associate director of advancement for the Diocese of Fort Worth, said that more than $1 million has been raised since the inception of the collection in 2010. According to financial figures she supplied, the 2010 collection raised $215,944, in 2011 a total of $285,415 was collected, in 2012 the diocese saw $274,515 in contributions, and in 2013 the generosity of parishioners in the diocese totaled $275,204.

Seminarians-Processing-out-WEB.jpg

Seminarians (from left to right) Eugene Flynn, Rijo Philip, Maurice Moon, Michael Greco, and Stephen Hauck process out of the arena at the end of Bishop Olson’s ordination Mass. (Photo by Donna Ryckaert / North Texas Catholic Archives)

THE BISHOP’S GUILD

Another recent source of funding to keep pace with the growing number of seminarians in the Diocese of Fort Worth is the “The Bishop’s Guild.” Started in 2012 by former Bishop Kevin Vann, the Guild progressed under the leadership of then Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Stephen J. Berg (now the bishop of Pueblo, Colorado), and carries on with Bishop Michael F. Olson.

The Guild focuses its efforts on supporting issues related to the education and lives of priests in the diocese. Specifically, two funds have been formed by the Guild. They include the “Support for Seminarians” for men following God’s call to the priesthood and the “Priests Care Fund,” for priests who are retired, disabled, or need healthcare assistance.

Michael Messano, diocesan director of advancement (until he returned to the St. Augustine, Florida area at the end of January), explained that the faithful are stepping up in a big way to support seminarians through the Guild. “It’s one of the central passions we have as a diocese and something we’re very proud of,” Messano said. “It’s such a blessing.”

As part of their membership in the Bishop’s Guild, members meet quarterly and often hear first-hand from seminarians on their progress. In the past, Bishop Vann was an active participant at the Guild’s dinner meetings. The Guild looks forward to continued involvement from Bishop Olson and from the seminarians who are studying hard to serve the diocese as priests in the near future.

Still a relatively new organization, the group is looking at innovative ways to support seminarians, in addition to their financial contributions.

To date, Messano said 34 married couples and two single participants have made commitments of $2,500 for three years as part of their Bishop’s Guild membership. The total of 36 current memberships, at $2,500 each, accounts for $90,000 for men entering the priesthood and others who have served.

SHARING IN MINISTRY

An annual appeal tied to the operating budget of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Sharing in Ministry supports a wide-range of Church programs and building and repair projects. Depending on the needs of the diocese, each year the appeal designates areas of support for funding.

Parishioners in the diocese are asked to make pledges to the appeal, which lists a “Case for Support” — specific areas of funding needed and how those funds will be used. People who donate can make a one-time gift to fulfill their pledge or make monthly contributions.

For the 2013-2014 fiscal year, ending June 30, the diocese set a $3 million Sharing in Ministry goal, which included grants for parishes and schools; educational programs serving children and adults; Catholic Charities; Parish Share; the Marriage Tribunal; and support for seminarians.

Of the $3 million goal, $475,000, or 16 percent of the total, has been designated for supporting seminarians.

ALL THINGS POSSIBLE CAPITAL CAMPAIGN

In addition to the Sharing in Ministry annual appeal, the Diocese of Fort Worth has been conducting a multi-year capital campaign named “All Things Possible.” Launched in 2009, on the 40th anniversary of the Diocese of Fort Worth, the campaign seeks to meet the most critical needs of the local Church. The $40 million campaign will conclude this year, with a goal of raising $1.5 million for seminarians.

Seminarians-Dcn.-Gary-_-Joe-K-WEB.jpg

Transitional Deacon Gary Picou (left), and seminarian Joe Keating (right) go over a few details prior to Bishop Olson’s ordination Mass. The two served as assistant masters of ceremonies for the liturgy. (Photo by Donna Ryckaert / North Texas Catholic Archives)

SEMINARY BURSE FUND

In addition to other revenue sources, the diocese has also established a Seminary Burse Fund to assist in the education of seminarians. A Seminary Burse Fund is a permanent fund set aside for educating and training future priests. The principal is not used for the funding, but instead dividends earned by investing the money from the burses, contribute to the funding stream.

Messano and Miller both said that through the Seminary Burse Fund, funding streams can be established “in perpetuity,” or for a long time for seminarian education, since they flow from invested capital.

A PASSION FOR SUPPORTING VOCATIONS

Whether the source of funding for seminarians is from annual appeals, a capital campaign, special collections, the Bishop’s Guild, endowments through the Seminary Burse Fund, or special donations from organizations and individuals, the diocesan advancement office continues to witness the generosity of parishioners in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

“People in this diocese really put a lot of time, effort, and resources into supporting our seminarians and their vocation,” said Messano.

“The expenses and the income are always changing,” Messano explained, with the growing number of seminarians and associated financial needs. “But the people in this diocese, they have such a passion for vocations. It’s a real blessing.”

Miller agreed. “We’re challenged in this office to meet expenses and raise revenue by sharing the goodness of what these seminarians are doing.

“It is such an important focus for the diocese,” Miller continued. “We want to do all that we can do in the parishes and through our efforts in this office. We want to do all that we can do to support all of their effort as seminarians. And they respect the fact that people are sacrificing to help support them.”

Miller called the shared sense of responsibility between seminarians and faithful Catholics who support them as the “tie that binds,” as they continue the work of Christ’s Church.  Messano termed it “a partnership.” And Fr. Wallis has referred to it as “a mutual sacrifice.”

No matter how you term it, the combined effort of generous Catholics and dedicated seminarians in formation, is necessary for the future of the Church.

“The important thing is that every man who is called by Jesus Christ to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth has the opportunity to do so,” Fr. Wallis said. “Seminarian support is just like investing for the future.”

See Also

Parishioners, seminarians united in response to God’s call

Seminarians-Ngia-pep-talk-BUTTON.jpgNow in his second year at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Stephen Hauck is on track to be ordained a Diocese of Fort Worth priest in 2017. A man dedicated to serving God and the Church, Hauck said he never really chose to be a priest. Instead, he explained, the “the priestly vocation chose me first.”

Seminarians-Processing-out-BUTTON.jpgThe life of a man can change forever once he decides to follow Jesus Christ and devote his time on earth to serving the Church. In the Diocese of Fort Worth, on average it requires a nine-year commitment, including four years of undergraduate work, four years of masters-level theological studies, and a one-year internship at a parish. In addition, seminarians are expected to be fluent in at least two languages — English and Spanish.

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