The National Fund for Catholic Religious Vocations, which assists with the educational debt of those discerning a religious vocation, held its inaugural prayer breakfast June 29 in Louisville.
The event, held at the Big Springs Country Club on Dutchman’s Lane, drew a group of about 20 people to pray for vocations and to learn how to support the fund in its work.
The fund was created in 2014 by the National Religious Vocation Conference and to date has awarded $1 million to 51 men and women, said Phil Loftus, who serves as executive director of the national fund. “There’s benefit to everyone. These are 51 people out there doing the work of the Lord,” said Loftus.
He noted that educational debt can be a barrier to men and women who feel called to religious life. Canon law doesn’t allow discerners to bring debt with them into religious life, he said. As a result, some who feel called may enter the corporate world to try and pay off that debt first, said Loftus. That delays discernment and, in some cases, causes men and women to never enter religious life.
Father Martin Linebach, the Archdiocese of Louisville’s newly-appointed vicar for vocations, attended the breakfast and told leaders of the national fund that “the work you do is invaluable.”
Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre couldn’t be present, but he spoke to the gathering via a video message and shared his vocation story.
The archbishop said to those gathered, including a group of St. Xavier High School students, that even now he continues to discern God’s will in his life “as my vocation story continues to unfold.”
Pope Francis, he noted, had just appointed him the temporary apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn.
Loftus went on to share with the group that the average educational debt of a discerner is about $50,000. The fund has received requests to help with debt as small as $7,000 and as large as $75,000.
The fund does not pay out a “lump sum” of money, he noted.
“We accompany them as they discern” and the debt is paid off over the course of that discernment period, he said.
Benedictine Father Anthony Vinson, who serves as the chair of the national fund’s board, said educational debt is a reality because oftentimes “people are drawn to higher education not knowing where the Lord is leading them.”
It’s the reason the work of the fund is so important, he said, noting that the fund works closely with the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) to carry out its mission.
In order to receive assistance, a discerner has to be a part of a religious community that belongs to the NRVC, said Father Vinson.
The NRVC is a professional organization of vocation ministers that promotes vocation awareness, invitation and discernment to life as a religious sister, brother or priest, according to its website.
Father Vinson hopes to host the prayer breakfast annually across the archdiocese and the nation, he said.
Individuals can support the national fund by “continuing to pray for and encouraging vocation.” They can also contribute by joining the “Decade of Promise Club” by making a financial gift that will recur annually over the next 10 years. To join the Decade of Promise Club, visit https://www.vocationfund.org/decadeofpromise or to make a donation, visit https://www.vocationfund.org/donate-form.