Sunday, May 08, 2011

Obstacles to the pursuit of a vocation: student loans and personal debt

I was perusing my Catholic "solicitation mail" and found two items talking about student loans and personal debt hindering young adults from going to the seminary or joining a religious community, one from Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations and the other from Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, which established the St. John Vianney Fund for Future Priests and the St. Katharine Drexel Fund for Future Nuns for applicable students. Many religious orders and dioceses do not accept candidates who have a great amount of personal debt. If we think of them just as organizations trying to recruit people, are they shooting themselves in the foot by requiring something that may not be necessary for their candidates, i.e. a bachelor's degree?

I would think that only those religious communities that have apostolates in teaching or higher studies would require an undergraduate education of its applicants. But aren't dioceses also justified in having this requirement? Not if Catholic secondary education were more "demanding."

Those thinking about the priesthood can go into debt to obtain an undergraduate education. Or, if they are lucky, they can get one at a minor seminary, and pay for it afterwards, if they decide that the priesthood is not for them. Either way, there will be some delay in being a "functional adult." Instead of contributing to one aspect of adultlescence (the lack of financial preparation for family formation), wouldn't it be better for dioceses to reform secondary education? Pre-theology (philosophy) is usually a component of education at (major) seminaries -- all students would need is an adequate preparation in the "liberal arts," and this can be done at the secondary level. The mission of the Church may have to involve "career planning" (which requires a better grasp of the nature of our political economy) and incorporating more practical training at diocesan high schools (instead of promoting the goal that everyone should be aiming at a college education).

This is just one problem affecting the health and growth of the Church in the United States -- obstacles to vocations to the priesthood (and religious life). Are it and other problems in evangelization due to the Faith not being grown here "organically"? That is to say, it was not tied to the conversion of a population or society, but was primarily imported with immigrants who then had to assimilate to a way of life that might have been opposed to right and Catholic living? Were dioceses established too early here? Would it have been better if the United States had remained mission territory (territories)? (I am not sure what that entails, canonically; maybe an adjustment in attitude would have sufficed, a recognition that the Church could not simply be "transplanted.")

Whom should have been sent to try to convert the Anglo-Celtic-American population?
The Jesuits and similar orders? What could have been done differently?

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