Catholics asked to help fund tuition for diocesan seminarians
Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) — For years, the Lincoln Diocese has been blessed with a proportionally high number of seminarians. The annual Bishop’s Appeal for Vocations (BAV) is an important way their education and formation is financed.
“The number of vocations the Diocese of Lincoln has been blessed with is attributed not only to the leadership of our bishops, priests, and sisters who have given such a great witness, but also from the laity who nurture vocations in their families, pray for seminarians daily and financially support our future priests through this annual appeal,” said Father Eric Clark, who was appointed director of the BAV.
The theme for this year’s appeal is “Love Made Visible.” The accompanying image features the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Both reflect the generosity of the men who answer the call to the priesthood.
The title also calls to mind Bishop James Conley’s April 2017 pastoral letter, “Love Made Visible,” on the beauty and importance of Eucharistic adoration.
Currently, there are 39 men in seminary studies for the Diocese of Lincoln.
“This is a tremendous blessing to have so many men discern the call to the priesthood,” Father Clark stated. “However, as any person who has been to college and graduate school knows, education is not cheap.”
He said the total cost required to educate our current seminarians is $1.2 million, which amounts to roughly $30,770 per seminarian. A portion of that cost is paid through contributions by the seminarians themselves and/or their families. The diocese covers the rest, which is why the BAV is striving to raise $800,000 this year.
Father Clark compared that to other institutions that focus on high quality education.
“It costs $500,000 per year to train one Navy SEAL. Likewise, the average cost for one year of medical school per student is $70,000, and law school is $46,000,” he said. “If this investment is made in order to protect our nation, our laws and our health, what would you give to protect the spiritual welfare of your soul?”
The BAV is designed to spread this cost among the people of the diocese, because training and forming new priests benefits each and every one of us in the long run.
To encourage each person to contribute to this important fund, the BAV will launch the weekend of Sept. 23 and 24. A letter from Bishop Conley will be read, and seminarians will speak at various parishes. Collections will be taken that weekend as well as the following one, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
Father Clark and the BAV committee have worked hard to streamline the process this year, enlisting the help of Serra Club members, because the club is dedicated to fostering priestly vocations. Parishioners will be offered pledge cards to fill out after Mass, similar to the Charity and Stewardship Appeal.
The appeal is also using technology to make giving easier. Two Lincoln parishes are testing on-site electronic contributions, allowing people to swipe their credit or debit card for their donations. Others will be able to make online donations at home through a new electronic financial tool called Cornerstone Payment Software.
“This should make the online site more user friendly,” Father Clark assured.
Another change created by the committee is how parish goals are set. Goals are now based in proportion to each parish’s total assessable income.
“Assessable income is total combined parish and school income, discounted 50% for schools who spend greater than 60% of income on K-8 education and (discounted) 25% for parishes that spend between 40%-59%,” Father Clark explained. The total is calculated without capital campaign income and Joy of the Gospel rebates.
While this decreases BAV goals for a number of parishes and increases it for others, Father Clark said that the committee capped that increase or decrease to 25%.
Because the BAV is crucial to the diocese’s ability to continue to form and educate new priests, it is important that each Catholic in the diocese prayerfully considers how much to contribute. Some individuals and families are in a position to be quite generous, while others may struggle to come up with even a dollar or two per person in their household.
But all gifts are important. The 2016 BAV resulted in 12% of Catholic households contributing 84% of the goal. In the parishes that did not meet their BAV goal, pastors had to make up the difference from the general fund. The BAV committee’s hope is that this year, more families will participate.
Father Clark said that each Catholic should accept this as a personal invitation to help men become priests.
“I can say with St. Paul to the Philippians, ‘It is not that I am eager for the gift; rather, I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account,’” he said, quoting Philippians 4:17.