January 11, 2013


Helping fund religious vocations

The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week on Jan. 13-19. In preparation for it, we invite you to read our annual Religious Vocations Supplement on pages 7-14.

Having known so many happy priests, deacons and religious brothers and sisters, we think that one of a parents’ greatest joys must be to have one or more of their children accept a call to the priesthood or consecrated life. All parents want their children to be happy, and survey after survey shows that most priests and religious are happy indeed.

Today many more men and women are accepting God’s call to the religious life at a later age—what used to be called “late vocations.” They recognize the call after they have completed their college educations. And that often presents a problem.

Many Catholics don’t realize that seminaries and religious orders don’t feel that they can accept candidates who have substantial debt, and surveys have shown that the average college loan debt these days is $26,600. Therefore, numerous young men and women who feel called to the priesthood or religious life cannot enter a seminary or religious community because of their college debt.

If you who are reading this have this problem, we would encourage you to contact the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations at P.O. Box 7433, Falls Church, VA 22040. It takes over some or all student loan payments for those who have been accepted by a seminary or religious order and pays off the loan by the fifth anniversary of ordination or the taking of final vows.

Thus far, that fund has assisted 80 men and women now in formation. Fifty others tested their vocations but discerned a different call in life, and they were required to pay back their college loans.

However, the Mater Ecclesiae fund has limited resources, and is seeking contributions to enable it to continue. It has had to turn down 90 people with potential vocations for lack of funds.

You can learn more about the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations by writing to the address above or by visiting its website at www.fundforvocations.org. After reading more about the fund, you can decide if you want to help solve the religious vocations problem with your contribution.

—John F. Fink

Immigration reform is needed

This week, Jan. 6-12, the Catholic Church observes National Migration Week.

The Church teaches that the right to migrate is rooted in the theological truth that all human beings are made in the image of God. Throughout the Old Testament, God commanded his people to welcome the stranger and the alien.

We hope that, with no national elections this year, both the legislative and executive branches of the national government will get serious about immigration reform.

Even aside from religious teachings, we should be able to see that reform will be good for our country. In particular, we should increase the number of visas available for those who literally take their lives in their hands to come here illegally because they cannot do so legally.

It should be obvious that our country will benefit if visas are increased for foreigners with advanced graduate degrees for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The House of Representatives recently passed such a measure.

At the other end of the education spectrum, though, our country also will benefit by making it possible for farmers to bring in workers to do jobs that American citizens refuse to do.

We need to speed up the process of obtaining visas so that families don’t have to wait for years to come here legally. We must ensure that families are not torn apart by the deportation of a family member. One of the bishops’ priorities is to ensure that “family reunification remains the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration policy.”

We must provide a path to citizenship for foreigners who are here. Otherwise, we are in danger of creating a permanent underclass where certain parts of our population do not have the rights that others do.

This should be the year for immigration reform. President Barack Obama has said that it is one of his priorities, and there are political reasons for Republicans, too, to want to tackle this divisive issue.

—John F. Fink

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