Patti Armstrong, National Catholic Register
After three years of teaching junior high school, Bill Duffert answered a call to the priesthood. He was cleared for acceptance into the seminary, except for one problem — he owed well over $35,000 in student loans, the threshold amount that his Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is willing to take on.
Duffert estimated that it could take 10 years or more on a teacher’s salary to whittle his debt down enough to start seminary. “I felt it would have been impossible unless I won the lottery,” he said.
Yet, after only two years, thanks to the Labouré Society’s coaching on fundraising, Duffert entered the St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas this September. He credits that experience with also strengthening his vocation. “I met so many people who pray for vocations and want good and holy religious,” Duffert said. “I was blown away by people’s generosity and their desire to build up the Church.”
At a time when the Catholic Church in the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of vocations, it is a sad irony that 42% of qualified men and women are turned away. High student loan debts are often more than many communities and dioceses can take on. A “Survey for the National Religious Vocations Conference” found an average of more than $28,000 in debt among serious inquiries.