America’s Next Generation of Catholic Priests Coming from Unexpected Places

Catholic Extension to Provide New Funding for These Future Priests Through Seminarian Endowment Challenge

CHICAGO - May 23, 2012 - America's next generation of Catholic priests are largely coming from surprising places - poor mission dioceses throughout America. These "mission" dioceses, which are supported by Catholic Extension, are seeing an increased number of their own young men called to the priesthood. In a time when many think that seminarian enrollment is dwindling, over the past 10 years mission dioceses have actually seen an increase in seminarian enrollment by approximately 10 percent.

Unfortunately, these dioceses do not have the financial resources needed to support this growth and continue their other vital ministries.

To help these mission dioceses build a stronger foundation for the increased costs of these additional vocations to the priesthood, Catholic Extension has introduced the Seminarian Endowment Challenge, and today is announcing the participating dioceses:

  • Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas
  • Diocese of El Paso, Texas
  • Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, Montana
  • Diocese of Helena, Montana
  • Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri
  • Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana
  • Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee
  • Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Diocese of Spokane, Washington
  • Diocese of Stockton, California
  • Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon
  • Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

Through this challenge, Catholic Extension will provide matching funds of up to $50,000 for any new dollars raised by each diocese for seminarian education endowment funds. This funding is in addition to the grant funding Catholic Extension already provides to mission dioceses for seminarian education.

"Many people do not know that each diocese is responsible for the financial support for the individuals who are going through the seminary to become a priest," said Catholic Extension President Father Jack Wall. "For mission dioceses, the increase in the interest in the priesthood creates a unique funding burden that Catholic Extension is supporting through this new endowment."

With seminarian education today costing an average of $30,000 per year, educating a single seminarian for his vocation to the priesthood costs upwards of $100,000. While poor dioceses are blessed to see an increase in calls to the priesthood, they realize that even an increase of a few seminarians amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional financial responsibility.

The Seminarian Endowment Challenge can help in two important areas. The first is to enable mission dioceses to build a permanent financial asset that can help them manage the increasing costs to educate seminarians. Secondly, the Seminarian Endowment Challenge can provide motivation for local fundraising initiatives in the dioceses.

"We are honored to be a participant in the Seminarian Endowment Challenge which allows us a wonderful opportunity to connect in a very personal way the faithful in our diocese to our seminarians and to securing the future of the sacramental life of the Catholic Church here in Southwest Michigan," said Father Christopher Derda, Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Kalamazoo. "We are blessed to be looking at an increase in the number of seminarians for the Diocese of Kalamazoo by more than 50 percent this fall. With the blessing of these additional candidates our educational costs will likewise rise. The support of Catholic Extension makes it possible for us to begin this first-ever diocesan endowment fund for the diocese."

By offering the Seminarian Endowment Challenge, Catholic Extension is supporting increased calls to the priesthood in mission dioceses, which signals that these poor dioceses are rich in faith-they are doing excellent work to achieve vibrant and committed faith communities that beckon vocations to the priesthood.

"Seminarian education is a need that many people can understand and desire to help out with," said Father Paul Rutten, Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, a diocese participating in the challenge. "When I can sit down with a person and help them to see how we can take their generous gift and make it last not just for one year but for years to come through an endowment, they are even more excited about helping us out. The Seminarian Endowment Challenge is a way for me to be able to say to a number of people we will be able to take your gift and multiply it. One might say this is a modern day example of the loaves and fishes. Jesus receives this most generous gift and He continues to multiply it for the masses."

Funding seminarian education for poor dioceses is a strategic priority for Catholic Extension. In 2011 alone, Catholic Extension provided funding of nearly $3.4 million for seminarian education, almost double the amount from five years ago and five times the funding from 10 years ago. The Seminarian Endowment Challenge reaches above and beyond Catholic Extension's grant funding, offering a new way for the financial responsibility of educating seminarians to be met on a consistent basis.

"Our goal is to help poor mission dioceses meet the costs for seminarian education without sacrificing funding from other vital ministries and services," said Father Wall. "We're confident that the Seminarian Endowment Challenge will not only greatly support funding for seminarian education across the country where it's needed most, but will also empower these dioceses to provide for the formation of our future priests who are essential to the future of our church."

An embeddable video featuring seminarian interviews and a statement from Father Jack Wall is available as an accompaniment to this news.


About Catholic Extension

Catholic Extension uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the church in the U.S. by strategically investing in poor Catholic communities to unleash the power of faith that transforms hearts, lives and society. Based in Chicago, this national organization provides funding resources to dioceses and parishes through programs and services investing in people, infrastructure and ministries. This support is given based on need, passion and commitment to the growth of the Catholic faith. Since 1905, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $500 million to communities across America. For more information, visit www.catholicextension.org.