Sean O'Malley of Boston has recently warned that student debt is
threatening marriage, but one group is trying keep it from threatening
religious vocations, too.
The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations (MEFV)
offers grants that pay the minimum monthly payments of a sister's or
brother's student loans, with full payment made five years after a final
profession or ordination. Should a grantee decide religious life is not
for them, responsibility for the payments return to them without
Corey and Katherine Huber founded MEFV in 2006 when they
saw student loans, which average over $30,000, prevent the generous
response of men and women to their vocational callings. Their work,
which has been endorsed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Prefect of the
Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, has already awarded
While the Hubers regret that they can't fund everyone
who applies for grants, they have haven't turned many away because of
the type of order an applicant wanted to join. "The fund is
self-selecting," said Katherine Huber. "Applicants are going to orders
that are vibrant and fruitful." The MEFV efforts are finally bearing
fruit amid these growing orders as 13 have made their final professions
in recent years.
Many who come to MEFV have a similar story, Corey
Huber explains. "Matthew felt sure that he had a call to the vocation
of a priest. He had been discerning with several orders, but each time
that the conversation with the vocation director came around to the
practical matters, his $26,700 of student debts would stop progress."
that the unwillingness of orders to consider him because of his debts
was a sign of discernment," Huber continues, "Matthew began to consider
the possibility of not being called to the priesthood. He resolved to
try one more time, but if his debts stopped him again, he would give up.
The last religious institute he tried was the Franciscan Friars of the
Immaculate, a relatively new, but very faithful and rather austere
branch of the Franciscans. When Matthew called the priest who was the
Friar’s vocation director to discuss their charism and apostolates, he
liked what he heard. But then he reluctantly brought up his debt:
'Father, I have a lot of student debt, won’t that prevent me from
entering your order?' To which the vocation director
responded: 'Matthew, you need more faith; Our Lady has all the money in
the world!' And then the vocation director proceeded to tell Matthew
about our organization." Matthew will be ordained in a few months.
a religious vocation is hard enough without a financial burden. "I was
just scared about having to discern and even more scaredabout having to
actually respond if I were to conclude that I thought God was indeed
calling," said Daniel Heenan, a deacon with the Fraternity of St. Peter.
"Somewhere along the way, once I started thinking about the Fraternity,
I realized that debt would be an issue - and I had a lot of it."
being accepted to the Fraternity upon the condition that he got rid of
his debt, Heenan still had a considerable amount remaining as the
academic year approached. "I became very worried. I felt like I had
invested too much in the process already. I had quit my job, graduate
school, and had begun making preparations to enter the seminary. I was
not sure I had the strength to put these plans on hold for another year
or several years while I tried to pay down this debt."
amounted to was a test of my faith and my resolve," said Heenan. "When I
received word that I had been awarded the grant just a few weeks before
I was supposed to leave for the seminary, it was a very powerful
confirmation of my discernment to that point."
Sr. Mariana Thayer,
a Nashville Dominican, whose vocational story follows a similar line,
was encouraged by her parents to pray to God for assistance. "If it was
his will that I enter the convent, he would provide the money that I
needed. God is never outdone in generosity!"
With Pope Francis' recent announced that 2015 will be the year of Consecrated Life, Mater Ecclesiae is likely to stay busy.