This past week, the Diocese of Madison seminarians gathered at the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center for the annual reunion with the bishop.
||Fr. Paul Arinze
This gathering offers seminarians who are studying in different seminaries the opportunity to come together in brotherhood and to spend time together with our bishop.
On Wednesday, Aug. 4, the seminarians were on hand to greet and meet with members of the Lumen Christi Society, who have shown their support through the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA). The week-long reunion of the seminarians came to its climax on Thursday, Aug., 5, with an evening of prayer, social, and dinner with the priests of the diocese.
Recruiting and training
The future of the priesthood in our diocese lies in effective recruitment and training of seminarians for priestly ministry. As the director of the Office of Vocations, I am tasked with the duty of coordinating the efforts of vocations for the diocese.
Since this calendar year, we are blessed to have accepted four new seminarians for studies for the priesthood for the Diocese of Madison. As the seminarians continue to grow in their numbers, so does the cost of training these future priests.
Currently, we have three categories of seminarians: theologians, those in the last four years of seminary studies; pre-theologians, those who entered the seminary with a college degree in a non-seminary institution and would need two years of philosophy and religion before beginning their four-year theology program. And finally, we have the college seminarians who are pursuing their four-year undergrad studies in a college seminary.
We currently have 17 theologians and six college seminarians. On the average, it costs anywhere from $33,000 to $42,000 per year to train one of these theologians, depending on which seminaries they are attending. This includes tuition, room and board, stipend, and insurance.
This cost is provided through the St. Joseph Fund, gifts, bequests, and recently, the Annual Catholic Appeal. The St. Joseph Fund, which is the major source for training of these seminarians, will need a major boost in order to remain a viable source of funding. Your support of the Annual Catholic Appeal, direct gift, or bequests to the St. Joseph Fund would go a long way to help see that we will never turn any good candidate for the priesthood away for lack of funding.
Just for the record and contrary to any opinion out there, it is cheaper for the diocese to train seminarians in Rome or Belgium than in any of the three major seminaries we currently use in the U.S. The cheapest overseas seminary costs us about $33,815 per student last year, as opposed to $40,268 per year in the cheapest major seminary we use in the U.S. outside of the Blessed John XXIII Seminary, which specializes in older vocations.
The cost for the overseas students mentioned above included tuition, room and board, stipend adjusted at about 1.3% for exchange, health insurance, and yearly round trip airline ticket. Even when they have to attend a language school before their start of studies, it is still cheaper.
One may ask why not send all of them for training in Europe and save on average of $7,000 to $8,000 per student per year? However, as enticing as sending all of them overseas may appear, we still need to have seminarians trained in the seminaries here in the U.S.
Thanks for prayers, support
In closing, I want to highlight a few things. First, what we do for our seminarians to support their training and formation is similar to what you will find in most dioceses in Wisconsin and beyond.
Secondly, there is need for other sources of funding outside of the St. Joseph Fund and ACA if we are to maintain or grow in our numbers.
Finally, I thank all of you for your continued prayers and support of our seminarians. Let us team up to help train our future priests as we continue to pray for an increase in vocations in the Diocese of Madison.
May the good Lord bless and reward you for all your kindness. Mary, Mother of Priests, pray for us!
Fr. Paul Ugo Arinze is director of the Diocese of Madison Office of Vocations.