Personal and student debt can slow down or prevent prospective seminarians and aspirants to religious orders from pursuing their vocations, but one organization with national scope aims to change that.
“The Laboure Society's work is critical because thousands of
discerning men and women are seeking to answer the Lord’s call to serve
his Church, but they are blocked from entering formation because of
outstanding student loan debt,” said Bill LeMire, director of
advancement for the Laboure Society. “These are vocations [in] the
Catholic Church that we will lose if they are not helped.”
According to LeMire, there are about 4,000 men and women seriously
discerning the priesthood or religious life, but they have outstanding
“Through the Laboure program, five figure debt has been erased in six
months, and six figure debt has been eliminated in 12-18 months,”
LeMire told CNA. “These timelines would be impossible if the aspirants
were trying to raise money on their own.”
Aspirants accepted to the society’s program have an average of about
$60,000 in loans. The Laboure Society says it has helped more than 240
men and women enter formation for the priesthood or religious life,
raising over $5 million since 2003.
The society works with each aspirant to assure that he or she has
used all means to mitigate debt before they are accepted to its program.
They are mentored and trained in ethical fundraising, with the
society’s staff providing accountability. They raise funds for every
aspirant in their class, not individuals. Once an aspirant is in
formation, he or she will receive monthly payments towards his or her
financial loans and receive a final payment after three years of
If they leave formation, they must resume their own debt payments.
The society aims to help aspirants share their vocation stories to help build “a culture of vocations and evangelization.”
Among the aspirants is Mallory Deschamp, a 22-year-old from
Minnesota. She said her twin sister’s discernment of a religious
vocation opened her own eyes.
“Jesus gently asked me to devote myself to Him more exclusively to
better discern this question, as well as to grow deeper in my love for
Him. Throughout this period of discernment, I found myself experiencing
profound peace during a time that is often filled with immense stress
and anxiety,” she said in Laboure Society materials.
Before she had begun to discern, a seminarian had asked her to learn
more about Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, and the
Missionaries of Charity. During her discernment, she visited their
communities in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Argentina.
“I hope to help satiate Christ’s thirst through serving Him in the
distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor; however, I am humbly
asking for assistance to make this possible,” said Deschamp, who
graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in the biology
of global health.
Nicholas Martell, 29, is discerning a vocation to the priesthood for the Diocese of San Bernardino.
He said the coverage of procession of the cardinals for the 2013
papal conclave that would elect Pope Francis particularly affected his
“At that moment, I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, and
that God was telling me that he expected more out of me. He wanted me to
give myself entirely to Him, to the service of His Church, and to
others,” he said.
Martell, an attorney, still has debt from law school.
Patricia Clark, a 58-year-old research assistant from Michigan, grew
up in an Anglo-Catholic Episcopal Church, where she first had thoughts
of religious life. She was received into the Catholic Church at the 2010
Easter Vigil, and felt a special call from God during Eucharistic
Adoration that autumn.
“I had been attracted to the Carmelite Saints since the beginning of
my Catholic journey. It seemed that God had been showing me the way all
along and He sent a complete stranger to invite me further down the path
He had planned for me.”
When she left a church after time in prayer specifically asking God
about his will, a woman followed her and asked if she had ever
considered becoming a Carmelite.
A Carmelite prioress later responded to her concerns about her age by
reminding her of St. Elizabeth, who conceived St. John the Baptist at
an old age.
The Laboure Society was founded by Minnesota businessman Cy Laurent in 2003, and it is based in Eagan, Minn.
Its website is https://labouresociety.org.