Editor’s note: The following was submitted by the Reathel Giannonatti, JD, Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development. It has been edited for style and clarity.
The Seminarian Education Endowment is a group of 168 burses gifted to the Diocese of Crookston Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) for educating seminarians. Thirty-seven parishes have seminarian education burses, some begun decades ago, 29 parishes do not. Many named burses have been gifted by families, couples or in memory of a loved one. Several burses are major gifts from estates, and many of our retired priests and bishops have burses as well. It’s a wonderful opportunity to create a legacy for a parish, family or individual.
Two years ago, the office of Stewardship and Development and CCF entered into a soft campaign, meeting with potential donors and parishes about building up the Seminarian Education Endowment which currently has $2.5 million invested. It needs to be at $5 million to fully fund projected expenses for our seminarians’ education. Currently much funding for seminarians comes from the Diocesan Annual Appeal and assessments to parishes. Every parish without a burse is encouraged to begin one. Those with burses set up years ago are encouraged to continue adding to their investments.
There are two reasons why this initiative is critical for all of us. First, the thing that threatens the future of many parishes is not the ability to care for itself financially or to keep buildings in good repair. Church buildings have been carefully cared for by pastors, volunteers and professionals keeping them in excellent condition. What threatens the future of our beloved parishes is the availability of a priest. Presently, nearly every priest in the diocese has more than one parish or ministry to attend to. Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner says we need to give every young man who hears the voice of God an opportunity to discern a call to the priesthood. This means being able to support that young man during seminary. Not every call will fully form and express itself in a vocation to the priesthood, but we must be able to provide those opportunities.
Second, building up the seminarian education endowment takes pressure off the diocesan budget, avoiding raises in Diocesan Annual Appeal goals and parish assessments. This takes pressure off parish budgets. Burses are never spent but are invested conservatively in funds that are harmonious with Catholic social principals. Interest from the investments is used exclusively for books, tuition, room and board for seminarians and for the expenses incurred by the Office of Vocations. When the endowment is at $5 million, we should be able to fully fund those expenses with the interest.
It is important to note that when the Holy Spirit moves a young man to enter seminary, we are incredibly joyful! At the same time, it takes careful financial planning and reserves to financially accommodate that call. Major seminary – which is graduate school in theology – for which the diocese assumes full financial responsibility, currently costs $50,000 per year. We contribute a modest $15,000 per year for those students in undergraduate school, also referred to as minor seminary.
I am available to meet with parish finance and pastoral councils to discuss opening or building a burse. Families interested in opening a burse can contact the Chancery for an appointment.
The most gratifying part of the soft campaign is that when a family or a parish opens a burse, they become committed to the mission of educating our seminarians. Many who began a burse are contributing again in the second year, revisiting their gifts and providing additional funding. They have kept the seminarians in their thoughts, prayers and financial plans! It doesn’t get any better than that.