NRVC CARA 2012 STUDY ON EDUCATIONAL DEBT AND VOCATIONS
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
|Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC
NRVC Executive Director
I am delighted to present you with the final results of our newest study on educational debt and vocations. This study, generously funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, was commissioned by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Kathleen Mahoney, project director, and Dr. Mary Gautier, senior research associate at CARA, for their dedicated commitment to this project. In addition, I extend my gratitude to the members of the original working group who assisted in the planning of this study: Sister Ellen Dauwer, SC, Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, Brother Campion Lally, OSF, J.D., Dr. Sharon Miller, and Sister Anne Walsh, ASCJ.
With accumulated educational debt increasing by five percent yearly in the United States, the research was designed with two main goals:
1) to learn more about the impact of student loans on the men and women who are coming to religious life today.
2) to learn about the policy and practices of the religious institutes regarding educational debt and to learn from their experiences.
The study has found that our national educational debt problem is definitely impeding young women and men from pursuing life as a religious priest, sister, or brother. When one out of three people applying to religious life has student loans of almost $21,000, this inevitably becomes a financial strain on some religious institutes. Some communities have no alternative but to ask potential candidates to delay their applications, or even worse, turn them away altogether.
This issue highlights one aspect of the complexity of the religious vocation question in this country. Although the solutions are not simple, NRVC is committed to finding ways to ameliorate this problem. We hope to convene in the near future a group of key stakeholders to explore possible solutions. In addition, we will publish a book of guidelines on educational debt for major superiors, vocation directors, and financial officers of religious institutes.
Changing times present new challenges to the Church and the world. In the midst of this, our faith and history attest that God does not stop calling men and women to religious life. The question is how to alleviate the barriers that may prevent them from further discernment of this call. This question, however, is not just for religious communities. If the Church and world benefit from the lives and service of women and men religious, then all of us in the Church share in the responsibility of finding a solution.
May God bless our efforts.
Lisa Ripson, Ripson Communications
People available for interviews:
Brother Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, Executive Director of NRVC
Kathleen Mahoney, Ph.D., Project Director for Debt Study
Mary Gautier, Ph.D., Senior Reseach Associate at CARA
Candidates/Postulants to religious life whose educational debt has affected their vocation