Educational debt poses roadblock for many considering religious life
Published: February 23, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A night of bingo and the generosity of friends helped Sister Katie Press achieve her dream of a religious vocation. Otherwise, she might still be paying off $19,000 in loans from graduate school and other expenses, and her entry into the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hamden, Conn., might be far on the horizon. As things stand now, 28-year-old Sister Katie is 18 months into a two-year novitiate with the order, and she's debt-free. "I tried to make sure that debt wasn't the number one thing standing against me," she told Catholic News Service, explaining how she embarked on a yearlong fundraising effort to make sure her student loan was paid off before she entered the religious community in August 2009. Like many religious orders, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus requires that new members be debt-free because it does not have the resources to pay back any loans. Sister Katie considers herself blessed to have paid off her student loan so quickly. Other religious vocation candidates have been forced to end their pursuit of religious life because of their educational debts, according to a study commissioned by the National Religious Vocation Conference. Results were released Feb. 22. Researchers Mary L. Gautier and Melissa A. Cidade of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that of the religious orders that answered their survey, seven in 10 -- 69 percent -- turned away at least some people who inquired about a vocation because of educational debt.
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