It is a well known fact that the cost of a college education has skyrocketed in recent years. Many students are forced to rely on loans to pay tuition and living expenses, often leaving them in debt before they even begin their first job.
While our seminaries have held down the cost of tuition, living expenses – especially for married students with children – present a special challenge for those who have responded to Our Lord’s call to devote their lives to serving the People of God.
Several months ago, His Grace, Bishop Matthias, shared his deep concern for the financial plight of our diocesan seminarians.
"While the ideal would be to cover all expenses for our seminarians, including tuition, housing, and life’s other ‘basics,’ little has been done to address these needs," he told members of the Diocesan and Bishop’s Councils recently. "In fact, funding to assist our diocesan seminarians has been reduced in recent years, even though expenses have increased substantially in our current economic environment."
For years, the Midwest Diocese’s annual budget earmarked $20,000.00 to support seminarians. This sum was divided by the number of diocesan seminarians, each of whom received a stipend directly. A few years ago, this amount was reduced to $10,000.00.
"With a dozen seminarians studying at Saint Tikhon’s and Saint Vladimir’s Seminaries, $10,000.00 breaks down to less than $1,000.00 per seminarian per year," Bishop Matthias remarked. "For a seminarian with a wife and one or two children, this sum does not even begin to cover a month’s rent, groceries, utilities, insurance, and other necessities – much less the actual cost of a seminary education!
"A seminarian severely burdened by the need to work part-time – if he can find a job – while supporting a family, carrying a full load of courses, and participating in the liturgical cycles of the Church cannot give his full attention to that for which he enrolled in seminary in the first place," Bishop Matthias added.
In an effort to address these needs, all parishes of the Diocese of the Midwest are being asked to raise funds to assist the diocese’s seminarians during the month of June 2012 – "Support Our Seminarians Month." Parishes may raise funds through whatever means they deem appropriate – one-time or weekly collections throughout the month, bake sales or fundraisers, pledge drives, or other means – and to send in their contributions to the Diocese of the Midwest after June 24 – SOS Sunday.
Weeks before the announcement of SOS Month, one of the diocese’s six deaneries held a fundraising dinner, the profits of which were earmarked for the diocese’s seminarians. One parish held a benefit concert to raise funds, while another parish presented Bishop Matthias with a check for $1,000.00 during his recent archpastoral visit.
"Such spontaneous and unsolicited support clearly indicates that there are many within our diocese who clearly discern our need and wish to help our seminarians," Bishop Matthias observed. "I pray that every parish will respond in kind, enabling our diocese to offer assistance well beyond our $20,000.00 goal."
A full-color SOS Month flier is available in PDF format on the diocesan web site here. It can be easily downloaded and printed for distribution with the parish bulletin on Pentecost Sunday, June 3. In addition, two bulletin inserts, also in PDF format, will be posted on the web site on Monday, June 4, and Monday, June 11. They may likewise be printed and distributed on the following Sundays – June 10 and 17 – to build awareness and encourage participation by the faithful.
"I pray that our diocesan family will respond ‘with one mind and heart’ in this effort," Bishop Matthias concluded. "And I am sure that all will agree that there is no better investment in the Church’s tomorrow than to offer assistance and support to tomorrow’s clergy and lay leaders – today!"
June 10th Bulletin Insert - Click here!