The long road leading to ordination is an arduous journey of formation for a man heeding the call to Holy Orders.
It takes grit to stay the course of discernment that can be as short as six months or as long as two years, which includes applications, evaluations, interviews and a review board.
Once those hurdles are passed the next big step is entering the seminary, which costs between $35,000-$45,000 a year to educate, feed, house and insure one person.
The financial blow to the families of these men could be insurmountable over the next six to nine years if not for the annual Charity and Development Appeal.
It is only with the help of generous donations to the CDA that seminarians don’t have to find part-time work because they are on full scholarships, and can submerge themselves fully into their studies.
“So for this reason, without the CDA, it would be impossible to educate our seminarians,” said Fr. Paul Sullivan, vocations director for the Diocese of Phoenix.
The CDA donations provided last year $897,333 for clergy, deacons, seminarians and religious.
Specifically, the CDA granted Fr. Sullivan’s office $168,521 in 2014 to offset formation expenses.
Seminarians, whose average age is 26, are sent by the diocese to one of four seminaries — the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
The trend for younger seminarians is consistent with what is seen around the country.
“A blessing that we see here is that amidst a more secular society, the Lord is calling forth young men who are courageously looking to proclaim Christ to a world so in need of truth and authentic love,” Fr. Sullivan said.
Because the CDA is the major funding body, formation is serious business with the knowledge that a priest will give his lifetime in the service of God.
“The quality of the formation of our seminarians, in particular the spiritual formation, leads to parishes that are well-formed and led by men after the heart of Jesus,” Fr. Sullivan said. “This (tuition) may seem like a lot, but that spread over a long life of service is more than worth it.”
Carrie Aranda, director of parish engagement in the diocesan Office of Stewardship, said the 2015 collection is within $50,000 of its $8.3 million goal, with 60 parishes and missions in the diocese over their targeted goals.
That is great news for those offices that depend on funding, in particular any young man thinking of serving Christ.
Fr. Sullivan’s office posts current seminarian bios, Q&A’s, links and other pertinent information at www.phoenixpriest.com.