Training future priests is expensive

Diocese of Honolulu pleads for more money from faithful to help pay the $40,000 per year it costs to send prospective priests to St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park

At the ordination Mass of Father William “Pila” Tulua, some of the Diocese of Honolulu’s seminarians pose with Bishop Larry Silva and vocations director Father Rheo Olfasa, who is to the left of the bishop. (HCH Photo)

Any parent who has saved or paid for a child’s higher education knows that learning doesn’t come cheap.

That remains the case for the Diocese of Honolulu to support its seminarians through the coursework and degrees that will make them Hawaii’s future priests.

It costs roughly $40,000 a year per seminarian during their four years of post-graduate theology study, according to Father Rheo Olfasa, the diocese’s vocations director. (By comparison, tuition, room and board for the University of Notre Dame is more than $60,000 a year).

Those seminarians who enter formation at the undergraduate college level are responsible for paying for their own bachelor’s degree tuition, though the diocese can loan the funds. Mount Angel Seminary costs $34,528 a year for tuition, room and board.

Those entering the seminary who already have a college degree have to take two years of pre-theology (philosophy), the cost of which the diocese covers.

With nine seminarians currently in their pre-theology or theology studies, that’s about $360,000 a year in tuition alone the diocese pays.

To help cover those costs, the Vocations Office holds an annual Seminarian Education Fund appeal, which aims to offset the cost of seminarian tuition.

This year’s seminarian second collection takes place July 21-22. The appeal amassed $135,000 in 2017-2018.

“That’s really the generosity of our parishioners,” said Lisa Sakamoto, the diocesan finance officer.

But the appeal doesn’t fully cover tuition expenses or other costs like seminarian books, medical insurance, a $400 monthly stipend, one round trip flight a year to and from school, and the general expenses of operating the vocations office.

Those costs have to come out of other areas of the diocesan budget. For the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the diocese will tap into a With Grateful Hearts vocations endowment that was just recently fully funded. And parish assessments help as well. But there’s still a deficit, Sakamoto and Father Olfasa said.

So the appeal is essential and even further generosity toward it would help cover more seminarian costs, Father Olfasa added.

Full story at Hawaii Catholic Herald.

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  1. St. Christopher says:

    Too bad almost all seminarians will not learn about the True Faith, including the concepts of sin, confession, penance, and redemption. A priest at a Diocese of Arlington (VA) parish recently gave a sermon on “respect” of those previously marginalized by the Church. When reminded that his language would likely be construed to support homosexual sexual behavior, he heatedly said, “I stand with the Church!” When told that the Church does not teach that, he said, “then good-bye.” This poor guy has been seriously malformed as a priest, as is likely the case with many, many seminarians. Cost is the least of the problems.

  2. Drewelow says:

    Does any one know if send at Menlo park seminary are allowed to have their own cars? If so,there’s an area where cutbacks could be beneficial in many ways

  3. William Roberts says:

    Perhaps starting a GoFundMe page on the internet could help with the fundraising. Also, the Koch Brothers seem to have a lot of money for various causes; a call to one of them could be fruitful.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Maybe it would be less expensive for priests to study at a seminary that isn’t in uber-expensive California?

  5. This is one area where the Church can not afford to try to skimp. Poorly trained clergy will lack credibility.

  6. former student says:

    Another possible addition to the expenses — their living costs.
    As a lay student, I attended a Catholic college with an associated diocesan seminary.
    The seminarians were housed in private rooms in the seminary, as opposed to the majority of lay students living on campus who were housed with roommates.
    The seminarians also had their own dining hall, which I heard served better food than that provided for the lay students. Needless to say the lay students were paying for their own room and board, whether out of pocket, through scholarships, grants or loans — and in my opinion their living circumstances were surpassed by those in the seminary.
    The seminary also had its own tennis courts and swimming pool. The laity had their own…

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