Thank you for your openness to following God’s call for your life!
First of all, please know that we are praying for you and your vocation.
Entrusted to the care of St. Joseph, our St. Joseph Student Debt Relief Grant Program assists men and women seeking to enter religious life by paying off the amount of student debt aspirants have at the time of their entry.
we ask that you read all the content on this page.
Your signature on your application will signify that you have read and understood this page.
We have placed our program to assist men and women desiring to enter consecrated life, in spite of any indebtedness due to educational loans, under the patronage of St. Joseph as the St. Joseph Student Debt Relief Grant Program. In most cases, St. Joseph grants are issued for the full amount of student debt carried by the applicant at the time of his entry into religious life.
No doubt you just want to get cracking on downloading and filling out the application forms. However, if you file an application with us, you must certify (by signing the application) that you have read all the information on this page.
A key criterion for eligibility for this grant program is the inability to proceed with formation unless the obstacle of student debt is removed. That is, if you have already begun your formation and will not be prevented from continuing your formation at some point, you are not eligible for a grant. If you have met that basic criteria, please peruse our eligibility rules.
Grant Structure and Payment
St. Joseph grants are structured and paid out to prevent both abuse of the grant program and any interference in the grant recipient’s discernment.
If there is something you don’t understand, give us a call and ask for the grant administrator.
Of further interest are our pages on
- Our policy for approving institutes for participation in the grant program.
- Your chances of getting a grant.
- Our grantmaking schedule.
If you haven’t already done so, we’d like you to register so that we can keep you informed. Registering will also give us some advance warning about how many applicants we should be expecting.
And, of course, there are the forms themselves. Each year we discover changes that must be made to the forms to make them better. So if you downloaded a previous year’s forms, you need to get the new ones to apply this year.
This section will help you to determine whether you are eligible to apply for a St. Joseph Grant. Start at the top and read each description until you find the one that applies to your situation.
To be eligible to apply for a grant from the MEFV, you must now be living in either the United States or Canada. You are also eligile if your future religious institute has some of its formation or apostolates in the United States and/or Canada and you will be either formed in North America and/or participate in the order’s North American apostolates.
Of course, the first basic assumption is that you have discerned or are discerning that God is calling you to a consecrated life of service to Him and His Church. (And we are very thankful that you have generously responded to that call.) If you’re just roaming the web, looking for debt relief, we invite you to look elsewhere.
The second basic assumption is that the institute you desire to enter or the diocese you want to serve has a policy that will prevent an individual with student debt from continuing their formation at some point. The minimum point at which a policy must terminate formation is noted in each description.
The following descriptions refer to terms with specific meaning like Institute of Consecrated Life or Secular Institute. If you don’t know what kind of institute you intend to enter, ask your vocation director.
- If you want to enter any form of consecrated life other than an Institute of Consecrated Life or a Society of Apostolic Life we regret that you are not eligible for any of our grant programs. In particular, Secular Institutes and private Associations of Lay Faithful are not covered by our grant programs. Also, our grant programs no longer cover men headed for formation as diocesan priests.
- Public Associations of Lay Faithful which are working on becoming either an Institute of Consecrated Life or a Society of Apostolic Life do qualify for our grant programs. When reading the items below, select the option that will apply when your insitute reaches its final goal. If you don’t know what that is, speak with your vocation director.
- If you want to enter an Institute of Consecrated Life, and it is the policy of the institute that individuals responsible for student debt may not enter the novitiate, you are eligible to apply.
- If you want to enter a Society of Apostolic Life whose members make a public commitment to poverty, and it is the policy of the institute that individuals responsible for student debt may not enter the novitiate or whatever state of formation is analogous to the novitiate, you are eligible to apply.
- If you want to enter a Society of Apostolic Life whose members do not make a public commitment to poverty, but whose primary charism is to staff parishes with priests, and it is the policy of the institute that individuals responsible for student debt over a certain threshold (possibly zero) may not begin formation, you are eligible to apply.
Grants are determined once per year, during the winter.
The MEFV awards its grants once a year, in the winter. We accept applications by US mail after September 15th and applications must be postmarked by November 30th to be eligibile to be reviewed for awards announced on or about the following March 15th.
No exceptions are made to this schedule.
You are eligible to apply for a given year’s grant awards if your expected entry date lies between that year’s award date and 15 months after that year’s award date. That is, you can apply for the March 2019 awards if you are scheduled to enter any time between March 15, 2019 and June 15, 2020.
If your application is denied, you may reapply in any following year as long as you are still making a good faith effort to pay your loans and you have not entered. If you enter your order, you will not be permitted reapply.
To reapply, please submit a letter indicating you are reapplying and informing us of your payment progress since you last applied. Reapplications must include newly completed application forms. If there has been a significant change in your vocation story, you may include an addendum to it.
for the 2019 Awards
Application Forms Available
September 1, 2018
Application Period Begins
September 15, 2018
Application Must Be Postmarked By
November 30, 2018
Grants To Be Announced On Or Around
March 15, 2019
Last Eligible Entry Into Religious Life
June 15, 2020
Grant Structure and Payment Schedule
The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations has structured its grant programs to be neutral to the discernment process.
The first way we do this, is to require that a grant applicant have a letter of acceptance from an approved institute before he can submit an application for a grant. This serves to focus the candidate’s attention on discernment of his vocation with the aid of the institute’s vocation director, rather than on the issue of his debt.
Once a grant is approved, the manner in which grant payments are made furthers the goal of discernment neutrality. Grant payouts are made according to the normal monthly payment schedule of the loans to the financial institutions that hold the grant recipient’s loans (see below).
By making payments over time, rather than a lump-sum payout, we avoid two possibilities for influence on the discernment process:
- That a grant recipient will feel indebted to the MEFV and remain in the order even when discernment is indicating that his vocation lies elsewhere.
- That anyone would be influenced to see entry to religious life as a quick way to eliminate a burdensome debt.
Student loans covered by a grant remain in the name of the grant recipient. The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations makes a legally enforceable commitment to make the payments, but we do not become financially responsible for the loan from the perspective of the institution that issued the loan.
- Upon entry of the grant recipient to his religious institute, we will begin to make the normal payments for his loans. Alternately, if his formation permits the use of a deferral, we may defer payments for one or more years.
- Upon final vows, we will accelerate payment of a grant recipient’s loans so that the loans will be fully paid off on the 5th anniversary of his final vows.
If at any time the grant recipient leaves his religious institute, we will cease to make loan payments. At that point, the now ex-grant recipient becomes responsible for all future loan payments. There is, however, no obligation repay us for any loan payments we have made to date.
Prudence and Faith
There is a tension between the virtues of Prudence and Faith. This tension is of particular interest to you if you apply for a grant from the MEFV and then enter your order before you know the outcome of your grant application.
The following facts are of interest:
- We currently turn down half of all applicants to the MEFV.
- If you have been turned down, your chances of success at reapplication are very poor if you have not lowered your loan payments by pre-paying (see this answer in our FAQ) or at least lowered your outstanding balance.
- We forbid reapplication if you are no longer making a good faith effort at loan repayment.
For almost everyone, entering religious life means no longer having an income. This is proper. The goal of aspirancy, postulancy, and the novitiate is to test your vocation and be formed in religion, not making money. It is also very difficult to do fundraising while in formation and it may even be detrimental to proper formation.
With regard to your student loans, the practical result of entering religious life is that you will not be able to make payments and your balance will rise from accruing interest. Therefore, should you be a member of the unfortunate half of our applicants that get turned down, you will not be able to reapply to the MEFV.
Faith says that God has called you to life in religion. Faith has confirmed this call in more than one way and you are eager follow the will of God. We rejoice with you and thank you for your generosity in responding. Faith also makes it clear that God will find a way to get you into religious life in spite of your student loans.
Prudence councils patience and a calm assessment of how best to achieve the life to which you are called.
We cannot judge where the intersection of Faith and Prudence lies for you personally. That you must work out in prayer with the assistance of your vocation director.
However, we want you to understand that if you apply, enter religious life, and are then turned down for a grant, you will probably not be allowed to reapply. This is one of the meanings of first certification statement on the application form just above your signature: If I do not receive a grant, I will be eligible to re-apply only if I have made a good-faith effort to reduce my debts.
MEFV Approved Institutes
The goal of the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations is to build up the Church by enabling men and women to embark on living their vocations sooner rather than later. That is, they can begin their life of prayer, apostolic work, and mortification for the glory of God. Such a life is likely to be possible only within a institute that is faithful to the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.
Accordingly, the MEFV accepts applications for grants only from individuals entering institutes that have been approved for participation in the MEFV grant programs.
To be approved:
- An institute must be able and willing to communicate with the Fund for Vocations in English. That is, all requests for information and contracts sent by the Fund to the institute will be in English and all official replies and notices to the Fund from the institute must be in English.
- An institute must be in union with the See of Peter. This includes all Roman Catholic religious institutes and those of the Byzantine rite, the Melkite rite, etc.
- An institute must be willing to be a party to the grant agreement, acknowledging that the MEFV’s promise to pay the grant recipient’s debt as stipulated by the agreement is equivalent to the grant recipient being debt-free. The agreement also includes reporting requirements for the institute.
- A institute must be either an Institute of Consecrated Life that is a Religious Institute or a Society of Apostolic Life. We do not provide grants to individuals entering the consecrated life of Secular Institutes such as Opus Dei or Regnum Christi. Nor do we approve Religious Institutes which are associated with Secular Institutes. Public Associations of Lay Faithful working to become either a Religious Institute or a Society of Apostolic Life are eligible. Private Associations of Lay Faithful are not eligible.
- An institute must have a policy that individuals responsible for any kind of debt may not take vows or promises (either temporary or perpetual). This does not disqualify institutes that agree to pay an aspirant’s debt, but the understanding must be that the debt is no longer the responsibility of the professed individual.Please Note: At the MEFV’s current level of funding, any individual who has his debts assumed by his institute is not likely to receive a grant from the MEFV. This is because we assume the institute is acting in good faith. That is, the debt was assumed because the institute could afford to do so. Therefore, the MEFV will apply its limited assets elsewhere.
- We use one of two methods to help us determine whether a given institute exhibits fidelity to the teaching Magisterium of the Catholic Church and loyalty to the Holy Father:
- An institute can be approved without further review if it is either an affiliate of the Institute on Religious Life (IRL) or a member of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR).
- If method one does not apply, the suitability of the institute for participation in the MEFV’s grant programs will be determined by the MEFV’s Institute Review Board (IRB). Decisions of the IRB are final.
Terminology that relates to forms of consecrated life can be very confusing. In general usage, terms are often misapplied. Your vocation director is the best source for identifying the form of consecrated life to which your intended community belongs.
Current Grantmaking Situation
This section of the page attempts to answer the question “What are my chances of getting a grant?” It therefore deals with the current reality of funding for the MEFV. We do not mean, however, to discourage you from applying for a grant. We only intend to be honest about what you can expect.
When considering the issuance of a grant, the MEFV considers the annual cost of the grant. That is, how much money we will have to raise each year to make the necessary payments to keep a grant recipient’s student loans current? To make this concrete, here is an example:
Jane Doe has three student loans with balances and payments as follows:
Her total outstanding loan balance is $38,000 with a monthly payment of $450. To keep these loans current, an annual payment of $5,400 is required. So if we give Miss Doe a grant, it will cost the MEFV $5,400 per year. Assuming Jane perseveres, MEFV will be responsible for that annual cost for the next 12 to 14 years.
For the last grant review period, the MEFV board of directors authorized $33,000 worth of annual cost for grant issuance. When the review board met, there were 22 applicants presenting a total annual grant cost of $61,594. All but three applicants presented an annual grant cost of less than $5,000.
If our fictional Miss Doe had applied in the last period and the review board had given her a grant, they would have had $27,600 left to issue more grants in that period. However, for the equivalent of $5,400, they could have issued grants to the first six applicants with the lowest annual grant costs.
As of the date of this writing (May 2010), the MEFV has 61 active grants outstanding with an annual cost of $120,500 Since the beginning of 2010, we have raised $56,597 for the payment of these grants and the issuance of more. We are very thankful to our donors for this level of support. However, we must be prudent about the allocation of funds to new grants.
At this current level of fundraising, it is unlikely that the board of directors will increase the yearly allotment of funds for the issuance of new grants. (In fact it could decrease, depending on how fundraising goes for the rest of the year.) Because the review board likes to help as many aspirants to religious life as possible, this means that your chances are better if your monthly payments are relatively low.
How low is low enough? We don’t specify that because the review board treats each application individually. There may be (and have been) compelling reasons to issue more expensive grants. But in general, it’s a good idea to get your monthly payment as low as possible. Consolidation of loans can help. A real improvement can be made with aggressive pre-payment of loans. See the answer to “How best to apply loan overpayments?” for more information.
REGISTER FOR UPDATES
By providing us with your name and email address, we will add you to our communications list about the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations.
How to Apply
Please Note: The 2017 awards will be announced in March 2017. The following information is to apply for the 2018 awards.
Complete applications may be sent to:
9243 Old Green Mountain Road
Esmont, VA 22937
Alternately, you may call us at 877.556.6338 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request that a paper application is mailed to you.
If you wish, you may send us an email to let us know you have mailed an application. This optional step is recommended if you mail your application less than a week before the postmark cutoff date.
Before sending, please double check that:
- You are sending your application between September 15 and November 30, 2017.
- If you wish to confirm that your application was delivery that you use Delivery Confirmation only. Please do not use Certified Mail, Return Receipt, Restricted Delivery or Signature Confirmation as these may delay our receipt of your package or even result in it being returned unopened.
- A copy of your letter of acceptance from your religious institute is included with your application package. Having your vocation director send it to us directly may delay the processing of your application.
- All loan information is complete. All boxes pertaining to your loans must be filled. If you are unsure about some of the values or your responses, contact your lender(s).
Prospective applicants should read all the pages available under the menu “For Grant Applicants” to fully inform themselves about the requirements for application.