- What is the purpose of the Fund for Vocations?
The Fund for Vocations is a 501(c)3 whose charitable purpose is to support priestly and religious vocations by eliminating one particular kind of financial obstacle: student debt. That is, loans that have been used to pay for a college education. The Fund for Vocations issues grants that cover student debts, allowing men and women, who otherwise could not, to enter Catholic religious life or begin formation for the Catholic priesthood.
- Where does the Fund for Vocations find the funds to make grants?
The Fund for Vocations raises funds each year to meet its commitments for grants issued. We do not currently have an endowment fund, and we do not have committed funds before issuing grants.We rely on the Catholic faithful to fund vocation-enabling grants.
Foundations also support the Fund as we seek to accept more applicants and increase our individual donor base.
We do not make requests of our applicants or grant recipients to actively help us raise funds.
- Do you make partial grants to defray part of a person’s debt, so they can remain in the secular world and continue to work and fundraise for the remainder?
No. We only make grants in cases where our funding is the difference between entering and not entering. We do not issue partial grants with the idea that the recipient will remain in the secular world to continue fundraising. Rather, the Fund for Vocations provides grants for “last mile” debt relief.
- How are grant decisions made?
In January, the Fund for Vocations board of directors meets to review the previous year’s financial performance. They then decide how much new annual cost should be authorized for the issuance of new grants. To understand this, it is helpful to know that when considering the issuance of a grant, the Fund for Vocations considers the annual cost of the grant, as well as the total loan balance. More detail is provided in our For Grant Applicants section.
- How are we sure that the orders we help are faithful?
Our full policy on religious institutes may be found here.
- How are a grant recipient’s loans paid?
The Fund for Vocations makes no lump sum payments. We begin making the minimum monthly payments required by grant recipients’ lenders when they begin formation. We continue making monthly payments until the grant recipients make final vows and then we begin accelerating payments (as needed) so that the recipients’ debt will be fully paid no later than the 5th anniversary of final vows. If at any time the grant recipient leaves formation, we immediately stop loan payments. More detail is available at our Grant Information page.
- Can I restrict my gift for the benefit of someone in particular?
A donor may restrict their donation to the Fund for Vocations to a specific order and receive a tax deduction. However, the IRS rules state that a gift directed to a specific individual is not tax deductible. You can read this portion of the IRS publication 526 for details. Consult a professional if you need tax advice.
- Can I restrict my gift for the benefit of a particular order?
Yes! See above.
- Can I restrict my gift for the benefit of a particular diocese?
While many of our grant recipients are helping men and women who will be serving as priests and sisters in parishes, their superiors have the authority to assign them wherever the order has parishes. We cannot predict where they will be assigned.
- I have other, non-student debts. Can you help me with them?
No. Our grant programs are only for student loan debt.
- I borrowed from my family to go to school. Can I apply for a grant to pay them back?
We do cover student loans in the applicant’s name that also have a co-signer. However, we do not cover loans that are not in the applicant’s name.
- My parents borrowed to pay for my school costs. Can a Fund for Vocations grant pay my parent’s debt?
No. A Fund for Vocations grant pays only the student loan debts incurred by the grant recipient.
- I’m in a seminary and having a hard time paying tuition, books and room and board. Can you help me?
No. The Fund for Vocations only helps men who are prevented from beginning their formation for the priesthood because of their pre-existing student loans. If you are experiencing difficulty with seminary costs and are in the United States, consider contacting your local Knights of Columbus council or a local chapter of the Serra Club.
- The order I am entering requires that I pay for my health insurance and other costs in the first few years. Can I apply to the Fund for Vocations for help in paying those costs?
No. The Fund for Vocations only helps remove the obstacle to religious life presented by pre-existing student loans. If you are experiencing difficulty with dowry expenses and are in the United States, consider contacting your local Knights of Columbus council or a local chapter of the Serra Club.
- I have been, or intend to, fundraise myself. Can I direct my donors to send their gifts to the Fund for Vocations, restricted to my benefit, so that they can receive a tax deduction for their gift?
- Can I apply for a Fund for Vocations grant if I am working with the Labouré Society?
Yes, you may apply for a Fund for Vocations grant while working with Laboure Society. Please contact executive director, Mary Radford, if you plan to or are currently working with the Laboure Society. Mary@FundforVocations.org
- Can I apply for a grant if I’ve already entered my order?
Yes. However, if you are denied, it is very unlikely that you will be allowed to re-apply. Read the answer to the “Why can’t I re-apply if I enter my order?” question to learn why.
- Can I apply for a grant if I’m still in school?
We only issue grants to candidates who have stopped incurring student loan debt. If you will not be taking out additional loans (i.e. you are in your last semester of school) you may apply.
- I know I have a vocation to religious life, but I have one or more semesters until I graduate from college. I will have to borrow for tuition and/or other costs to continue my education. What should I do?
We think you should prayerfully consider leaving school at the end of your current term and discern as soon as possible to find, and be accepted by, the religious community that is right for you.
Here are a few things to consider with the assistance of your spiritual director:
- Consider the prudence of increasing your debt burden when you know or suspect that you have a vocation. It may be that much more difficult to pursue your vocation resulting in a greater delay or a higher dependence on the charity of others.
- Should later discern you do not have a vocation to religious life, you can easily restart your education.
- Why must I agree to release some personal information to be able to apply for a grant?
There are two reasons:
- The IRS requires non-profits to report the identity of individuals receiving grant money and the amount of funds received to their benefit, if that amount is over a certain annual limit. Thus, if you receive a grant, we may be required to report your identity in our annual public IRS filing.
- We raise the money we use to pay grants by reaching out to the Catholic faithful and asking for donations. To be effective, this fundraising work must quantify the actual need. The minimum release of information we require helps to do so. However, to be truly effective, we need to tell your whole story. So we ask that you also sign the more complete release.
- My order will not issue a letter of acceptance until my debts are paid. What should I do?
Ask the superior to write a letter stating that your acceptance is contingent on your debt being cleared or covered by a third party. Then we are good to go!
- I have received a grant but will not enter my order for some months. What should I do about my student loans in the meantime?
Fund for Vocations grant payments begin the month that you enter formation. Until that time, please keep your loan payments up to date.
- If I am denied a grant can I reapply?
Yes. If you are denied a grant and you continue to make good faith efforts to pay your student loans, you can reapply in six months. In the six months between applications, you should work to pay down your debt as aggressively as you can. Doing so will improve your chance of receiving a grant next time. If you are able, you should pay more than the minimum monthly payments on your loans. If you cannot afford to make the minimum payments, you need to find a way to change your situation so that you can.
- If I enter my order, can I reapply?
The primary reason is because after entry to most religious institutes and seminary formation programs you will no longer be able to earn money to pay down your debt. We permit reapplication because we expect that in the intervening time you will have been working to pay down your debt. With a lower debt balance, you improve your chances of receiving a grant. If your formation program allows you to work or if some other source of making your debt payments is available, then you may be able to reapply after entrance. The key thing is to continue to make at least the minimum payments on your debt while you wait to reapply.
- If I receive a grant but later discern the order is not right for me, can you hold my grant until I find a new order?
No. Grants are issued for the unique combination of a person, a religious institute, and a particular entry to that institute. If you determine that your vocation is not with the institute for which the grant was issued and you therefore leave formation, the grant terminates. We cannot hold the grant open while you discern for another religious institute. You may reapply, however, if you later wish to receive assistance to enter a different institute. You must reapply even if you discern that you should return to your original institute.
- I do not live in the United States. Can I apply for a grant?
There are several geographic related requirements to be eligible to apply for a grant from the Fund for Vocations:
- You must be a citizen of either the United States or Canada or your future religious institute must have some of its formation or apostolate in the United States and/or Canada.
- The formators and/or superiors with whom we interact to administer a grant must be able to speak, read, and write English well enough to understand and be understood.
- Your debts must be payable in US dollars.
- If I can make more than the required monthly payments, what is the best way to apply the extra payments to improve my chances of getting a grant?
To improve your chances of getting a Fund for Vocations grant, your goal in pre-paying your loans should be to lower your total balance due. Making additional payments towards principle will accomplish this goal. Given a choice, make the payment towards your smallest loan in hopes of paying it off.
- My loan is eligible for a grace period or other deferral. Should I take advantage of that?
No. Make payments if you are able. Otherwise, interest that will accrue during the grace period and/or deferral (which means the loan amount will increase). We recommend that you start making payments as soon as you are able, in as large amounts as you can. This will serve to minimize the amount of interest that is added to your loan.
- Can the Fund for Vocations issue me a partial grant to defray some of my debt, so I can remain in the secular world to fundraise and work to pay down a smaller balance?
No. The Fund for Vocations provides grants for “last mile” debt relief. We only make grants in cases where our funding is the difference between entering and not entering. Our objective is to get as many eligible applicants into formation as quickly as possible.
Prospective applicants should read all the pages available under the menu “For Grant Applicants” to fully inform themselves about the requirements for application.