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Ignite the Faith donations help seminarians meet financial needs

People don’t always see the way their prayers and financial support help others.

But the people inside St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha for the June 8 ordinations of Fathers Matthew Capadano and Benjamin Boyd saw firsthand the fruit of many people’s generosity, including their support through the archdiocese’s seminarian fund, which helped pay for the education and formation of the two men for the priesthood.

And gifts to the archdiocese’s $40 million Ignite the Faith capital campaign, now in a second wave of parish fundraising, will continue to help other men on the path to the priesthood, by adding $1 million to the seminarian fund.

Support for seminarians was a top priority for people in the archdiocese, a feasibility study for the capital campaign indicated.

"It’s clear they want to ensure seminarians have the support they need," said Shannan Brommer, director of the archdiocese’s Stewardship and Development Office.

The cost of educating a seminarian for one year – including tuition, room and board, health insurance, books and fees – is more than $37,000, said Linda Thomsen, administrative assistant in the archdiocese’s Office of Vocations.

The archdiocese currently has 25 seminarians, and supporting them financially is one way to accompany them on their faith journey, Brommer said.

"It’s very compassionate, walking with them," she said.

While the Ignite the Faith campaign is helping provide future priests, it also is raising $6 million for priests in their retirement. And priests in the archdiocese plan to donate $1 million of that amount, with more than $900,000 already pledged, Brommer said.

The capital campaign, which has reached $24.4 million in pledges, also supports Catholic schools, parish religious education programs and the needs of individual parishes. The campaign will include a third wave of parishes before concluding at the end of this year.

Donations to the campaign and prayers for priestly vocations continue to be needed.

More men are needed in the priesthood to keep pace with priestly retirements, Brommer said. And men can more freely respond to the call if they don’t face financial burdens, said Father Paul Hoesing, director of vocations.

Taylor Leffler, a seminarian from St. Mary Parish in West Point, said more seminarians appear to be stepping forth from rural areas, thanks in part to people committed to youth programs in places such as West Point and Columbus.

The prayers and support for seminarians are a "testament of the love the people of the archdiocese have for their priests," said Leffler, who finished four years of study at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and will begin four years of theology this fall.

The donations allow seminarians freedom to discern their vocations without the added worry of how to pay for their education, said Padraic Stack, a seminarian from St. James Parish in Omaha. "It takes a huge burden off the seminarians."

Stack said he knows from experience that education is expensive. Before entering the seminary he earned bachelor degrees in design and civil engineering and a master’s degree in architecture, all from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As a seminarian, he has finished two years of philosophy at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis and will continue to study four years of theology there.

He has volunteered as an assistant bookstore manager at Kenrick. "And I saw some of those book bills," he said.

The seminarians are grateful to donors who help with the costs, Leffler said. "It makes it easier for a man to say ‘yes’ to the priesthood," he said. "Any contribution helps tremendously."

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