By RENEE WEBB
National Vocations Awareness Week kicks off on Nov. 4.
For those looking for a way to support the clergy of the Diocese of Sioux City, they might opt to donate to the special collection set to be taken up at all Masses in the diocese the weekend of Nov. 4.
According to Deacon David Lopez, executive director of the St. Joseph Education Society, the education society is an institution of the Diocese of Sioux City that provides financial support for clergy education before and after ordination.
Priests, deacons and seminarians benefit from SJES.
“In many situations, SJES is not the only source of funding, but it usually an important source,” said Deacon Lopez.
He cited several ways funds from SJES are used. Seminarians receive support for tuition, books, and if necessary, health insurance but not for personal expenses. Priests receive support for continuing formation such as Clergy Days, graduate studies or for special programs like Good Leaders, Good Shepherds pastoral training. Deacons receive support for initial formation and some continuing formation.
Father Shane Deman, diocesan vocations director, said he recognizes how many requests donors receive for financial assistance, and thus, “my gratitude is all the more sincere as they support this education society to help prepare the next generation of priests and deacons for our diocese. Their contributions also help our clergy in their ongoing formation and education, so as to maintain a clergy that is healthy and holy.”
The vocations director pointed out many donors from previous generations sought to establish this fund for the education of clergy.
“It’s a privilege to be the beneficiaries of their foresight and generosity and we hope to continue their legacy,” Father Deman said.
Because the SJES fund is relatively small, Deacon Lopez pointed out it is too small to generate enough interest income to support the needed expenses.
“We have no desire to use up the fund completely,” he said. “That would only deprive the diocese in the future of a necessary source of support for something that is needed every year. The expenses of the fund must be balanced by donations, so that the fund can remain at an adequate level to support the clergy of the diocese, and ideally, even grow over time.”
If the fund were to grow, the deacon said they could consider new clergy educational programs. This fund was originally established by Bishop Joseph M. Mueller in 1955 and the first year a collection was taken up for the fund in diocesan parishes was 2013.
“A well-formed clergy is essential to the well-being of the church,” Deacon Lopez said. “We are all under different forms of religious stress, because of the increasing secularity of our culture and its growing hostility to religion in general and to Catholicism in particular. Because of our commitments to God and to divine revelation, we Catholics oppose the main pillars of secular identity – the abortion license, the idea that contraception is a necessary good, the tenets of the sexual revolution, attacks on marriage and the family, and so forth.”
Working in collaboration with parents, Catholic schools, parish religious education programs, consecrated religious and others, the deacon stressed, “without a well-formed clergy, it’s harder for all the other parts of the church to understand and accept their call to holiness, the fullness of the faith and their sacramental union with the whole church and with Christ our Head.”
In addition, Deacon Lopez added, a well-formed, joyful and holy clergy will be more successful in helping young men hear and accept a possible call to the priesthood.