One of the tragedies of our times is having worldly financial deficiencies complicate an already difficult spiritual process.
I am currently in the process of discerning whether I have a vocation to the priesthood or not, yet simultaneously I am caught in the muddle of a brutally busy senior year at university. Fortunately, I have an excellent spiritual director in the form of one of the new Dominican chaplains of my university, who has given me valuable advice over the past month or so. Nevertheless, I was wondering whether the community has some advice about the delicate issue of financing the discernment process.
Being originally from Puerto Rico and now studying in New England, it may seem odd that I feel called to serve the ailing Church in Western Europe. But I think my place in the Church is joining the struggle to stem the tide of secularism and Islam that is destroying the Christian faith across the continent. That places a goodly distance between myself and the communities I am interested in approaching.
In my research and conversations with my spiritual director, I have pinpointed three potentially good matches for me: the Dominican Order, the Institute of Christ the King, and the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. Ultimately, I am most attracted to the Oratory, due to its charisms of dignified liturgy, urban ministry, sacred music, and history, especially to the London and Vienna Oratories.
But, as happens with more traditional orders and congregations, all of these require me to make a sojourn to their headquarters in order to be considered for candidacy. This means I have to fly out to Washington, D.C. (O.P.), Chicago (ICKSP), London, Vienna, et al, in order to even begin to properly discern! This means considerable expense in airline fares, transportation, etc.
Now, being a student of limited means, too busy to even consider getting a job while I study, and considering the rather dismal financial situation my parents are undergoing due to the major recession in Puerto Rico, I am hardly in a position to be spending anywhere between $300 and $1200 on flights to these various locations. And I don’t want to seem to be in a desperate hurry, but I am graduating in May and I am scrambling to see where the Lord wishes to guide me before I am pulled into the job market and lose sight of my vocation.
This isn’t even taking into consideration the $12,000 in student debt I will have upon completing my degree, and whatever fees the formation would entail!
What am I to do?
I have contemplated doing a job here at my university, but that won’t yield more than $120 a week, at the absolute most, and I have living expenses I must fund… How ethical would it be to crowdfund, say, a trip to London so I may visit the Oratorian Fathers there? Should I seek for benefactors somewhere? I am really at a loss, as I feel that I can only speculate about my vocation so long as I cannot experience these communities firsthand.
I shall continue praying to the Lord for His assistance, and to keep in contact with vocations directors for these congregations. In any case, fiat voluntas Dei!