March 23, 2014
Callings answered through help with student debt
By Kevin Cullen
LOGANSPORT — For 12 or 13 years, Amanda Raderstorf thought about a religious vocation, but she never made the leap of faith. Instead, she dated, went to Ivy Tech Community College and became a nurse’s aide.
But she also sought counsel from Father Michael McKinney, her pastor at All Saints Church here. Slowly, her love of Jesus grew. She became an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. She went to Eucharistic adoration. She visited convents. Last year, at the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker motherhouse in Walton, Ky., she finally felt completely at home and at peace. She knew that she wanted to join the order.
Raderstorf, now 27, has been accepted, but before she can enter on Aug. 15 as an aspirant, she must retire her $16,000 student loan. With the help of the Minnesota-based Laboure Society, she and the other 17 members of her vocations class are working to raise a total of $800,000 by June 30.
She contacted The Catholic Moment to solicit prayers and tax-deductible donations, and to schedule speaking engagements. Her goal is to raise $45,000 toward the $800,000 collective debt. She has raised $5,000 so far.
“I have one struggle to overcome: student loans,” Raderstorf said.
According to one study, 42 percent of men and women who are discerning a vocation cannot enter formation because of educational debt. Some of them finish college with student loans exceeding $100,000.
The Laboure Society, headquartered in Egan, Minn., was formed to assist. The founder, Cy Laurent, now 75, formerly worked for several Fortune 500 companies. He founded the organization in 2003 to ensure that vocations didn’t slip away because of indebtedness.
Prospective priests, sisters and brothers often must be debt-free before entering formation. Debt payments can take years, and while a person is in formation, he has no way to earn enough money.
Since 2003, the Laboure Society has helped more than 240 men and women by pooling their debts, then giving the members of each “class” the tools needed to raise funds. All candidates are screened, trained in ethical fundraising and assigned a Catholic professional as a mentor.
“We don’t teach them how to beg. By presenting their joyful selves, we present a vocation that is a gift we need to respond to and celebrate. They are fundraising from a platform of joy,” Laurent said in a phone interview.
The society is a licensed and registered not-for-profit corporation, so donations are 100-percent tax-deducible. Each aspirant is given an online fundraising platform for real-time donation processing. All donations go toward the shared debt pool.
Laurent said that 10,000 men and women are discerning religious vocations in the United States. Each one, he said, “is a miracle. There is no other explanation.”
“In our experience, $45,000 is the average debt. That’s a lot of money,” Laurent said. “There is no way they can pay it off in time to enter religious formation. They will be too old.”
The Laboure Society, he said, emerged “out of a layman’s heart. It is OUR Church. As a Church, we cannot not deliver these vocations.”
He called every donation “an eternal return on investment opportunity. These priests, religious sisters and brothers will serve in prisons, schools, shelters, hospitals … just think of the cumulative blessings that one priest, one sister, one brother brings over his or her ministry, and multiply that. They will pray for us forever. The Church will be greatly blessed.”
The Laboure Society puts donations into a private account and pays the student loans while the candidates are in formation. It does not assume the debt, but it retires the loan when a sister makes her vows or a seminarian becomes a transitional deacon – one year from ordination.
“It would be unconscionable to me for a new priest to enter with educational loans,” Laurent said. “If we don’t help these individuals, some of these miracles will be lost.”
Raderstorf’s vocations class of 18 is the largest yet. Now 27, she began discerning her vocation as a teen when Father McKinney spoke joyously about the gift of a religious vocation.
“I thought, ‘I don’t know anything about this, but I’d like what Father Mike has,” she said.
She also spoke with Chris Roberts, a Logansport native who went on to become a diocesan priest.
Raderstorf attended Ball State University, then Ivy Tech Community College. Her service as a Eucharistic minister to the homebound deepened her faith, she said. One client, totally unresponsive, miraculously recovered after receiving the Eucharist.
“I realized that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist,” Raderstorf said. “My faith was on fire from that time on.”
While making a home visit as a nurse’s aide, she visited Our Lady of the Lakes Church in Monticello. There, she found a brochure for the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker. She was moved by the joyous expressions on the faces of the sisters. They serve in education, health care and ministry to the poor.
“I was interested in all those things,” Raderstorf said, “but I think it was more that I could almost feel the joy come from them through the pictures.”
She accepted an invitation to visit the motherhouse in Walton, Ky., not far from Cincinnati. She was greeted warmly.
“I felt that the Holy Spirit pulled me there,” Raderstorf said. “I can’t describe how much peace came over me there, and the more time I spent there, the more I felt it. I had never been closer to Jesus.”
The order was established in 1973 in the Diocese of Covington, Ky. The sisters live in community and wear veils and black habits.
She visited again, and decided to apply for entrance. On June 27, 2013, she was accepted.
“I feel in my heart that this is what Jesus has always been calling me to,” she said. “I have never experienced so much joy in my life.”
For more information or to schedule a speaking engagement, contact Raderstorf at (574) 753-6338 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Laboure Society’s website is at www.labouresociety.org. The website for the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker is at www.ssjw.org.