In a previous post, I mentioned a great solution to the debt facing seminarians and religious as they go through their formation. A priest dropped a comment to say this:
A similar problem exists for newly ordained priests. Many of us may not have had debt going into seminary, but we do have debt coming out of the seminary. Many of us had to go into debt in order to pay for our seminary education (not every diocese pays all expenses) and then we spend years and years of our priesthood trying to pay it off.
Laity, listen up! No one’s talking entitlement here. Not at all. And I know many of you get stuck paying your education loans for years to come. But priests can’t do the extra job at McDonalds to pay things off either. One might do well to figure out just what priests are paid and what benefits they have in your particular diocese. If things look pretty dire, why not team together and find out about paying off your new priest’s seminary education bill in one shot? That would be a pretty cool ordination gift, don’t you think? Hey, you Knights of Columbus! This means you too!
Anedote: When I was a lowly deacon, I was getting $200 total per month, no benefits, no retirement. Nothing. Forget health insurance altogether. I was required with that $200 to get a car, pay for the repairs, pay for the registration and tags and insurance and gasoline and oil and tires. I also had to pay for my own groceries. I used to survive on 0.17¢ cardboard boxes of macaroni and orange sawdust gritty powder cheese, which I can still taste. I’m not complaining. To me, it’s all an adventure. For quite a few parishes, all I had was a bicycle. I remember riding that bike over to the high school (out of session in the summer) in order to speak to one of the priests in the offices there. I had to cross a picket line of teachers wanting much more money and benefits. I was taunted and mocked. One fellow in particular said I was terribly rich for having a bicycle. He probably thought I had an expensive car as well. Nope. I constantly used that bicycle, especially for runs to the hospital to see patients. When I did get a car, I had to avoid mud puddles, since the floor was so rusted out I would get soaked when there was any water on the road. But that’s O.K.! However, the director of the hospital was pretty upset when I had to do an emergency overnight and had nothing to pay him. And it’s not that the diocese was paying so much for my studies. My parents, God rest them, paid for pretty much everything. That is NOT the case of all seminarians, and many priests are saddled with an enormous debt and have nothing with which to pay it off. Should they get a side job at the gasoline station? Just a thought… Some priests are paid extremely well, but others are not. Find out!