Aspiring Nun Has Too Much Student Debt To Take Vow Of Poverty

In news stories about the student debt crisis, we hear about American young adults delaying the typical milestones of adulthood due to their student loans. They (well, we) postpone marriage, childbearing, and purchasing first homes. But what if you’re interested in a holier, more altruistic path? Men and women who want to join Catholic religious life must be debt-free before they even think about making their vows, and that’s a challenge for people who don’t realize their calling until after they’ve taken on student debt in the mid-five figures.

NBC recently highlighted the story of a 32-year-old aspiring sister who knew what she wanted to do with her life, and attended a private Catholic college. She ended up with $60,000 in student loans, which had to be paid back before she could begin the process of joining the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. She delayed her dream by ten years, accumulating more consumer debt while unemployed, and has now finally paid it all back.

“I thought I’d be a sister by almost 30 — not almost 40,” she told NBC’s Life Inc. “If I had to do it all over again, I would have been smarter to have saved a lot more money.”

Student-loan debt delays dream of becoming nun [Life Inc.]

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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    “attended a private Catholic college. She ended up with $60,000 in student loans, which had to be paid back before she could begin the process of joining the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth”

    So she can’t join the Catholic Church because she is in debt to a Catholic school she attended in order to be able to join the Catholic Church.

    ???

    • Doubting thomas says:

      No, she is in debt to the private financial institution she borrowed money from in order to attend the Catholic school.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Let me re-phrase that: She is in debt because she decided to go to a Catholic school in order to join the Catholic Church and now she can’t join the Catholic Church because of the debt acquired going to Catholic school.

        • Doubting thomas says:

          wrong again. She is already, and was already a member of the Catholic Church, she was not a member of a specific order of Nuns within the Catholic Church.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Seriously, dude? It think it’s obvious what he’s saying here.

            • Doubting thomas says:

              Not really. His original statement implied that she was being screwed over in a catch-22 manner by the church. But required several false statements to make that point.
              “So she can’t join the Catholic Church because she is in debt to a Catholic school she attended in order to be able to join the Catholic Church.”
              1. She was never unable to join the church
              2. She never borrowed money from the church
              3. While several orders require college degrees in order to join I am unaware of any that require the degree to be from an expensive private organization.

              So an accurate statement would be. So she chose to take on a much more expensive degree program than she needed to in order follow her life long dream and calling, and the Order didn’t want her until she had freed herself of this debt so that she could put all her attention and effort into serving that order rather than paying worldly debt.

              • Coleoptera Girl says:

                A agree with this. I’ll also add that requiring someone to be debt-free before joining a religious order is a good way to discourage people from trying to duck out of debt by taking a vow of poverty.

                • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

                  I agree, I imagine it’s a good rule to keep people from going into the priesthood solely to escape debt.

                  • VintageLydia says:

                    Actually, they forgive priests of their debt all the time. Just not the nuns.

                    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

                      Interesting. What are the statistics on it? Are priests more in demand than nuns?

                    • Coleoptera Girl says:

                      Priests are definitely more in demand than nuns. There’s a shortage (apparently) and it’s only the priests who can perform Mass. Googling “catholic priest shortage” comes up with a number of articles within the past several years… I didn’t look too deeply, but there definitely is a shortage.

                    • Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

                      The Christians do hate those wimmens. Especially the Catholics.

              • RvLeshrac says:

                The Catholic institution which she attended could return her tuition, allowing her to pay off the loan immediately and join the order.

                Like they do with priests.

                • zandar says:

                  I guess it doesn’t surprise me a bit there is a double standard there. after all, this was the church that told nuns they should help the poor less and focus more on opposing abortion.

              • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

                She is being put into a Catch-22 situation.

                Want to be a nun? You need to go to college. Went to college? Oh sorry, you need to be debt-free to be a nun.

                That is the definition of a Catch-22. But it’s a situation you can at least pull yourself out of…eventually. I would say it “screws” you, but it definitely puts you in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.

                • Sneeje says:

                  First of all, I’m not convinced you have to go to college to become a nun. But, even if you do, there are far more economical ways to get a degree without shelling out $60K. Most people don’t like those ways, but they exist and are very accessible.

                  1) Work, go to college part time, and finish in longer than 4 years
                  2) Go to community college for the first 2 years
                  3) Go to less-prestigious state colleges/universities
                  4) Join the military first
                  5) Work somewhere that will sponsor your degree
                  6) … and so on

                  Yes its hard, but there were definitely smarter ways to do this. It would only be a catch-22 if she hadn’t placed herself in the situation.

        • JennQPublic says:

          “…accumulating more consumer debt while unemployed.”

          She’s in debt because she borrowed money. Catholicism is just a red herring in this story.

    • Lethe says:

      Well, first of all, she’s not in debt to the school- she’s in debt to whichever institution loaned her the money. Secondly, I don’t think she had to go to that university in order to become a nun. She simply wanted to go there.

    • Einsmom says:

      There is no requirement that she (or anyone) go to a Catholic college to join the Church or enter a convent/monastery. Diocesan priests undergo their formation in a Catholic Seminary, so I can’t speak for that group.

      I looked at a number of religious orders in High School and all were the same way. This is not a new policy.

    • RockerGal says:

      she only decided AFTER she went to college to become a nun. The college just happened to be a catholic school.

      • Northern Lights says:

        TFA says otherwise. “‘I knew I wanted to give my life to God, but I expected after college I’d go right in and work toward becoming a sister,’ she said. But she discovered that individuals looking to become priests or nuns need to be debt free.” Another article says she “has wanted to be a nun since the third grade.”

        She knew what she wanted to do, as the Consumerist summery correctly states, but somehow missed the memo about not being able to be in massive debt before taking a vow of poverty.

    • wheeitsme says:

      And just a note, it wasn’t just the $60,000 in student debt. If you read the article, it was also the $20,000 in credit card debt she racked up AFTER she graduated.

  2. Alan says:

    I know the college my brother in law is going to, to become a priest, all the debt will be forgiving once he takes his vows. But I believe it is a regional thing. If he would have went to a different school, it was basically free to go too.

    • falnfenix says:

      i believe the priesthood is a bit different from the various orders of nuns.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Yeah, just a boys club.

        • Lethe says:

          It might have had something to do with the fact that multiple years of schooling are REQUIRED to become a priest, whereas with this OP (as discussed in the top post), her schooling was a choice she made that wasn’t necessary to become a nun.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Ah, but having a college education IS often required.

  3. OSAM says:

    Two things:
    First,
    “…who knew what she wanted to do with her life, and attended a private Catholic college. She ended up with $60,000 in student loans…”

    I have no pity: she chose to attend the private college. It wasn’t necessary. That’s her own damn problem.

    Second,
    The title in this post is misleading: she doesn’t have too much student debt to take her poverty vow, she has too much debt of any kind to take her the required vows of any kind. This isn’t a student debt issue, it’s a flat out debt issue.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Actually it’s a religious issue. Without that requirement by the Catholic church, she could have simply stopped paying her student loans entirely. Having a vow of poverty, there would be no way the privatized lender could touch her because she has no income.

      This is also probably why the Catholic church has this rule.

      • shepd says:

        Also, I’m guessing the intent of the vow of poverty is to separate them from an interest in money. If you are being hounded by debt collectors, courts, and judgements to take your stuff, you have a strong interest in getting enough money to get them to go away. Probably a stronger interest than someone who is debt free who would just like a little extra scratch.

    • OutPastPluto says:

      Ever been in the Vatican?

      The Catholic church has the resources to square this one away…

  4. Bsamm09 says:

    You have to have a college degree to be a nun?

    • Blueskylaw says:

      You would think they would want the opposite.

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        Well, with the recent statements from the Vatican and even the Bishops here in the states, it certainly sounds like they WISH their nuns were less educated. Then they’d fall in line and hate homosexuals and poor people, (like good Christians /s). Reason #22 why I left the church.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          Don’t forget the whole birth control thing. Which is why I don’t go anymore either.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Yes, especially if you join a teaching order. Teachers need college degrees.

      In the old days, you’d join right out of high school (or while you were still in high school) and the order would pay for your college. That’s not so common now.

      • spamtasticus says:

        I’m surprised that with droves leaving the church and hardly anyone wanting to be a priest or nun these days the church would just sell one of the thousands of treasures they stole or bought on the backs of poor peasants over the millenia. They could then pay off this woman’s debt and have her work for them converting more peasants who will in turn donate more money to buy the priests and bishops more treasures and altar boys. Bad business decision IMHO. Mo Nuns = Mo Money.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          In the northeast and midwest, many churches are selling off their properties and consolidating. This really isn’t anything new. Unless an area has an influx of Hispanics to make up for the Slavs and Italians leaving the church, they’re closing down.

    • nishioka says:

      That certainly shoots holes in the notion held by some in the conservative ranks that college “isn’t for everyone”. Now you have jobs that used to not require college educations now requiring one, and you have companies setting the bar at “bachelor’s degree required” just to deliberately thin out the pool of applicants for a job.

      Like it or not, college diplomas are becoming the new high school diplomas.

  5. Quirk Sugarplum says:

    God, in His infinite wisdom, may have created pole dancing for just such special circumstances.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Are there any Catholic Community Colleges?

    My guess is either no or it’s extremely rare. So for those who think she could have picked a different college, think again. 60k for a Catholic college is probably par for the course.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      The degree doesn’t have to be from a Catholic College. It is of course preferred because mote money goes back to the Church that way (oh and they get a “better” education). But not required.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        True, but you’re trying to live and breathe Catholicism. You can’t do that in a com. college. And I’d be amazed is a com. college had majors in Catholic Studies. Maybe Religious Studies, but that has to be few and far between.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          The priest who married us (my wife is Catholic, I’m atheist) went to Penn State, with a background in sociology and history. During our Pre-Cana, I recall several of those who taught the classes/session having gone to either Pitt or WVU.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            I can’t really comment on that since I have no info about that. But others seem to be suggesting there is a difference between nuns and priests, specifically that the priest might have had his tuition paid for anyway.

            • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

              I really don’t know the background or how it was paid for. The only nuns and priests I routinely come in contact with are the administrators at day care and the ones I had to petition for permission to marry, and all of the rigmarole for a nonbeliever and believer wedding (Pre-Cana, waivers, counseling, etc.).

              I don’t think I’ve ever been in a nuns or priest office that didn’t have multiple diplomas hanging on their walls.

              A Catholic Hospital is a big sponsor for our neighborhood association and neighborhood watch (we live in a very economically depressed neighborhood), and it’s pretty much the same thing. Though, I suspect most of their graduate degrees are from after they were ordained.

              • dilbert69 says:

                Doesn’t being married to a believer, especially one who’s apparently a stickler for the rules, cause friction in your marriage? I admire you for making this work, but I think I would have married someone else. Fortunately my wife is a very lapsed Catholic. :-)

    • RandomHookup says:

      It wouldn’t be a “community college” as those are typically publicly funded. I’m pretty sure there are some 2-year Catholic schools still out there, though a quick internet search shows that lots of them shut down over the years.

  7. YOXIM says:

    Jesus forgives. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, not so much : )

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      This. I dislike the Catholic church because they are extremely hypocritical. They do not live by Jesus’ example in the bible. I’m not religious myself, but even I know that you shouldn’t teach how awesome Jesus was and to live by his example, and then not live by his example yourself.

      • adent1066 says:

        The church can’t forgive the debt, because they are not the ones who the money is owed to. The women in question took out student loans from a bank, not from the church. The church could in theory assume the women’s debt for her since she is becoming a nun, but that would be risky for them too, since becoming a nun is much easier than becoming a priest. Priests must go through years of seminary school (in addition to their college education). They are investing a lot of effort into being a priest. With nuns and sisters, one can simply join a order and leave rather easily. If the church assumed the debt, you could in theory, join just to wipe out your debt, and then leave the order.

        • FLConsumer says:

          The Catholic Church certainly has the funding to help this woman pay off her loans if it so desired… but she’s a woman, ergo second class citizen in their eyes.

      • Hungry Dog says:

        How dare you question my Gods all forgiving love! To hell with you! …of course you could always give plentiful offerings to secure your passage to the heavens.

  8. BigHeadEd says:

    Maybe I’m misreading this, but since when does age 32 equate to “almost 40″?

  9. thomwithanh says:

    In the Episcopal Church, Monasteries will assume student loan payments once you take your vows – not any other kind of debt though.

  10. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    It’s God’s plan. Hardly the trials of Job but the Lord wants her to suffer before she earns her reward.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      And her reward is more years of suffering!

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      the Lord wants her to suffer

      Then the lord she worships is malevolent.

      • partofme says:

        …somebody here didn’t actually read the book of Job.

        • TheMansfieldMauler says:

          You have done nothing but prove my point.

          Also Job is Old Testament, and there is NO biblical basis for an argument that the same god still requires suffering before reward today.

          • partofme says:

            I didn’t say who didn’t read the book of Job. At the current moment, I don’t think either of you have. …and you certainly haven’t read the New Testament if you think that suddenly you have a Brand New Just What I Want God (TM).

            (You might also notice that I never claimed that god “requires suffering”… that’s a nice invention in your post. Srsly. Go read Job. I think you and IfThenElvis are both missing the point.)

  11. spamtasticus says:

    I’m surprised that with droves leaving the church and hardly anyone wanting to be a priest or nun these days the church would just sell one of the thousands of treasures they stole or bought on the backs of poor peasants over the millenia. They could then pay off this woman’s debt and have her work for them converting more peasants who will in turn donate more money to buy the priests and bishops more treasures and altar boys. Bad business decision IMHO. Mo Nuns = Mo Money.

    • proliance says:

      Maybe you could clarify where all this stealing took place, because it didn’t happen in the US. If you’re talking about England, the English govt. stole all the property from the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago.

      • spamtasticus says:

        Past:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

        Present:
        Just go to a third world country like Ecuador and walk into one of the cathedrals or churches. They are caked in gold leaf with the most extravagant decorations imaginable. Then take a look at the poor that surround the church. They walk in and give a large portion of their miserable earnings to the church to secure salvation. The bishops and priests drive around in very nice cars with chaffers and live in lavish homes in most cases. This does not even touch on the lives they have stolen from all the molested children.

        If this is not enough I would be more than happy to provide further examples.

  12. adent1066 says:

    In reality, nuns are paid very small salaries (more like a stipend). If she had large amounts of debt before joining an order, she would never be able to pay it off.

  13. Fishnoise says:

    The Church as a whole is wealthy, but mostly in land, buildings, art, and other non liquid assets. Catholic religious orders are separate entities from dioceses and the Vatican and struggle to be self-sustaining. For a lot of reasons, most orders have shrunk drastically in the last thirty years and now have a disproportionate number of elderly nuns requiring specialized care and relatively few middle-aged and younger nuns able to work to generate income for the order (or to fill leadership slots in affiliated Catholic hospitals and institutions that otherwise would require paid staff).

    I can’t imagine any American Catholic order of nuns with the wherewithal to pay off the student loan debt of potential postulants/novices, although they will assist with financial arrangements to send established sisters to college or graduate school. If you are interested in a religious vocation, have no debt, have an-in-demand degree (e.g. nursing, business, physical therapy), are not likely to want to retire in the next 30 years, and are interested in a religious vocation, you might be actively recruited by orders all over the country.

  14. bricklayer says:

    This is why Jesus saves…

  15. wheeitsme says:

    Just a note, it wasn’t just the $60,000 in student debt. If you read the article, it was also the $20,000 in credit card debt she racked up AFTER she graduated.

  16. Hungry Dog says:

    I don’t trust a organization that tells me to give all I can give to the church as they shake their golden staff.

  17. RandomHookup says:

    The good news is she can enlist in the Army and they’ll pay off the debt.

  18. IraAntelope says:

    doesn’t the pope take care of minor details like this? declare an edict or whatever?

  19. dcfix says:

    There is actually a charity that helps aspiring priests/religious to pay off their student loans so that they can pursue a religious vocation. http://labouresociety.org/

    Most of the times, they need help paying off their undergraduate loans – “After 3 years of majoring in Chemical Engineering, I realized that I was being called to be a nun.”

  20. britswim04 says:

    Does one need a degree to go into a nunnery? >_>

  21. StopGougingMeThere! says:

    If she knew she wanted to be a nun from the outset why wouldn’t she take her vows and be educated afterwards? Or is that not possible?

    On a side note, I’m not Catholic but every time I’ve seen nuns in public or on the local news extolling a charity or something they are always older than 50. Am I wrong to assume that there are very few under 40 nuns out there any more? Just an observational question.

    • FLConsumer says:

      As a whole, the Catholic church in America is dying off. Go to a Catholic mass and you’ll see a similar scene. Mostly q-tips. Except for the hispanic masses — those are packed with families who usually have 3-8 kids, all under 10.

      • VintageLydia says:

        Depends on the area. Or maybe since I’m a recovering Catholic myself, other Catholics unconsciously seek me out, but I like in Northern Virginia and the local Catholic Church here is HUGE with multiple masses. Unloading the parking lot after each mass requires a traffic cop and nearly an hour of patience, especially the late morning mass. But you’re right, fewer people are going into the vocation. Many people I know who are fairly pious tell me it’s the vow of celibacy and being unable to marry and have 10 kids that gives them pause (having a ton of kids really is a Catholic thing and not unique to the Hispanic community, though the younger generation is having fewer kids than the families of 7-9 children that I know.)