Gates, N.Y. --- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester is launching a new campaign called “Our Legacy, Our Future, Our Hope.” The focus of the campaign is to support seminarians and retired priests.
"I can think of no better cause than caring for our retired priests and educating these fine young men,” said Joseph Lobozzo a Catholic and already generous donor to this fund.
Lobozzo is among the 300 donors who have already raised $10.7 million towards this fund’s $14 million objective. The Diocese of Rochester is now turning to the 110,000 Catholics in its twelve-county region to help raise the rest.
The funds are to be split equally between two initiatives. The first addresses the dwindling pension fund for retired priests in this region.
Currently a priest over the age of 70 with thirty years of service receives an average month benefit of about $1,200. That pales in comparison to the national average of $1,600 per-month.
The other target of funds is to help seminarians with education costs that to $40,000 annually for at least six years. Currently the Diocese of Rochester boasts 25 young men who are seminarians or pre-seminarians. A decade ago perhaps one or two men would have made up that group.
"I think that's a step in the right direction,” Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of the Diocese of Rochester said. “We know that just because a man goes to the seminary or is in the pre-seminary program doesn't mean he's going to be ordained a priest so I think we always have to look out and you have to compare the number of men you're ordaining on a yearly basis with the number of men who retire.”
“We're very happy with 25,” Rev. Cunningham continued. “We do want more and we hope that the people are going to support this campaign so we can afford to send more men to the seminary.”
For seminarians like Andrew Montanaro of Ogden the costs can be prohibitive and most begin the process having already incurred student loan debt from an undergraduate degree. Montanaro said that raising money through another job while at the seminary is simply not possible.
"You're not to have another job along with your studies and the rest of your formation there really isn't enough time,” Montanaro explained. “The way you're employed is with flesh and blood human beings working in hospitals among the poor. So if we had to have a job and put ourselves through seminary? It's impossible. I can't imagine how it could be done.”