Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

The Labouré Society: Building the Church one vocation at a time

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 11, 2016 | In On the Good

Did you know that nearly half of all Catholic Americans who are actively discerning a priestly or religious vocation are prevented from entering a seminary or a novitiate because they have educational loans?

I was not aware of this until a friend of one of my sons called it to my attention. His solution was to go to work for an outstanding organization which exists primarily to pay off these loans, so that vocational aspirants will be free to take the next step. This organization is the Labouré Society.

Most of us are familiar with the adverse impact of educational debt on young families, but it can be even worse for future priests and religious. Founded in 2003 by Cy Laurent after assisting a young woman to enter into religious life by paying off her student debt, the Labouré Society has an unusual but commendable approach to this growing problem. Instead of merely erasing the debt, Labouré accepts vocational “aspirants” (as they are called) into its own program of coordinated debt reduction.

The average aspirant loan debt is $45,000. To tackle the problem, aspirants are trained by the Society and then work directly in Labouré’s mentored fundraising program for one or more periods of six months to increase the pool of funds available and to earn merit-based awards to retire their student loans. After the fund-raising stint is completed, the aspirant can proceed with his or her vocation. After three years (usually around the time of first vows), the Society will pay out the remaining award to the aspirant’s loan agency to be used for student loan retirement.

You can see the advantages. The Society does not award all funds until the aspirant has made substantial progress along the vocational path. Yet the aspirant is free to make that progress (toward vows or ordination) precisely because all parties know that the loan is being properly managed, and will not become a burden for the religious community or diocese.

The Labouré Society has its apostolic roots in the spirituality of Saint Catherine Labouré, a member of the Daughters of Charity who in 1830 received visions of Our Lady instructing her to create the Miraculous Medal. The medal itself commemorates the Immaculate Conception, which was not formally defined until 1854. The devotion surrounding the Miraculous Medal is widespread throughout the Church. As Mary promised, many miracles of grace are attributed to its use.

Since its founding, Labouré has assisted 260 vocational aspirants by awarding over $3.8 million for student debt reduction. In addition, the Society keeps a calendar of events around the country which are aimed at vocational discernment, and its website links to solid resources which can assist in the discernment process. The spiritual focus is sound.

I should add that there are ways to become involved in the work of the Labouré Society that go far beyond donating. As hinted above, the Society actively seeks knowledgeable and experienced lay men and women who can serve as mentors to the aspirants in raising funds and working out debt reduction strategies. Perhaps it goes without saying that this approach also fosters the ongoing discernment process. The Society also maintains a large network of bishops, priests, religious and laity who either contribute, or pray regularly for the work of the Society, or both.

If you’d like to participate in the work of the Labouré Society, please visit the website. You will find contact information there—or feel free to email my own Labouré insider, Ben Ranieri.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jun. 16, 2017 3:23 PM ET USA

    Hmmm. steve.grist2587 must belong to my parish.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jun. 14, 2017 9:47 PM ET USA

    Our Blessed Lord never said " a very special way." It would sound wimpy.

  • Posted by: steve.grist2587 - Jun. 14, 2017 5:58 PM ET USA

    Could not agree more. I feel the same way about "perhaps."

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jun. 13, 2017 5:25 PM ET USA

    It's not fair. You have a forum to complain about your priests' inanities. The rest of us can only gnash our teeth in silence.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Jun. 12, 2017 7:42 PM ET USA

    Whenever a Mass is offered for one of the deceased of our parish, the cantor says, "At today's Mass, we remember in a special way Johnny So-and-So." I want to yell out, "We're not just remembering him, we're praying for him! And how do we do that 'in a special way?' What are we? DeBarge?" (It's even better when they say, "Today we remember in a special way . . . the people of the parish.") Yes, just stop.

  • Posted by: lovison4584 - May. 14, 2014 4:45 PM ET USA

    This something that happened can happen worldwide if we seriously attempt to implement Pope Francis call for every Catholic Church in the world to be open 24/7 by making St John Paul II's hope for 24/7 Eucharistic Adoration in every Catholic Church in the world come true.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 14, 2014 7:40 AM ET USA

    Laudetur Iesus Christus. Tu manu tua gentes delisti et plantasti eos adflixisti populos et emisisti eos. Non enim in gladio suo possederunt terram neque brachium eorum salvavit eos sed dextera tua et brachium tuum et lux vultus tui quia conplacuisti tibi.

  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 13, 2014 9:17 PM ET USA

    Thanks for your participation and for your fervent prayers with the faithful and with those who offered support. Most present were likely baptized, and this great event bears witness to the sacramental graces. "The young people kneeling on the stone steps, the reverent hush in the church, the booming resonance of the Tantum Ergo all radiated the vigor and joy of the Catholic faith." There is something timeless, transcendant and beautiful in all this. And all this is truly OURS, in Christ.

  • Posted by: MatJohn - May. 13, 2014 8:55 PM ET USA

    Is this the catalyst that ignites the smoldering embers of lethargy? The culture is no match for 2000 years of Catholicism's teachings brought front and center by the faithful declaring enough is enough.

  • Posted by: filioque - May. 13, 2014 6:08 PM ET USA

    What a beautiful witness. Satan is powerful, but Jesus showed us how to calmly and firmly oppose him.

  • Posted by: - May. 13, 2014 5:05 PM ET USA

    As a 1970 convert to the faith I have found the fullness of it in decidedly traditional circles. Some liturgical things of gold and incense and vigor and light have a catholic feel. Other things oriented in more common everyday directions less so. Last night in St Paul's at Harvard, I have never been more proud to be Catholic. This old lady stirs - Mother Church has some life in her yet. Grandeur, royalty, sobriety, hope and amazing power! May God bless us all. I am stirred to think upon it!

  • Posted by: - May. 13, 2014 11:42 AM ET USA

    Let us hope that many young men will feel the call to priesthood and many young women will feel the call to the religious life. Life is stronger than death!! Let us hope that more people out in Cambridge will embrace the "Culture of Life" and join in praying for an end to abortion on demand.