Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Campaign Seeks To Grow Endowment To Support Vocations

Father Jason Gries, right, assistant director of vocations for the Diocese of Evansville, gets a selfie with some of our seminarians from Brute' college Seminary. File photo by Father Jason Gries

The Stewards of God’s Grace campaign will bring the Diocese of Evansville closer to its long-term goal of $6 million in endowed funds to support vocations. Once fully funded, the endowments will provide a permanent and sustainable source of funds for seminarian education.  


Diocesan Director of Vocations Father Alex Zenthoefer, who also serves as pastor of Evansville’s Annunciation of the Lord Parish, said easing the financial burdens of seminarians is critically important.


“Discerning a vocation to the priesthood has its own challenges, and finances should not be one of them,” Father Zenthoefer said. “The endowment will give young men the freedom to discern without financial concerns, and it will provide more funding for the Vocation Office to effectively communicate the beauty and joy of priesthood.”


The men giving their lives to Christ and to us will know we support them, and our children and grandchildren will benefit from their ministry.

Supporting seminarians won’t be the only long-term benefit of a successful combined campaign.


“We have been blessed with an abundance of good, quality men whom God has called to the priesthood in recent years,” Father Zenthoefer said. “The great challenge when it comes to vocations is that it’s not our work, but God’s. We can only respond to what God is doing. Financial support will help us with programs to encourage families to talk about religious vocations in their homes. It will help us to have materials in our Catholic schools that will encourage our children to think about who God is calling them to be. It will help us to share the joy that so many of our priests experience in serving God’s people. Funding from our endowment will help us to build a culture that supports those who desire to follow God’s will to priesthood or religious life.”


Father Zenthoefer noted that diocesan seminarians accept their call to discernment with great zeal. “Each time I visit with our seminarians, I am struck by their sincere desire to know God’s will for their lives,” he said. “They take very seriously the opportunity to discern a vocation to the priesthood, and the formation programs provide them with the necessary tools to make those decisions.


“It is not easy to discern a call to priesthood these days. While we are bombarded by individualism and materialism, priesthood stands in opposition to such a culture and calls for self-sacrifice and spiritual poverty. Our seminarians are challenged by their spiritual and formation directors to look deep inside themselves and really seek to understand who God is calling them to be. Funds generated by the combined campaign will help to alleviate other struggles and obstacles that could get in the way of that discernment.”


Diocesan vocations have led to the ordination of six priests since 2012 – Father Brian Emmick (2012), Father Jeff Read (2012), Father Christopher Droste (2013), Father Homero Rodruiguez (2016), Father Tyler Tenbarge(2016) and Father Ambrose Wanyonyi (2016). Deacons John Pfister and Jerry Pratt are scheduled to be ordained later this year.


“Over the last 11 years the number of seminarians studying for priesthood has increased,” Father Zenthoefer said. “More young men are considering this vocation, and certainly I have seen this trend in our own diocese. When I became Vocation Director over seven years ago we had five seminarians. Currently we have 14 seminarians, and there are a number of young men, particularly of college age, who are seriously considering this call.


“Priests are products of the communities where they are raised and the people who help to form them,” he added. “Contributing to the combined campaign is one step in supporting vocations to the priesthood. I would hope that every dollar given is accompanied by a prayer to God to help us guide and encourage young men to better hear the voice of God.”


The Message will provide regular coverage of Stewards of God’s Grace through early summer of 2018, when the final wave of the campaign wraps up.