Alaskans invited to tee up for aspiring priests

Area Catholics are invited to dust off their golf clubs and tee up with Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne in support of the growing cadre of Alaskan men training for the priesthood.

On June 7 the Archbishop’s Golf Tournament will support the ongoing efforts of the Seminarian Endowment Challenge, a fund which helps cover the expenses of Alaskans pursuing the priesthood to serve the archdiocese.

Laurie Evans-Dinneen, director of Stewardship and Development for the archdiocese, said the event at the Anchorage Golf Course promises to be an enjoyable community builder and a boost to the growing endowment, which is managed by the Catholic Foundation of Alaska.

“The archbishop loves to golf,” Evans-Dinneen said, “so we’re hoping this can be an annual event.”

Tee off is at 1 p.m., and individuals and teams are welcome. The tournament will be followed by an awards barbecue at O’Malley’s on the Green.

Non-golfers can take part by pitching in $50 to join the “gallery” at the 18th hole. There they can cheer on favorite golfers who are completing their round, and then enjoy the barbecue social.

“The gallery is ‘byoc’ or bring your own chair,” she added. “And umbrella if necessary.”

The Seminarian Endowment Challenge began last year when Catholic Extension offered the Archdiocese of Anchorage a “challenge grant” to aid with expenses for seminarian training. Extension is a national organization that helps 90 isolated or financially under-resourced dioceses, including all three Alaskan dioceses, in 37 states.

The grant was for $50,000, or $500 given for every $1,000 donation made locally.

The net raised last year was just shy of $250,000, said Evans-Dinneen, including the $50,000 Extension grant. That translates into a lot of local generosity. Archbishop Roger Schwietz, now retired, dedicated the drive as his “legacy gift” to his successor, Archbishop Etienne, who was installed in November 2016.

Evans-Dinneen said the generosity of Alaskans indicated their strong support for the priesthood and for having priests stationed in every parish.

Father Tom Lilly, director of seminarians, echoed that sentiment.

“People appreciate the priests who baptize them, celebrate their marriages, are with them at death,” he said. “They want a good supply of priests, and they appreciate the new young faces that step forward to be with them in their time of need.”

Evans-Dinneen said a silent phase of the Challenge began at the annual Priest Convocation last year, where nearly all of the archdiocese’s priests kicked off the drive by contributing $1,000 each.

In addition, several dinner fundraisers have taken place in area parishes over the last year.

Evans-Dinneen said an archdiocesan-wide evening event was held last fall at St. Patrick Church in Anchorage where a simple “paddle raise” netted $65,000 for the seminarians. A “dessert dash” and a wine and scotch auction brought in smaller amounts.

Look for a similar event this fall, she said, as well as the appearance of “parish boards” with items, large and small, which can be chosen by people to donate. A parishioner might want to cover the cost of an airline ticket, she said, or perhaps one textbook.

It can cost as much as $325,000 to educate one priest, Evans-Dinneen noted. This includes all classes, travel expenses, and Spanish immersion outside of the U.S.

Put another way, Father Lilly said the amount can depend on the circumstances and number of years, and can range from $35,000-$40,000 a year to as high as $60,000.

“Usually, Extension doesn’t provide back-to-back grants,” Evans-Dinneen said. “But since we had such awesome momentum, they offered us a second year.”

This year’s challenge is a bit different. The grant is for $25,000 with a need for the archdiocese to raise $50,000 to earn it. The emphasis will be on giving new donors an opportunity to contribute. The archdiocese has set its goal at $100,000 for 2017.

This year, plans are underway to hold dinners in the Mat-Su Valley and on the Kenai Peninsula.

Six young men are currently studying for the priesthood for the archdiocese, with another discerning a vocation. Three seminarians will be attending the golf tournament.

For tournament tickets, information, or to volunteer, contact Evans-Dinneen at (907) 297-7789.

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