Alaskans rally to fund formation of future priests

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Alaskans once again turned out in impressive numbers to financially support young men training to become priests for the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

The second annual Seminarian Night dinner fundraiser took place Aug. 10 at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage. More than 175 attendees donated tens of thousands of dollars.

The event came on the heels of the Archbishop’s Golf Tournament earlier this summer. All these efforts aim at growing the newly installed Seminary Endowment to help pay the education costs of Alaska’s future priest. It can cost as much as $325,000 to educate one seminarian.

Four young men currently are studying for the priesthood for the archdiocese, two of whom attended the most recent dinner fundraiser — Kevin Klump and Jake Brownlee. Newly ordained Father Robert Whitney was also present, having been ordained to the priesthood in June.

The Seminarian Endowment Challenge began last year when Catholic Extension offered the Archdiocese of Anchorage a matching grant to aid with expenses for seminarian training. A second matching grant was given this year. Extension is a national organization that helps isolated or financially under-resourced dioceses, including all three dioceses in Alaska.

In less than two years, the Anchorage Archdiocese has raised about $380,000 (before expenses) for the Seminarian Endowment. This includes the Extension grants. By year’s end the hope is to have roughly $325,000 in the fund, free and clear.

Archbishop Roger Schwietz, now retired, dedicated the Seminarian Endowment as his “legacy gift” to his successor, Archbishop Paul Etienne, who was installed last year. The overall goal is to raise $5 million in five years, allowing the endowment to spinoff earnings to fund eight seminarians a year.

In an added effort to raise funds, the archdiocese has launched its Seminarian Circle, a group of Alaskans who wish to actively help fund seminarian formation. Various liturgies and events provide opportunities to share in spiritual development and build relationships with fellow Seminarian Circle members, Archbishop Etienne and seminarians.

In becoming a member, a person makes a $1,000 minimum contribution, which is renewable at the start of each fiscal year. Gifts may be made annually, twice a year or quarterly. Automatic payments can be set up as well.

Other payment methods include attending the various seminarian formation fundraisers to fulfill the membership pledge through donations at those events, such as the golf tournaments and seminarian dinners.

Seminarians Circle benefits include joining Archbishop Etienne for ordinations, a summer Mass and barbeque dinner and a Christmas reception. Members also get to meet and know future priests.

For more on the Seminarian Circle, call Laurie Evans-Dinneen at (907) 297-7790.


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