A total of 81 golfers comprising 21 teams turned out for the first ever Archbishop’s Golf Tournament to help raise funds to support a growing group of Alaskan men training for the Catholic priesthood.
The June 7 tournament in Anchorage netted more than $14,500 to support the Seminarian Endowment Challenge, a fund which helps cover expenses of Alaskans pursuing the priesthood for the archdiocese.
The winner of the tournament was a golfer whom newly installed Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne knows well. Peter Brakora, a fellow member of the archbishop’s high school golf team in Tell City, Ind., took first place along with the other three members of his team.
Brakora lives in Anchorage now but his friendship with Archbishop Etienne dates back four decades. His team name for the June 7 tournament was the Marksmen, the same as his old high school mascot.
Archbishop Etienne said he was pleased by the turnout and organization of the tournament — an event he hopes will become an annual tradition.
“I talked to a number of golfers who came and they were very impressed with how well organized it was,” he said. “They were very pleased and hope we do it again.”
Archbishop Etienne was particularly impressed by the large turnout of golfers and financial supporters.
“It shows the great desire amongst the people of this archdiocese to support our future priests and present seminarians and make a gift of their time and finances to support their education,” he said. “We built some goodwill, and the volunteers worked hard in gaining the gifts and contributions and hosting all the people who showed up, and feeding them.”
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 which helps isolated or financially under-resourced dioceses, including all three Alaskan dioceses.
The net raised last year was just shy of $250,000, including the $50,000 Extension Grant. Archbishop Roger Schwietz, now retired, dedicated the drive as his “legacy gift” to his successor, Archbishop Etienne, who was installed in November 2016.
In addition to the tournament, several dinner fundraisers have taken place in area parishes over the last year.
Laurie Evans-Dinneen, director of the Stewardship and Development Office for the archdiocese, 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. A similar event is scheduled for August 10 at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage.
It can cost as much as $325,000 to educate one priest, Evans-Dinneen noted, as she expressed gratitude for Catholic Extension’s ongoing support for Alaskan seminarians.
“Usually, Extension doesn’t provide back-to-back grants,” Evans-Dinneen said. “But since we have such awesome momentum, they offered us a second year.”
This year’s challenge includes a grant for $25,000 with a need for the archdiocese to raise $50,000 to earn it. The archdiocese has set its goal at $100,000 for this year.
Four young men are currently studying for the priesthood for the archdiocese, three of whom attended the golf tournament as volunteers — Jake Brownlee, Ed Burke and Madison Hayes.
Evans-Dinneen said the tournament is a “wonderful opportunity for golf enthusiasts to support seminarian formation and to meet the young men who will one day be priests in our parishes, providing the sacraments, marrying our children, baptizing our children and grandchildren, and joining us in prayer and celebration of the Eucharist each week.”