After nearly two years of waiting,
Bruss was accepted to the order in
Like a growing number of people seeking full-time religious service -- one study estimates about 4,200 people nationwide are in the same boat -- Bruss had student loans, but the order she wanted to join required her to be debt free in order to get started.
The Study on Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life, conducted by the
Bruss had more than
While Bruss' situation is somewhat unusual, it's becoming more common for recent college graduates to put their dreams on hold because of student debt.
The average debt in
"College has served as a gateway to opportunity for millions to climb the ladder and achieve their dreams,"
"But in the aftermath of the Great Recession, behind all of the facts and statistics, is a much broader question -- how do we preserve the drive to succeed for so many who feel that the dream is now out of reach?"
Americans now owe more than
"Two years ago, analysis by the
Bruss, 35, is among those affected by debt.
She grew up Catholic in
She started going to mass daily, and some suggested to her that she join an order.
But Bruss had a "narrow view of what nuns did. I thought all they did was sit around all day and pray."
She then had a dream where she was wearing a white habit and a light blue veil. She said she heard a voice say to her, "Look and see."
A little while later, a priest and a sister came to her house. The sister was wearing a light blue habit and a white veil. They were from the Consecrates of the Most Holy Savior. The Consecrates spend about six months of the year in monastic contemplation and the other six months in mission work to the poor, mostly in
Bruss went through the process of joining them -- but was told that before she could start, she had to get rid of the debt she accumulated while obtaining her master's degree.
"God gave me a great love for the Hispanic people," she said. "I was very excited when I was accepted (into the order). But the loans worried me. It would take me more than a decade to pay it all off on my own, just using the money I make from my job."
Bruss turned to the
While the future nuns or priests are in training, the society covers their monthly payments. When they are ordained, the society pays off the entire loan. If they don't make it to ordination, they resume paying for their own loan.
The society has helped more than 240 people since 2003 and has seen the number of people seeking help pick up each year.
"We, as a Catholic church, have been praying for more to enter these vocations for my entire adult life," Laurent said. "We know we have people who are willing to enter, but who have student loan debt.
"That's a huge problem. It can prevent you from following your calling. That shouldn't be what is stopping you. We can't fix the cost of college, but we can help those who have debt. Having gone to college and having to take a student loan out to pay for it shouldn't stop you from serving the church."
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