Up Front and Personal

Thank God For the Obstacle Of My Student Loan Debt

By Norvilia Etienne

This may seem strange, but I now thank God for the obstacle of my student loans. Without this obstacle, I would’ve probably entered the convent quietly and very few people would know about God’s work in my little life.

But our Heavenly Father has used what I thought was an obstacle to open wider the doors of faith, hope and love in my heart and the hearts of the people I’ve encountered. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

My fellow 16 Labouré Society classmates and I have spent the past six months experiencing beautiful spiritual growth and formation as we fundraised to be able to enter our respective convents or seminaries. We, like thousands of others discerning a religious vocation each year, have been blocked from realizing that call because of our college student loan debt.

I am elated to announce that, thanks be to God and the prayers and financial support of so many, my fellow classmates and I in the Labouré Society aspirant program have raised more than $560,000 for vocations.

Pending the board of director’s approval, awards will be made that will demolish years to decades of loan payments for all in the class. Thanks be to God, this will enable me to enter formation within the community of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in September of 2019!

I am most grateful to God for my spiritual director, Father Christopher M. O’Connor, pastor of Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, Woodside, for his continuous fatherly love and support; for His Excellency, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Sister Maryann Lopiccolo, S.C., for their generous wisdom and support and for DeSales Media’s spreading the news of our efforts early in this class.

The outpouring of love and support from so many people from all over the Brooklyn diocese and beyond has been truly humbling. My list of gratitude is longer than what “The Tablet” can hold.

I thank all of the amazing pastors who let me share my vocational journey in their parishes and for all the parishioners who have so generously helped make my entrance a reality.

People like Cathy Donohoe, who organized my first opportunity to speak about Laboure and my vocation after one of the first Saturday devotions at the Immaculate Conception Passionists Monastery in Queens. Cathy told just about everyone she knew about my vocation and was very generous in gifting the society in my honor. Her story was replicated time and time again by faith-filled individuals across the diocese and the nation.

Each and every person I’ve met during this process has become a part of my vocational journey and part of my meager offering to God as I lay my life before Him as a religious nun. Please know that I continue to hold the many prayer intentions entrusted to me during this process close to my heart and am praying for each one of my benefactors daily. You have my word as a future nun!

Seek God’s Will

It has been beautiful to see the hope that one local vocation can bring to the Church. I beseech you, if you have any inkling that God may be calling you to a life of prayer with Him in religious life or the priesthood, search out His divine will for your life.

I guarantee you, if He is calling you to it, this vocation will bring you the most joy in this life and the most abundant joy in the next.

Lastly, my pending entrance into the convent would not be possible without the Labouré Society. The mission of the Society is to rescue Catholic vocations from the barrier of student loan debt, a much-needed solution to the problem of our current vocations crisis.

For anyone dismayed from pursuing a vocation to the priesthood or religious life because of student loan debt, please call them. The staff and the army of volunteers behind them will ensure your success. Everyone who completed the program has entered formation.Trust me, if my fellow classmates and I can do this, you can too.

Please keep me in prayer as I move forward in my vocation. I would be honored to pray with and for you. Please email me your intentions at norvilia@laboureaspirant.org.

In the words of one of my favorite nuns on the path to sainthood, Mother Angelica, “We are all called to be great saints, don’t miss the opportunity.”


Etienne graduated from the Summer 2018 Class of Aspirants to the Priesthood and Religious Life. She attended Holy Family, Fresh Meadows and will enter the religious community of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles this fall.

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