The Rochester Catholic Diocese unveiled an initiative Wednesday morning it hopes will bring more seminarians into the church. The campaign involves more than 100,000 households in the region.
At 15 years old, the only thing on Andrew Montanaro's mind was winning his next high school boxing match.
"I was looking forward to winning the final bout. My whole identity was kinda loaded into it," he said.
He was dedicated to training but injuries he sustained kept him from winning.
"So I prayed one day and said either kill me or give me back what I had before, give me the power to win this fight."
The saying 'thank God for unanswered prayers' proved true for Andrew.
"Pretty soon after that I got sick with pneumonia, I thought I was dying so I said 'okay Lord, never mind,'" he said with a laugh.
Andrew interpreted this experience as a calling to the priesthood. An RIT graduate with a biology degree, Andrew is paying off student loans, like many of the men entering the seminary today.
"Without the support I've already received, there's no way I would be able to put myself through the seminary on my own."
The Diocese of Rochester announced a $14 million capital campaign to provide retired priests with a $1,200 monthly stipend and provide educate funding for men seeking ordination to the priesthood.
"This building used to be a prep seminary where high school and junior people studied. That doesn't happen anymore," said Bishop Richard Cunningham, Apostolic Administrator.
Bishop Cunningham says many seminarians entering the priesthood are much older than years ago. They've experienced the outside world, so to speak, through education, past relationships and by being in the workforce; life experiences the church says they're welcoming.
Currently, the Diocese of Rochester has 25 seminarians studying for the priesthood as compared to only four in 2007. The average cost to educate a seminarian is $40,000 a year over a six-year period.
"We believe financial impedients should not stand in the way of a man following his call to become a priest," Cunningham said.
Donations from more than 300 families in the Rochester area already raised $11 million for the campaign. The Diocese hopes the next Bishop of Rochester, who will be appointed by next year, will be met by some new faces.
"Today, I think there are more people who know what life is like on the outside. I think that's going to help fortify the church and really bring a wealth of experience into the priesthood."