A desire to be Dominican

Young man works to overcome financial obstacles to pursue his religious vocation

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PROVIDENCE — Jim Ritch, a 29-year-old parishioner of St. Pius V Church in Providence, knew at an early age that God was calling him to join into a deep relationship with him.

“As a child, I told my mother at bed time that I knew God wanted me, but I didn’t think I wanted to go,” he said.

It was not until his adolescence that Ritch gained a better understanding of his calling and during college he met joyful Dominican priests who encouraged him to bring everything to prayer and consider religious life. After years of discernment with the Dominicans and attending a vocation retreat, Ritch felt called to live the life of a Dominican friar, drawn to their prayerful and empathetic charism.

“Dominicans grow in holiness through prayer and contemplation, study and preaching of the Good News, fraternity and living the common life,” he said. “Preaching the Gospel for the salvation of souls is the main reason why I desire to become a friar preacher. All of the experiences and challenges I’ve encountered in my life, along with God’s grace and further formation will prepare me to enter into the Dominican Order.”

Ritch is eager to join the Dominican Order, deeply desiring to dedicate his life to Jesus Christ, but his student loans have created an obstacle for him to enter. With close to $58,000 in debt, Ritch has been saving money for the past 7 years so that he may fulfill his calling and live as a Dominican. He is currently working as a research lab manager at Providence College, supervising undergraduate research students as they study cancer. With a Masters in neuroscience, Ritch feels that his studies at Massachusetts General Hospital, Providence College and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, have prepared him for his future as a Dominican brother.

“God always prepares you for your ministry. I predict that I’d be a college chaplain or a hospital chaplain – that’s my hunch,” he said. “I could help students in a unique way. Having one vocation sparks many more.”

Ritch has been working with The Labouré Society, which fosters a culture of vocations by helping to raise money for those who first must settle their financial obligations before being admitted into a religious community. The nonprofit Minnesota-based organization has been in operation since 2003 and helps aspirants to religious vocations raise funds and obtain grants to pay their loans by the time they are ordained or profess their vows. The average vocational aspirant in The Labouré Society owes $40,000 in educational loans plus interest.

As the deadline with Labouré approaches — funds raised must be in by June 30 — the young man is eager to raise enough so that he may enter the Dominicans by their deadline of July 25.

Through The Labouré Society, Ritch has enjoyed the experience to witness again and again to others about his vocation.

“People have been very gracious,” he said. “Labouré is about making a personal encounter. Fundraising is a ministry. It’s not just about asking for money - It’s so much more than that. It offers someone the opportunity to perform an act of charity.”

Unable to join the religious life without first overcoming these financial obstacles, can be very challenging, said Ritch, but prayer and connecting with people in the community has been very helpful as he waits to take the next big step in his life.

“It requires supernatural patience, grace and a strong prayer life,” he said. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the people, and it’s about an act of charity.”

As he continues to fundraise during this Year of Consecrated life – a time which he calls ‘providential’ – God-willing Ritch will enter into religious life this summer.

To learn more about Ritch’s journey to become a Dominican friar, please contact him at jim@laboureaspirant.org. Or to help him reach his goal by the nearing deadline, visit his donation page www.labouresociety.org/james.