Minnesota businessman Cy Laurent remembers the moment the Holy Spirit lit a path for what would become his lay ministry, the Laboure Society.
Talking to a young woman about a job, she told him she had discerned a vocation but had been stymied by her debts.
Laurent, a Catholic, rallied some of his business associates to help pay down the woman's outstanding debt, allowing her to pursue her vocation.
"It's been 12 years since she professed her final vows, thanks be to God," Laurent said.
"That experience was quite wonderful, and I started to look around to see if there were others in that situation."
What Laurent discovered – and what few casual observers realize – is the roadblock debt presents to thousands of potential priestly and religious vocations.
While guidelines vary by order, diocese and seminary as to what debt new members are allowed to carry, for many religious orders that number is zero.