Much To Be Thankful For

Dante Tavolaro ’17 M.Div.

Deciding where I would go to seminary was one of the most difficult decisions my wife and I have had to make. As our discernment unfolded, the choice was clearly coming down to two schools – a denominational seminary or Yale Divinity School/Berkeley Divinity School. We wrote list after list: Which school would be the best place for my theological formation? Which community would be the best place to spend three years of our lives? The decision was an incredibly difficult one, and it felt nearly impossible because of one category: finances.

We could not ignore the fact that the denominational seminary had offered me a full-tuition scholarship. That meant I would have no academic debt, period, since I have no previous academic debt. Given the undergraduate and graduate school debt my wife has, this was a factor we could not ignore. Ultimately, though, we made our decision and arrived at YDS/ Berkeley in fall 2014.

Despite our initial uncertainty, it became clear that YDS/Berkeley was the right choice for us. This decision has come at a great financial cost. Though I receive a very generous YDS scholarship, which has increased each of my three years, and also receive a few denominational scholarships, I now carry a significant amount of academic debt. Combined with my wife’s debt, ours now totals somewhere north of $100,000. When we consider that I am about to be ordained in The Episcopal Church and she works for a higher education nonprofit, we cannot even begin to imagine a day when we will no longer be carrying this financial burden. As we prepare to leave New Haven, this is the greatest source of anxiety for our future. My wife and I are preparing to make further sacrifices so I can serve in the parish I feel called to serve – even if that means part-time employment on top of parish work. This is a likelihood we will face not just for my first call, but for years to come.

Nevertheless, I believe I have much to be thankful for. I am profoundly grateful to my wife who has made countless sacrifices for me to get the unbeatable theological education and formation I have received at YDS/Berkeley. I give thanks that I have a bishop who is incredibly supportive and willing to think creatively about my future. I am grateful to the generous donors of YDS/Berkeley, and all the outside sources of funding I have received, without which I would not have been able to study here. When the financial picture seems too overwhelming to handle, I lean into this source of gratitude for strength. Above all I know I must stay vigilant in trusting that God has called me to this work and that in the end, somehow, God will provide.