The Chester-based Papal Foundation has announced $800,000 in scholarships for 106 priests, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful from 44 developing countries, enabling them to study at 16 pontifical universities and institutes in Rome.  

In the past 20 years the scholarship program has provided more than $12 million in scholarships to more than 1,500 individuals, known as Saeman Scholars, to advance their education and prepare them to return to teach in their own countries.

“Following the Lord’s command to ‘Go teach all nations,’ seminarians, clergy, religious men and women, and laity need an excellent education and a sound program of spiritual formation in order to secure the future of the church around the world,” said Eustace Mita, president of the Papal Foundation’s Board of Trustees.


St. John Paul II in 1998 called for a program to provide scholarships for tuition, room and board to seminarians, priests, religious and laity from disadvantaged countries to allow them to study in Rome and then return to their dioceses to teach future church leaders in a way that is faithful to the Magisterium.

The program began in 2000 with the generosity of a $5 million gift from John and Carol Saeman of Denver, a gift that was matched by the Papal Foundation.

“You helped me acquire academic expertise that has been an invaluable addition to my priesthood and service to God’s people,” said Father Boniface Mungai, who graduated from Holy Cross University in Rome and is currently chaplain at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and a lecturer on church history in the university’s History Department. “God bless you and the foundation!” 

This year’s Saeman Scholars will begin their studies with a virtual orientation Oct. 3 as they prepare to earn doctorate, licentiate and bachelor’s degrees in various church disciplines including theology, canon law, biblical studies and sacred Scripture, among others.

Applications for the St. John Paul II Scholarship Program are received by the Vatican Secretariat of State. Scholars sponsored by their home dioceses and demonstrating need are then recommended to Carol and John Saeman and the Papal Foundation for final approval.

“The idea for the scholarship program may have come from a chapter right out of John Paul II’s own life,” Mita said. “After his ordination, and shortly before the communists took control of Poland, he was sent to Rome as a student priest to obtain an advanced degree. The opportunity he was given has shaped our church, and his faith-filled response was to provide that opportunity to future generations.”

The Papal Foundation’s mission is to serve the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church through faith, energy and financial resources.

Since 1990 the foundation has provided almost $177 million in grants and scholarships to build the church, educate and prepare leaders, and care for the most vulnerable people around the world.

For more information about the foundation including its grants and scholarships, visit