V8’s For Vocations: Classic Car Restoration to Fund Seminarians’ Education


The process of educating and training a seminarian is usually a long and expensive one. To cope with the cost, many Dioceses set up endowments or scholarships, or include the tuition expenses in an annual appeal. One priest in the Diocese of Gallup has started to undertake a new method.

Fr. Matthew Keller, vocations director for the Diocese, had the idea to merge his love of classic cars with the duties of overseeing the education of the Gallup seminarians. He calls the new program “V8’s for Vocations”.

“The idea was, I’ve always liked cars. I learned how to work on them in high school – I learned how to do autobody for a year,” said Fr. Keller. “I restored my own car after high school and helped my brother-in-law paint several vehicles. So it’s always been an interest of mine, but something I had to give up as a priest.”

Then one day, some parishioners provided Fr. Keller with inspiration.

“Some friends said, ‘you should get a car and get the seminarians to help you fix it up.’ I thought, ‘Wait a minute, that’s a great idea, but let’s use it for a fundraiser.’ And so right away I talked about it with some other friends, and a high school friend of mine right away said ‘You know what, I’ve got a car for you, in an ad in Bloomfield at a reasonable price.’”

The car in advertised in Bloomfield turned out to be a 1972 Chevelle Super Sport. A donor offered to buy the car, and so the first phase of the project was kickstarted. While it needs a lot of work, Fr. Keller plans to enlist the help of volunteers and seminarians to restore the Chevelle. The car will then be raffled off and all of the proceeds, minus the purchase cost, will be spent on tuition for Diocesan seminarians.

A frame undergoes assembly for use in the car’s restoration.

“Many people have expressed their desire to be part of the project and restore it – we’re talking about major restoration, I think maybe an engine swap and frame restoration.”

Fr. Keller said that he hopes to obtain all the needed parts through donations, to greater enhance the final amount of money that will be donated to the seminarians’ education.

“For a seminarian, it costs about $27,000 a year. When a guy comes in for his formation, it’s gonna be anywhere from 4-8 years of formation that they need. It’s a sizable investment in their education, so this is something that will actually be an opportunity for seminarians to participate in.”

The Chevelle was a fortunate find. According to Fr. Keller, many Super Sports were originally made, but most have already been restored, wrecked, or stripped for parts. The car Fr. Keller now has was never restored and has a large block motor.

“The cars like this one are very desirable collector cars, and so in the first week I’ve had it, two people have offered to buy it from me. But only for a little more than the purchase price which is not what we’re after. When it’s done, I’m certain we can get more money raffling it than selling it outright, and every bit of it will be donated money – everything beyond the purchase price will be money that will help the seminarians go to school.”

Fr. Keller hopes that in years to come his “V8’s for Vocations” program will continue with a car being restored and raffled every couple of years. Even though the project itself is in the beginning stages and will be quite labor intensive, the excitement of friends, parishioners and seminarians has already gotten this project past the starting line.


If you would like to help with the V8’s for Vocations project, you can contact Fr. Keller at 505-722-6644.

To learn more about the project, visit the V8’s for Vocations Facebook page.


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