Atlantis rises: US seminaries are changing

It isn’t rocket science.

The theological and moral bizzaro-world into which US seminaries sank Atlantis-like over the decades of the 60s to the 80s is over.  They didn’t sink in a day, and they won’t be raised in a day either.

But they are rising.

The reason has been, in part, bishops who made changes, and in larger part students who would no long put up with the weirdness.  Men wanted Catholic formation and virile liturgy and they didn’t want to be… how to say it… hit on.  Seminarians themselves began to revolt against the faculty and tell their bishops what was going on and changes were implemented.  Once the shift in the episcopate Pope John Paul II worked patiently to achieve began to re-leaven the country, reform started gain momentum.

A reader sent a link to the following with the subject line: “Could it be…. Orrrthodoxy?”

From CNS with my cuts […], emphases and comments.

Catholic seminary enrollment up, but numbers seen as only part of story

By Nancy Frazier O’Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In his first months as rector of Theological College in Washington, Father Phillip J. Brown has been confronting a problem that the national diocesan seminary for the U.S. Catholic Church “has not had for a long time” — it is bursting at the seams.

Enrollment is maxed out for the 2011-12 academic year at 90 seminarians. Five of those seminarians are back in their dioceses this year gaining pastoral experience, but a Sulpician seminarian and five priests from other countries also live there, bringing the total number of residents to 91 plus faculty members.

“If I had to start with a problem, that’s the problem I’d like to have,” Father Brown told Catholic News Service. “It’s a very healthy sign, a positive sign for Theological College and for the U.S. priesthood.”

The trend of rising seminary enrollment is being duplicated around the country:

— At the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, 40 new seminarians arrived this year, bringing total enrollment to 186, the highest level since the 1970s.

— St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity [SPS… the den-of-horrors I went to in the 80s.] at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., welcomed 30 new graduate-level seminarians, making its class of 100 seminarians the largest since 1980. The influx forced 24 seminarians and two priests off campus into leased space at a former convent. [Anecdote: A couple years ago when I was visiting John H at Leaflet Missal (church goods) in St. Paul, he said he was super busy getting the clerical clothing in a sorted for the orders from all the seminarians at SPS.  I didn’t, at first, grasp what he was saying. Then he told me that the decision had been made that all the major seminarians were to wear clerical dress.  I, incredulous, nearly passed-out.]

[…]But Theological College’s Father Brown said a rise in enrollment is only part of the story.

“It’s not just the numbers but the quality and spirit of the men who are coming,” he told CNS.

“I’m tremendously impressed with the quality of the candidates, their zeal,” he added. “We’re seeing a real renewal of the priesthood.”


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. PostCatholic says:

    Bursting at the seams perhaps because the entire east wing was gutted and turned into office space. The Archdiocese for Military Services was the anchor tenant for a decade or so.

  2. Patti Day says:

    Praise the Lord!

    What is the financial cost for a young man to go through seminary today?

  3. Ellen says:

    Saint Meinrad seminary is full for the first time in years.

  4. KAS says:

    This is wonderful!! I hope everyone keeps on praying for vocations and for our priests and for the Bishops!

    (happy dance)

  5. Mike says:

    St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore (also Sulpician) is currently at around 75 seminarians, most of whom are in theology. This year also saw a very large class of incoming First Theologians (with most men coming from college seminaries and houses of formation). All theologians wear clerics during weekdays for class and community prayer and in parish assignments, and pre-theologians wear shirt and tie.

  6. htxsem says:

    St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston is almost full and talking about new buildings. Right now it costs about $450,000 to form someone as a diocesan priest for seven years.

  7. irishgirl says:

    Deo Gratias! Wonderful news to hear! I found this on Spirit Daily.
    I sure wish there was a seminary in my Upstate NY diocese. Our seminarians have to go out of state for their training.

  8. Mattheus says:

    The North American College in Rome is also at capacity. They had 70 new men come this year pushing the total around 250 seminarians.

  9. cblanch says:

    Thank God!

  10. Steven says:

    Another SPS anecdote: I was told by John when I was ordering my cassock to get the order in soon before the rush of orders came in from the seminary.

  11. gloriainexcelsis says:

    We were treated to a recently ordained secular priest’s first Solemn High Mass in our traditional parish. Literally, it was his FIRST. He had been ordained only the week before. He brought two other young priests, one to act as deacon, the other to chant the propers, and two other seminarians, one to act as sub-deacon, the other also to chant the propers. I was in tears. These were actually celebrating a TLM, and beautifully! The young priest began the singing of the Salve Regina for a recessional, in which the almost stunned congregation on hand joined in. We also received his first blessing. If this is the caliber in at least one seminary, there is much to celebrate.

  12. lucy says:

    Deo Gratias!!! Very happy to hear it!!! We’ll keep praying for faithful, orthodox vocations to the priesthood.

    And the pendulum swings the other way for once…

  13. A. N. Onimous says:

    Another SPS comment: The minor Seminary at the University of Saint Thomas, Saint John Vianney, is so full that they have been forced to not take all of the new men as the various dioces want to send there because they just do not have the room. I will not be surprised if the dorm I am living in this year becomes part of the minor Seminary in the near future…

  14. A. N. Onimous says:

    Oops, forgot to mention that SPS gets most of its people through SJV and UST

  15. Cincinnati Priest says:

    While the numbers of seminarians in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is rising slowly, I suspect we will see an explosion in the near future, given the tremendous and dramatic improvements in our own seminary program as well. An exhaustive list would take too long, but as a short list, suffice to say that the butcher block altar with stainless steel legs, in the nave of the main chapel has been retired, with a new handcrafted marble altar placed in the beautiful marble sanctuary (next to the words “”Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” carved into the marblework, appropriately enough). The butcher block altar was the one the men used to stand around in a circle at Mass practically singing kumbya, and exchanging a sign of peace (weirdly enough) for the one office from the altered gender-inclusive breviary binders that was recited sort of optionally each day. That’s all gone as the rubrics of the Mass are carefully followed and the office is prayed directly from the breviary twice a day, etc.

    Gone are the days when the seminarians warned each other not to be seen praying the Rosary publicly, or expressing any other “pious practice.” The feminists on the formation team have moved on to greener and “more tolerant” pastures. The hostility toward clerical dress (where even priest faculty didn’t wear it) has been replaced with a policy of all men post-candidacy wearing clerical suit or cassock for prayer and classes minimally. All this, and more, has occurred within a short 12 year time span.

    I can’t wait to see the next batch of yet more positive changes that will happen *this* decade, in Cincinnati and most other U.S. dioceses where great strides have been taken, and am very optimistic for the Church in the next few years as these new well-trained men move out into the parishes.

  16. Soler says:

    If only a similar trend were to be seen in Maynooth. Seemingly, our National Seminary is still a den of heterodoxy.

    Does anyone know how vocations are doing in Europe as a whole?

  17. Gail F says:

    RE: gloriainexcelsis and Cincinnati priest: As a layperson taking classes at the Cincinnati seminary, last fall I went to evening prayer several times before my evening class. Mostly seminarians and professors, with a couple of local people who drop in. It was very beautiful, all chanted in Latin and ending with Salve Regina. Don’t know what they used to do, but they’ve done this for at least a couple of years.

  18. guatadopt says:

    This is great…unfortunately, our joke of a seminary continues to underperform most elementary school religion programs. Not to mention they still lack a Latin or Greek elective…not even a single course!!!! The result…producing priests who don’t know the difference between Ignatius of Antioch and Ignatius of Loyola and who don’t know that a “talent” in the Gospel was actually a monetary measurement…I wish that was a joke.

  19. Blaise says:

    Deo Gratias!

    Perhaps you will be able to send England some missionaries in a few years time. I doubt the English seminaries are “bursting” at the seams. In fact I suspect the 30 new seminarians in Ohio exceed the total this year (and maybe last year?) for all the dioceses of England & Wales.

    We should pray that these young men are given good formation and are strengthened in their vocations.
    More please!

  20. Tom in NY says:

    Have Immaculate, St. Joseph’s or CTK departed us? Etiam in statu Novi Eboraci manent.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  21. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Patti Day:

    The average cost for room, board, and tuition at the major seminaries runs at $30,000 per student, per year. Some seminaries charge a little less, but not by much. The diocese often picks up the tab, since most students are not able to pay. A typical bishop with 10 seminarians is looking at paying at least a quarter of a million ($250,000) for one year’s formation of his seminarians.

    Some students are able to help out with their grants, scholarships, or student loans. Those who served in the armed forces, for the college seminary years, help out with grants based on their militay experience. But by far, the seminarians are the most costly item on the budget of any diocese.

  22. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    Yes, it’s hopeful, but take it cum grano salis, eh? There are still only a tenth of the Jesuit, Franciscan, Domincan or any other religious order priests than there were pre 1965. Nothing times two equals nothing.

  23. Random Friar says:

    One of my confreres refers to this sociological change at seminaries as “La Reconquista.”

  24. Martial Artist says:

    I cannot help but believe that, with the renewal of the priesthood sparked in part by zealous young priests, we have every reason to hope for a renewal of the Church herself, and through the latter an increase in evangelization, the new evangelization sought by the Holy Father.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  25. Mitchell NY says:

    No doubt that a few of them are looking forward to celebrating the ancient liturgy according to the 62 Missal. Pray for UE to be enacted and Seminarians to be formed knowing how to celebrate both Forms of the Roman Rite. This Pontificate is bearing witness to many great things happening in the Church.

  26. Former Altar Boy says:

    Let’s not forget the FSSP seminary in Nebraska where 17 men were “tonsured” in October. I believe total enrollment is around 75!

  27. ljc says:

    Will the USA soon be sending out Priest-missionaries to re-evangelize Europe?

  28. moconnor says:

    Last Sunday I assisted with my schola for a Missa Cantata, attended by 70 seminarians and faculty from St Vincent de Paul Seminary in South Florida. This was sort of a liturgical field trip for the men and many were very interested. It helped that the celebrating priest had been doing this Mass for a couple of years and our schola really sang well. I told them that this may be the most important Mass they ever sing. I pray that seeds fell on fertile ground.

  29. Dave N. says:

    Numbers and quality of seminarians are improving, BUT what are they being taught while they are there? The quality of seminary instruction in the US is extremely uneven–which anyone can by perusing and comparing M.Div. requirements at seminary websites. There are only a handful of seminaries with anything approaching adequate instruction in languages and Sacred Scripture, for example.

  30. Laura R. says:

    So much for the argument that women should be ordained to the priesthood because there aren’t enough men coming in! I wonder if anyone is still listening?

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  34. JackintheVox says:

    Father Brown said the full house has led to “a nice and interesting atmosphere” at Theological College because of the racial and ethnic diversity of the seminarians, who come from “a wide diversity of backgrounds and from a wide diversity of parts of the U.S.”

    I hate to be a wet blanket, but I do wonder how much of this widespread increase in seminarians is driven by recruiting men who are citizens of other countries. Does anyone know how many of the 3,608 students are here on visas?

    Of course it is quite appropriate to seek such men to serve immigrant communities, but if the recruitment is also done to fill in the gaps from established, but vocationally barren, communities, how is that sustainable? The best sign of health would be to see lots of men being ordained to serve the very communities who raised them and formed them in the faith.

    The USA has a pretty low Catholic-per-priest ratio (about 1,400) compared to her neighbors (Brazil: 8,600, Mexico: 8,400, Columbia: 4,800, Honduras: 14,000) and the rest of the world (among 157 countries, median about 2,100).

    An overreliance on foreign recruitment, especially from countries struggling to find priests as it is, would be an injustice to those people who need priests, too. I hope that is not the case!

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