Fr. Robert Barron named Chicago seminary rector

Exciting news for the church in Chicago — and for the young men at Mundelein Seminary:

Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago, has named Rev. Robert L. Barron as the rector/president of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary, effective July 1, 2012.  He had been serving as the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein and as founding director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.  Fr. Barron joined the full-time faculty of Mundelein Seminary in 1992 and has taught at the seminary since that time. He succeeds Msgr. Dennis J. Lyle who completed six years as rector.

A native of Chicago, Fr. Barron’s family are parishioners at St. John of the Cross Parish in Western Springs.  Fr. Barron received a master of arts degree in philosophy from the Catholic University of America before attending the University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary.  He was ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1986 with a master of divinity degree and later received his licentiate in sacred theology from the University.

Fr. Barron’s first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Park Ridge.  He was then appointed to the faculty of Mundelein Seminary and sent for advanced studies at the Institut Catholique de Paris where he received the doctor of sacred theology degree.  In 1992, he returned to the University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary.  He has published ten books and is a sought after public lecturer.  He has held visiting professor appointments at the University of Notre Dame, the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, and was twice scholar in residence at the Pontifical North American College, also in Rome.

Recognizing the need for a new evangelization, Fr. Barron founded Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.  In 2011 Word on Fire produced Fr. Barron’s television series Catholicism, which has been aired on Public Television.  Catholicism has been described as bringing a fresh and robust view of the Gospel to contemporary society.

The University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary is the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago with a national and international outreach.  A graduate school of theology, it has an enrollment of 250 degree students of which 165 are seminarians preparing for service as diocesan priests in 25 dioceses.  Additionally, its institutes of diaconal studies, lay formation, and the Instituto de Liderazgo Pastoral prepare over 400 women and men for these roles of service.  The University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary’s ongoing formation program offered courses to 1200 participants this past year.

From the Word on Fire website:

“As a priest of Jesus Christ I accept this responsibility with joy,” said Father Barron. “The appointment brings together many of the elements that have long been of great importance to me, namely, the priesthood, theological scholarship, pastoral care and evangelization.”

Barron is currently the Director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, a media group he founded to advance the new evangelization. He will continue in this role and its mission, along with his new appointment at Mundelein. Last year, Word on Firereleased a 10 part documentary series, Catholicism, which Father Barron created, wrote and hosted. The series aired across the country on PBS and EWTN, and has been seen in parishes, universities and schools throughout the world. The documentary also won a Christopher Award for excellence.


  1. I like it! Fr Barron appears to emphasize a sort of unapologetic yet gentle Catholicism; it would be nice to see more of that from our priests.

  2. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this. I admire Fr. Barron’s erudtion and evangelic zeal and have benefitted enormously from his work. Which is why I am worried that this appointment will take him away from his using his gifts as a public intellectual and evangelist and bog him down in administrative duties and ecclesiastical concerns.

    We should be mindful that Bishop Fulton Sheen’s appointment as head of the Rochester diocese in upstate New York in the mid 1960s was not the high-point of his career and took him away from what he did best: teach and evangelize the faith. I am afraid the same might happen to to this talented young priest from Chicago.

  3. Midwestlady says:

    That’s a good point, Mark. Fr. Barron’s Catholicism project was one of the most fruitful things we’ve had come along in a long time.

  4. He’s a brilliant man. Perhaps this is selfish on my part, but I hope this position doesn’t take him away from all the projects with the Catholic public that he has, such as his Word on Fire website and videos. I do wish him the best.

  5. That’s a valid concern, but apparently God wants him to spend more time guiding His new priests.

  6. RP Burke says:

    My thought exactly. I work with college presidents and very few of them have the time left to write, publish, or speak after they have dealt with the essentials of the job. There are exceptions — Derek Bok, Stephen Trachtenberg — but they are few.

  7. Art ND'76 says:

    It looks like this is an appointment he has been groomed for over some years now. I rejoiced at Fr Mike Scanlan’s tenure as president of Franciscan University, and I pray that Fr Barron’s tenure at Mundelein is even more fruitful. We need men of God in those positions. I wish him all the best.

  8. Notgiven says:

    …and many rectors are later named bishops. Congrats Fr. Barron!

  9. I’ll bet that enrollment at Mundelein will go up on account of this. And, even if he has less time for his other projects, what “project” can be more important than preparing good priests to serve the church. My own bishop, Cardinal Dolan, was rector of the North American College in Rome and that seems to have been great for both the school and the church in the long run.

    I too hope that Fr. Barron can maintain both his worlds, but God’s will guides us.

  10. Father Robert Barron I cant wait to listen to his programs and when I miss one, look it up on my computer. He is such a treat and I learn so much listening to him and I am in the “greatest generation” and Fr. Rob’s age group think differently so they tell me. He is a show all by himself. He will go down in history… yes sir.Love his gait at the beginning of his program.. so peaceful and loving. Must have had special Mom and Dad. God bless u Father.

  11. Hasn’t he made any recent “You Tube” commentaries? Some of those only last a couple of minutes. Sorry, but I see no reason why he can’t do both. Congratulations to the young men who are now being mentored by him, but lets not for get the rest of us. Surely he can spare a few minutes for us. And may God Bless Fr. Barron!!

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