Is the New York seminary merger the way of the future?

Is the New York seminary merger the way of the future? November 20, 2011

Maybe.  That’s the interesting question at the heart of this piece in OSV:

Father Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently wrote that economic factors and the lack of enough priest-instructors are causing seminaries to merge or close, such as the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Leuven, Belgium.

Those pressures are squeezing seminaries at the same time that more men are entering them for priestly formation.

During the 2010-11 academic year, seminaries that prepare priests for the Church in the United States reported having 3,608 graduate-level seminarians, which marked a 4 percent increase from the previous year and was the highest enrollment figure in more than 20 years, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

Diocesan enrollment increased by 86 seminarians and religious enrollment by 39 seminarians, according to an April 2011 CARA study, which also noted the average tuition of $15,505 in 2010-11 increased by $836 from the previous year. The average room and board increased by $500 to about $9,687.

“As the number of seminarians has increased (and with them an increase in tuition dollars), there has been a decrease in financial resources available from dioceses to pay for the bumper crop of seminarians,” Father McKnight wrote. “Even more challenging is the lack of an adequate number of priest-faculty to fulfill the demands of a healthy program of spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human formation.”

Writer Elizabeth Scalia wrote on her blog, The Anchoress, that she expects the New York seminary merger to be duplicated in other cities. “The pooling of resources and talent can bring new vigor and fresh perspectives to issues that have previously seemed unaddressed and stagnant,” Scalia said.

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3 responses to “Is the New York seminary merger the way of the future?”

  1. OK: I admit; I am biased here. But, I read this line from the above post and I REALLY got upset.

    ““Even more challenging is the lack of an adequate number of priest-faculty to fulfill the demands of a healthy program of spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human formation.”

    I am sorry but I do not believe there is a “lack” of qualified faculty at all. What there may be is a lack of priests who carry those credentials. Or perhaps more correctly those priests who do carry those credentials are either getting older and dying off or are needed as pastors in parishes.

    There are deacons, religious sisters, even lay folks who have those fancy canonical degrees and would meet any requirement that the Vatican placed upon their academic preparation to be faculty members in these seminary programs. They are not allowed to be faculty for priestly seminarians because they are not “priests.”

    In fact, I have reason to believe that this is why so many Diaconal formation programs are cutting back to a “cohort” class style rather that allowing admissions on a “rolling-acceptance” method. There not enough “qualified” priest/faculty — but can someone PLEASE tell me why perfectly qualified deacons, religious sisters, and even lay folk cannot hold those positions — if not for the priestly seminaries then for the diaconal formation ones ?

  2. Dear Fiergenholt,

    I had the same thought that you did. Most seminary faculties DO have lay people, religious and deacons on the faculty, all of whom hold the appropriate academic credentials. I can certainly understand the desire to have priest faculty members who can help “model” the priesthood for the seminarians (just as we like lay theologians and deacon theologians involved in lay and deacon formation programs), but certainly seminary formation can only be strengthened by having a rich diversity of faculty presence and involvement. Being able to interact on many levels with a highly educated laity and diaconate is just as critical as being able to nourish a particularly “priestly” identity as well.

    I was really saddened by the closure of the American College Louvain; my experiences there while I was still on the USCCB staff were uniformly positive. The seminarians there interacted with an extremely diverse faculty, as well as with the sisters, laity, priests and deacons who were living with them while participating in various sabbatical programs. There was a very healthy “family” feel to the place that is not always the case.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  3. I think that changes have been made after the Vatican review of the seminaries to eliminate many who were involved in the seminaries but who dissented from Church teaching. I live in Cincinnati and know that there were changes to this diocese seminary removing a number of personnel over the past 10 years before and after the visit and that some removed did not agree with all Church teaching. If you are going to have a good seminary, it is very important that those teaching the courses believe and accept all Church teaching. The staff there is excellent with strong support from the local Dominicans. I also think the increase seen over the last few years is a direct result of the push by Pope John Paul II and now Benedict XVI to insure that there is solid teaching to those who have been well vetted for entrance. I know of some that left the seminary in the past because it was a hotbed of dissent and those who held solid to teaching were forced out or prevented from entry. It was certainly a very uncomfortable place which has been expressed by many of the good young priests who took up the challenge to stay the course. However, It do think this will be a good move in NY and we can see how it plays out. The seminary chosen has a good reputation for solid teaching.

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