Patheos’ Future of Seminary Educationsymposium included some thoughts specific to Catholic Seminaries, but there was one issue I really wanted to write about and couldn’t because the timing was off — the truly historic Tri-Diocesan merger of three important seminaries in the New York area:
Archbishop Dolan and his brother bishops of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre Nov. 10 jointly signed a joint operating agreement creating a single program of priestly formation for their three dioceses at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie beginning in September 2012.
The bishops also announced the formation of a comprehensive new program for the ongoing theological and spiritual enrichment of priests and permanent deacons, and a centralization of lay ministry programs to support the New Evangelization.
“By embarking together on a single program of priestly formation, we three bishops have demonstrated our commitment to providing the best training and preparation we possibly can for our future priests,” said Archbishop Dolan in his remarks to the media at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington the evening the agreement was signed.
They’re calling this the St. Charles Borromeo Inter-Diocesan Partnership in Spiritual and Theological Formation for Clergy, Religious and Laity, and it is an unusual move that addresses needs of both clergy and laity while “modeling diocesan co-operation” in a creative manner that I suspect we will see 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, simply because the church does tend to move slowly; this particular move has been in planning for several years.
In this case, St. Joseph’s Seminary, (the seminary also known as “Dunwoodie” which was visited by the Holy Father during his 2008 swing through New York) will become the single seminary for priestly formation for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Long Island, while the Seminary in Douglaston, Queens will provide instruction on the college and pretheology levels and the Island’s Immaculate Conception Seminary will:
. . . be home to a new institute dedicated to the ongoing spiritual and pastoral formation of priests. The Sacred Heart Institute for the Ongoing Formation of Clergy will have regular programs of theological and spiritual enrichment for priests and permanent deacons and will also include the new Verbum Domini (Word of the Lord) Preaching Institute, as well as formation programs for international priests and special workshops for new priests.
The seminary in Huntington will also have formation programs for the laity and a retreat center to prepare lay people to be active participants in Church life.
Distance learning will be part of all of that, which is exciting for me — I’ve been thinking of going for theology degree, and that will make me happy, because I always get lost, leaving Immaculate Conception, and if I can study from home, I’d rather!
The agreement effectively merges two major seminaries currently operating in Yonkers and Huntington. The new graduate program also will serve candidates from other dioceses and religious orders in the United States and overseas. “We realized that by combining our resources and bringing together the best of our respective institutions, we would be able to provide the best seminary formation that we possibly could,” Archbishop Dolan said. “It’s what our future priests deserve, and it’s what our people deserve.”
Archbishop Dolan estimated there would be 100 seminarians at St. Joseph’s in the fall term. There are now approximately 90 men studying at St. Joseph’s and Immaculate Conception. Most are preparing for service in the three dioceses, but St. Joseph’s also trains candidates for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Immaculate Conception has students from the dioceses of Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y., and Scranton, Pa.
Our own Dr. Pat McNamara is a Professor at Dunwoodie, and our friend Michael Duffy, who as a seminarian has written twice for us here at Patheos, will be ordained a transitional deacon next month out of the Huntington Seminary and made a priest next June!
And all of this strikes me as a good time to re-read Pat Gohn’s excellent “How to Grow a Priest”
Diocese of Rockville Center: Press Release