St. Joseph College Seminary building permanent home

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, January 16, 2011

College seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago will mark its 50th anniversary this year. In this anniversary year, St Joseph College Seminary will break ground on its own building on the campus of Loyola University Chicago.

Since 1994, the archdiocesan seminary has been renting property from Loyola University on its Lake Shore Campus but the lease runs out in 2012. After consultation with Cardinal George and consideration for rising rental costs, the seminary determined it would be more cost effective to build its own space and use rental fees to cover the cost of loans.

St. Joseph’s board of directors also looked to the future and decided “if we want good and holy men for the priesthood, we need a permanent home,” said Father Peter Snieg, rector of St. Joseph Seminary.

The university offered to sell the seminary a piece of property on which to build that is located next to its existing building, Campion Hall.

“The stars came together and aligned,” said Snieg.

When it first opened 50 years ago, St. Joseph Seminary was St. Mary of the Lake Junior College and later became Niles College and then the present St. Joseph College Seminary. At all times dedication to priesthood has remained.

“While the name and location have changed through the years, the mission and focus remain the same: helping men to listen for God’s call to the priesthood of Jesus Christ and to respond generously to this call,” Cardinal George wrote in materials announcing the new building.

The cardinal will lead an official groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 21 and construction is expected to be completed by March 2012.

“It’s a real benefit for the seminary to have a new building on campus,” said Jesuit Father Patrick Dorsey, director sacramental life for Loyola University Chicago. “It gives them a true sense of identity that is their own.”

This move gets the seminary out of a building that is associated with a dorm and moves them more into the neighborhood, Dorsey said.

“It will give them a deeper sense of identity with the university,” he added. “I think it is a good partnership.”

Funds currently budgeted for rent will cover the cost of construction loans for years to come. St. Joseph Seminary has initiated a gifts campaign so that the seminary is not left with an overburdening debt.

The new building, designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, will have a residence area, a chapel, library, office space, dining hall and recreational space.

There will be 34 residence rooms in a four-story portion of the building, which can accommodate 68 seminarians. There will also be six suites for priests on staff and guests.

Stained-glass windows from the now-closed Holy Rosary Church will be used in the new chapel along with a new rose window made by Rigali studios featuring symbols of the Eucharist.

The worship space will be named Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary in honor of the closed Holy Rosary Parish.

After four years at St. Joseph’s, the men earn degrees in philosophy from Loyola University and then go on to seminaries like Mundelein Seminary where they earn advanced degrees.

The seminary has averaged 30- 45 seminarians enrolled each year for the past 10 years and hopes to see that number grow, said Snieg, who was the last rector of Quigley Preparatory Seminary. This year 33 men are enrolled in St. Joseph’s.

The seminary is also working on a recruitment campaign to attract more men from the Chicago.

Some of the men who study at St. Joseph’s are from outside the archdiocese. However, on average, 50 percent of its students are local men. Seven of the men preparing for ordination this May went through St. Joseph’s, Snieg said.

The college seminary is drawing different men today than in years before and they are going on to ordination at a higher rate than in years before, Snieg said.

“These are young men who are coming in saying ‘I feel God is calling me strongly to priesthood.’”