New home for St. Joseph Seminary dedicated

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, September 9, 2012

New home for St. Joseph Seminary dedicated

St. Joseph College Seminary stepped into the spotlight Aug. 28, showing itself as a visible sign of the commitment of the Archdiocese of Chicago to fostering vocations to the priesthood.
New Seminary Building at St. Joseph Seminary, 1120 West Loyola Ave. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Auxiliary Bishops George Rassas, Joseph Perry, Andrew Wypych, and Francis Kane, laugh as Cardinal George makes some light-hearted closing remarks. Cardinal George was the main celebrant during a Mass and dedication of New Seminary Building at St. Joseph Seminary, 1120 West Loyola Ave. on Aug. 28. The cardinal anointed the new altar and installed Fr. Paul Stein (far right) as rector. St. Joseph College Seminary is the undergraduate seminary program of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The seminary is located on the campus of Loyola University in Chicago. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Cardinal George anoints the altar during the Mass. The sacred relics, from the remains of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop 1538-15-84, were deposited under the altar by Cardinal George on April 16, 2012. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
(Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Cardinal George incenses the altar during Mass. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

St. Joseph College Seminary stepped into the spotlight Aug. 28, showing itself as a visible sign of the commitment of the Archdiocese of Chicago to fostering vocations to the priesthood.

Priests, donors and other friends of the seminary packed the new chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, which features restored windows from the closed Holy Rosary Church on 113th Street, for a liturgy that included dedication of the altar as well as the installation of Father Paul Stein as the seminary’s new rector-president.

In his remarks, Stein thanked everyone who helped make the new seminary building possible, not just for the building itself, but “as statement of faith and hope about the future of the priesthood here in this archdiocese and in the many dioceses and religious orders which we serve.”

Cardinal George told guests that, given all of the financial challenges the archdiocese was facing, he was initially not in favor of building a new college seminary when the idea was raised.

“Believe me, I did not support this building as a project when it was first thought up,” the cardinal said. “I look at the whole needs of the archdiocese and the economic difficulties and all the other challenges, and I thought to myself, this might not be the time when we should be building a seminary.”

He changed his mind because, he said, it made more sense to make mortgage payments on a building to be owned by the archdiocese and built to be a seminary than to continue to rent space in what had been a Loyola University dormitory.

The new seminary is still on the university’s campus, on Loyola Avenue just east of its former home, Campion Hall. It includes 34 student rooms, for a total capacity of 68 seminarians, and six suites for priest faculty members and guests, said Father Steven Bauer, the seminary’s director of formation. Its chapel has the Litany of Mary painted at the top of the walls, recalling the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake, and the dark wood ceiling with its gold accents is reminiscent of the ceiling at Holy Name Cathedral.

The altar is new. It stands over relics of St. Charles Borromeo, which were installed April 16.

In his homily, Cardinal George shared a story from when he was in the novitiate for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Assigned to clean the chapel, he briefly set a hand broom and dustpan on the altar, and at that moment the novice master came in. The priest admonished him — in Latin — to show proper respect to the altar, because the altar signifies Christ.

That is why, the cardinal explained, the rite for dedicating an altar includes sprinkling it with holy water, anointing it with oil and honoring it with incense.

Those actions echo what was done with the broken body of Christ when it was taken down from the cross and prepared for burial, and what is done to the bodies of Catholics when they receive the sacraments, especially in baptism, confirmation and at their funeral Masses.

“We participate in actions that will make us holy people,” Cardinal George said.

Seminarians will continue to study at Loyola University, with some philosophy and theology classes taught in-house. That has been the arrangement since 1994, when St. Joseph opened its doors on Loyola’s campus. Before that, college seminarians studied at Niles College. Seminarians graduate with a degree in philosophy and are prepared to move on to a major seminary, where they will study theology.

This year, there are 41 college seminarians, an increase of 30 percent over last year. Generally, about half are from the Archdiocese of Chicago and half are from other dioceses.

Joe Oborski, a St. Joseph freshman, said he was familiar with the former facility in Campion Hall because he belonged to Quigley Scholars, a program for high school boys who are considering the priesthood, and attended monthly gatherings there.

“This is beautiful,” he said as he looked around the lobby of the new building, a week after moving in. “It already feels like home.”

Bauer, who took up his position in July, said he hasn’t quite settled in yet, but he appreciates the way the building was designed with the needs of priests and future priests in mind.

One of the features he likes best is the fitness room.

“Priests often lead an unhealthy lifestyle,” he said. “They eat on the run and don’t take time to exercise. We thought it was important to have a fitness room here.”