Chicagoland

Archdiocese announces closing of St. Joseph Seminary

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
January 23, 2019

Seminary building at St. Joseph Seminary, 1120 W. Loyola Ave., in 2012. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Seven years after dedicating the new St. Joseph College Seminary on the campus of Loyola University Chicago, the archdiocese has announced that it will close at the end of the 2019 academic year.

The college seminary has 20 students this year, 13 of whom are from the Archdiocese of Chicago, and was expecting a small enrollment class next year, according to the Jan. 14 press release announcing the closure.

All of the students will be welcomed at St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, if they choose to attend there, said Father John Kartje, rector-president of the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.

Many of the roughly 200 seminarians at Mundelein, the largest major seminary in the United States, come from St. John Vianney College Seminary, Kartje said. He believes that college seminarians from the Archdiocese of Chicago will fit in well there, as will the five St. Joseph seminarians from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the two from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

However, he noted, any men finishing their third year at St. Joseph will have the option of completing their undergraduate degrees next year at Loyola instead of transferring.

The decision to close St. Joseph was based on stewardship of archdiocesan resources, Kartje said, but also on the need for seminarians to have a thriving community around them.

“To be in that large building with 20 men was not an ideal situation,” he said.

According to the 2012 Catholic New World story about the dedication of the St. Joseph College Seminary, the building had 34 rooms that could accommodate 68 seminarians.

The relationship between the archdiocesan college seminary and Loyola University goes back more than 50 years; Niles College Seminary opened in 1968 in partnership with Loyola. The college seminary was renamed St. Joseph and moved onto Loyola’s Lakeshore Campus in 1984, occupying the university’s Campion Hall until it opened its own building in 2012.

“There is sadness in ending our long-time relationship with Loyola University, which began at Niles Seminary in 1968 and continued on with St. Joseph College Seminary in 1994 to present,” said Father Peter J. Sneig, rector-president of St. Joseph College Seminary. “However, we know that God is generous and provides, even in changing times. A building is only truly a seminary when the seminarians are present to study, pray and engage the community. This will now take place at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Minnesota, so the mission continues — to help young men respond to God’s call to the priesthood.”

The archdiocese will continue to work with men of all ages who are discerning a call to the priesthood, said Father Tim Monahan, the archdiocese’s vocation director.

The archdiocese runs several summer programs such as retreats for college-age men who are discerning a call to the priesthood, he said, and he visits men who are discerning such a call at their schools during the academic year.

“This really affects the high-school age young men who are discerning more,” Monahan said, because St. Joseph College Seminary will no longer be available to them.

On a practical level, the seminary was the site for meetings of the Quigley Scholars, an organization for high school boys who are discerning whether they have a vocation to the priesthood, Monahan said, so the group will have to find a new place.

“We know God calls men at all ages, and if there is a 16-year-old who is experiencing a strong call, we have to be ready to work with him.”

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, the average age at which men ordained in 2018 first felt a call to the priesthood was 17. However, the average age of the ordinands was 35, meaning their vocation journeys took an average of 18 years. The average age of ordination has fluctuated only slightly since 1999, when it was 36, according to CARA.

The future of the St. Joseph seminary building, which is adjacent to the Loyola University Chicago Lake Shore Campus, is undecided.

Topics:

  • seminary
  • st. joseph college seminary

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