The Catholic University of America

Aug. 20, 2009

Theological College to Open Academic Year with 28 New Seminarians

Twenty-eight men will enter Catholic University's seminary, Theological College, this month, one of the largest classes in recent times.

The new seminarians join 44 seminarians returning to Theological College, bringing the total number of men studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood to 72.

The number of new seminarians is the largest in at least six years. Twenty-five seminarians were admitted in 2008, and between 18 and 24 new seminarians entered Theological College each year from 2004 to 2007.

"These men are deeply spiritual, highly educated, well motivated and invested in what they want to do with their lives," said Rev. Melvin C. Blanchette, rector of Theological College.

Seminarians admitted to Theological College, operated by the Society of St. Sulpice, are students in CUA's School of Philosophy and School of Theology and Religious Studies. New seminarians arrive on Tuesday, Aug. 25, for orientation. CUA's classes begin on Monday, Aug. 31.

With a median age of 24, the class entering Theological College is younger than in previous years, Father Blanchette said. "We went through a period of many older vocations," he said of past classes that included seminarians for whom the priesthood was a second career.

More than half of the new seminarians are converts to Catholicism or have returned to their Catholic faith after years of absence from the Church. "Many have gone through a dramatic conversion experience of one kind or another, a real turning away from one kind of life to a life that they aspire to," Father Blanchette said. "With the help of their vocation director, they discerned that this is the proper time to enter the seminary."

Seminarians are sponsored by dioceses, and the incoming class represents two new sponsors: the Diocese of Great Falls/Billings, Mont.; and the Diocese of Nanterre, France. Two archdioceses - Baltimore and Seattle - and two dioceses - Lansing, Mich., and Madison, Wis. - are returning sponsors after years of not sending seminarians. The Diocese of Madison last sent a seminarian to Theological College in the 1980s.

In all, 38 dioceses are represented at Theological College. After successfully completing their study at Catholic University and formation at Theological College - up to eight years, depending upon their earlier education - the men will become diocesan priests.

"In our experience, Theological College prepares our seminarians to become effective pastors for God's people in the 21st century," said Rev. Michael Renninger, vicar for vocations for the Diocese of Richmond, Va. "The outstanding formation that takes place at Theological College, combined with the world-class theological education that is offered at Catholic University, helps to prepare our future priests to become creative, thoughtful, prayerful leaders in their parish communities."

More than 1,500 priests, including 45 bishops and four cardinals, have received their formation at Theological College since the seminary was founded by the Society of St. Sulpice in 1917, including nine priests who were ordained in spring 2009. The Society of St. Sulpice, with origins in France and U.S. headquarters in Baltimore, has prepared men for the priesthood in the United States since 1791.

Three priests from China and Eastern Europe also arrive at Theological College in late August to begin work on advanced degrees in scripture and theology in partnerships with the Maryknoll Fathers and the Office to Aid the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They join seven returning priests from abroad who are doing graduate work in canon law and related disciplines. "It's our way of helping the Church with continuing education of priests," Father Blanchette said.

With seminarians, priests doing advanced studies and other priests in residence, Theological College, located on Michigan Avenue in Northeast Washington, is nearly filled to capacity with 80 occupants.

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in Catholic University's Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: The Theological College community will gather for a group photo at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, at the entrance to its facility at 401 Michigan Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C.