The affiliation of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary with Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome took several years to complete, but implementation was swift for Theology IV seminarians — guys to be ordained priests this year — at the seminary in Shrewsbury.
"As I explained to them, 'Gentlemen, the reward for work well done is usually more work,'" interim academic dean Ed Hogan said, with a laugh.
The seminarians also laughed at the quip, but kidding aside, "they took it seriously," Hogan said.
Thus, they dived into the extra work required of the sudden affiliation, preparing to test for sacred theology bachelor (STB) degrees from the Roman college 5,000 miles away. It marked the first time for Kenrick-Glennon offering an examination for the STB, as well as the first time for "the Greg" affiliating with a U.S. seminary, according to Hogan.
The testing also was just three months after Kenrick-Glennon received official approval on Jan. 19, though seminary officials anticipated affiliation to commence in the next academic year, with the first examination in Spring 2018. Instead, the Greg and the Congregation for Catholic Education approved the affiliation effective for this academic year.
"We asked the guys, 'Do you want to do the extra work?'" said Hogan, who overwhelmingly received affirmative responses. The seminarians reasoned the degree "can save our dioceses and us time, energy and money down the line, so, of course, we can do that."
With the ability to earn an STB during his time at Kenrick, a seminarian would cut a year off a potential future assignment for further study in Rome, saving a diocese about $50,000 for the year abroad. An STB is a prerequisite for advanced degrees — a license (STL) or doctorate (STD).
"If our men get the STB while they're here, that's a year less time away from their dioceses, plus all the dioceses' money," Hogan explained. "All the men's energy can go right into the STL and STD.
"The STB really serves our mission and the dioceses who send (seminarians) to us."
Theology IV seminarians applied their dioceses' mission to discernment about whether to take the STB exam, which ran April 17-21 and culminated with written and oral tests. Of 11 seminarians eligible, 10 opted to take the exam because there was the possibility of being sent to Rome for further studies in the future; the one who chose not to take it did so in a nod to his diocese, which favors canon law degrees from The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., as opposed to studies in Rome.
The STB "wasn't relevant to serving his diocese," said Hogan, who described the decision as "a beautiful example of how guys approached it in discernment as a question of service. ... That's very characteristic of these guys. It's a beautiful thing to behold.'"
Conversations with the Gregorian have been ongoing for several years, dating to Jesuit Father John Horn's tenure as president-rector from 2011-2015. (He immediately preceded current president-rector Father James Mason.) The affiliation was natural, considering the Gregorian is a Jesuit university, but Kenrick's initial focus was on offering a licentiate, a degree more advanced than an STB. Though approved by "the Greg," the licentiate focus didn't gain approval from the Congregation for Catholic Education.
"Then, it made sense to do an affiliation for the bachelor's first, get that going and maybe a few years down the road offer the STL on top of that," Hogan said.
With the focus recast, the Gregorian and the education congregation granted approval, and the seminarians started preparing in late January.
"It's really nice that the seminary is recognized for its academic acumen," said Transitional Deacon John Schneier, slated to be ordained to the priesthood in late May. "We have an absolutely fantastic faculty; it's really, really awesome that the work of our professors is recognized."