After the official signing of the collaborative agreement between the archdiocese and St. Louis University, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary academic dean Ed Hogan suggested an action to seal the deal.
“Can we make our first official act one of prayer?” asked Hogan, who quickly received universal approval from the small gathering April 23 in the Kenrick Boardroom at Cardinal Rigali Center.
What an appropriate way to begin the landmark agreement, which Archbishop Robert J. Carlson called, simply, “historic.”
Hogan prayed for the “Heavenly Father … to send the Holy Spirit upon us and upon this agreement.” He further asked for the intercession of “Mary, Our Mother … to pray for us all to remain united in your son, Jesus,” and for the saints — especially archdiocese patrons St. Louis of France, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and St. Vincent de Paul — “to pray for us as we work together.”
Moments earlier, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and SLU President Fred P. Pestello had signed the agreement, which will benefit collegian seminarians and enhance the 200-year relationship between the archdiocese and SLU. In 1818, Bishop Louis DuBourg founded St. Louis Academy — SLU’s predecessor — then invited the Society of Jesus to administer it in 1823.
In recent history, collegiate seminarians had earned bachelor’s degrees in philosophy from SLU’s College of Philosophy and Letters, but about 10 years ago, the seminary brought philosophy studies in-house to offer the bachelor’s degree.
In the new arrangement, collegian seminarians’ diplomas will be conferred by SLU, but seminarians will still study philosophy on the Kenrick-Glennon Seminary campus in Shrewsbury … with the same faculty and courses. Likewise, pre-theology students, who already have degrees from other universities but need philosophy degrees as a prerequisite for entering Kenrick School of the Theology. (Freshman and sophomore collegian seminarians commute to SLU’s Midtown campus for general studies courses.)
Though the change in philosophy degrees might seem to be just semantics — from SLU instead of Glennon — it’s much more. Now, collegiate seminarians may enhance their college experience by adding minors in, for example, Spanish or Catholic Studies, and double-majors if so inclined, with four years of college studies recommended. (AP college credits from high school allow some seminarians to finish college in three years.)
A language minor would be a big plus for future priests. With the enormous growth in the U.S. Catholic Spanish community, modern priests need to be at least bilingual — even multi-lingual — for ministry with the diverse flock.
“In addition to philosophy, that’s what I’m most excited about,” Archbishop Carlson said.
Also, if collegian seminarians decide to pursue vocations other than the priesthood, they’ll leave the seminary as SLU graduates, which would pay dividends to the archdiocese down the road as they become lay leaders in the archdiocese.
“We’ve found over the years that those men from Glennon College turn out to be some of the best Catholic leaders in the archdiocese,” Archbishop Carlson said.
For SLU, the formation and education of future priests are right in their wheelhouse.
“This is our level of expertise, helping men and women form knowledge and faith,” Pestello said, adding that helping young men in priestly formation and the collaboration with the archdiocese are “important for us.”
Endowments helped enhance the existing relationship. Funded by the Annual Catholic Appeal, the SLU-Glennon Fund has existed for years to aid seminarians at SLU, but now SLU’s Go Further Fund, which applies to all SLU students, includes the SLU-Glennon Fund to give ACA donors more bang for their buck. For example, if an individual donates $1 to the fund and receives a company match for $2 total, the Go Further Fund will match the $2 SLU-Glennon contribution for a grand total of $4. The combination of the funds will help defray tuition costs for Glennon seminarians.
“It really is a cooperative endeavour on the financial side and the collegial side to make this happen,” said Father Chris Martin, the archdiocesan vocations director and vice-rector at the seminary. “Both institutions are cooperating in the philosophical and academic formation of future priests.”