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Kenrick-Glennon Seminary: at the heart of archdiocesan life

From October 2005:


In coming to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I was especially happy that the archdiocese has its own college seminary, Cardinal Glennon College, and its own theological seminary, Kenrick School of Theology.Both seminaries are located in the same building at 5200 Glennon Drive in the City of Shrewsbury and are commonly called by one name: Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.At one time, the two seminaries were housed in two separate buildings, not too distant from each other,but Archbishop John L. May decided to locate both seminary programs at what was then the college seminary, Cardinal Glennon College.The former Kenrick School of Theology was eventually remodeled by Archbishop Justin F. Rigali for use as a center for the administration and pastoral activity of the archdiocese.

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary has a long history, beginning with the first seminary founded by our first bishop, the saintly Joseph Rosati, a Vincentian priest.The archdiocesan seminary was, in fact, operated and directed by the Vincentian Fathers for nearly 177 years. Their service was outstanding and very generous to the archdiocese, often given at their own expense or for a modest stipend.For the past 11 years or so, the archdiocese has assumed the full responsibility for the operation and direction of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

Seminary at the heart of the archdiocese

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is at the heart of the life of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, for it prepares men to serve as priests for the faithful of the archdiocese and of the other dioceses which do not have their own seminary and have chosen our seminary for the preparation of their priests.The home and the parish are the places in which the Christian life is first and daily lived to its fullest, but both the home and the parish depend upon the seminary, in order that they may have a priest who, by the grace of holy orders, is a true shepherd for them.The priest, by the grace received in ordination, acts in the person of Christ, head and shepherd, in every community of the Church.Without the priest, the Christian home and community suffer for want of their proper shepherd.They suffer, most of all, for the lack of the celebration of the Mass by the priest, and the forgiveness of their sins through the ministry of the priest.The priest is also the chief teacher of the faith in the local community and has charge of the discipline and direction of the community, according to the mind and heart of Christ.

At the beginning of a new school year, I write to you about the critical work of preparing the future priests of the archdiocese and of the other dioceses which send their seminarians to us for their priestly education and formation.I find that often Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is taken for granted or is little known.The seminary must become better and better known, because of its key importance to the life of the Church.

Also, I write to you about our seminary in response to a number of commentaries about the apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries and houses of formation, which appeared in the secular media some two weeks ago.I write to tell you what this means for our seminary.

Importance of the archdiocesan seminary

It is important for a diocese to have its own seminary for several reasons. First of all, having a proper seminary makes it possible for the diocesan bishop to fulfill more fully one of his primary responsibilities, that is, to provide for the proper education and formation of the future priests of the diocese.Our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II wrote the following about the bishop and his seminary:

"The presence of the bishop is especially valuable, not only because it helps the seminary community live its insertion in the particular Church and its communion with the pastor who guides it, but also because it verifies and encourages the pastoral purpose which is what specifies the entire formation of candidates for the priesthood.In particular, with his presence and by his sharing with candidates for the priesthood all that has to do with the pastoral progress of the particular Church, the bishop offers a fundamental contribution to formation in the "sense of the Church (sensus Ecclesiae)," as a central spiritual and pastoral value in the exercise of the priestly ministry" (Pope John Paul II, post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores dabo vobis [On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day], March 25, 1992, n. 65e).

Just as Christ called the Apostles and carefully instructed and formed them for their apostolic priestly ministry, so the bishop represents Christ calling men to the seminary and preparing them for consecration as priests.

The interior call of the Holy Spirit, which the seminarian hears, must be verified by the bishop who alone calls a man to holy orders.It is very difficult for the seminarians to continue to hear the call without the active engagement of the bishop in their seminary formation.At the same time, it is difficult for the bishop to come to know the seminarians, in order to call them to priestly ordination, if they receive their seminary formation outside the diocese, often far away from the See city.

When the seminary is in the diocese, the bishop also can attend to the appointment of the best possible faculty to staff the seminary.Regarding the choice of faculty, Pope John Paul II wrote:

"It is evident that much of the effectiveness of the training offered depends on the maturity and strength of personality of those entrusted with formation, both from the human and from the Gospel points of view.And so it is especially important, both to select them carefully and to encourage them to become ever more suitable for carrying out the task entrusted to them" (Pastores dabo vobis, n. 66b).

The Holy Father continued by indicating that the priest faculty members must lead an exemplary life, so that the priestly formation which they impart is not merely a matter of words but of living witness.He stressed the importance of having "the cooperation also of lay faithful, both men and women, in the work of training future priests" (Pastores dabo vobis, n. 66c and 66e).

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is blessed to have the service of several archdiocesan priests and two religious order priests.There are several excellent laymen and laywomen serving on the faculty of the seminary.Two dedicated religious Sisters also serve on the faculty and staff.Just last week, I spent a day interviewing all of the faculty for 30 minutes each in order that I can be more closely united with them in their most important service.Regarding the members of the seminary faculty in their relationship to the bishop, Pope John Paul II declared: "They should be intimately joined to the bishop, who is the first one responsible for the formation of the priests" (Pastores dabo vobis, n. 66b).In my conversations with the faculty, I wanted very much to confirm their unity with me in carrying out their important mission.The seminary has, I can assure you, a well-prepared faculty, all of whom are deeply dedicated to the good of the Church and of our seminarians.

Another reason why it is important for a diocese to have its own seminary is the formation of the seminarians in the locations in which they will serve as priests, among the people whom they will shepherd, and among the priests with whom they will serve. For example, our seminarians spend some time each week doing apostolic work in one of the parishes of the archdiocese.The seminarians tell me how helpful and encouraging their work in the parishes is.The faithful of the parishes in which they serve are so happy to get to know their future priests and to receive their service.The priests are encouraged to get to know better those who will be joining them in the pastoral care of God’s flock.The presence of the seminarians is also an inspiration to the young men in the parish who are hearing the call to the priesthood.

Finally, in the diocesan seminary, the seminarians form brotherly bonds which will sustain them throughout their priesthood.One of the most impressive aspects of our seminary is the way in which the seminarians encourage and assist one another.They also have more opportunities to get to know the priests of the archdiocese, with whom they will soon be serving and will form one presbyterate.

The seminarians

This year, we have 58 seminarians in the theology and pre-theology programs at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.The pre-theology program is for those seminarians who come to the seminary after having completed their college education elsewhere.The lack, in whole or part, the systematic study of philosophy, which is essential to the study of theology.

We have 21 seminarians in the college seminary.All but one of the seminarians in the college is from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.We have one college seminarian from the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa.

Kenrick School of Theology has 25 seminarians from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.Five of them are in pre-theology.The other 33 seminarians come from 13 other dioceses and one institute of the consecrated life.Two of the seminarians are from Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan in Central America.The archdiocese has a long and wonderful relationship with the Church in Belize, which has been mutually enriching for decades.The other archdioceses and dioceses represented are Bismarck, N.D.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Des Moines; Jefferson City, Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City-St Joseph; Lafayette, Ind.; Memphis, Tenn.; Omaha, Neb.; Rockford, Ill.; Springfield, Ill.; and Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

The institute of the consecrated life is the Sons of Our Mother of Peace. The headquarters of the institute are at High Ridge in the archdiocese.The Sons of Our Mother of Peace carry out door-to-door evangelization in the archdiocese, primarily among nonCatholics and especially in the predominantly African-American parishes.

Seminary education and formation

At Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, as at all seminaries, the seminarians receive formation or preparation in four key areas: human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation and pastoral formation. All are key to the future life and ministry of the seminarian, should he be called to the priesthood, and all four are related to one another.They are described in detail in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Pastores dabo vobis": human formation (nn. 43-44), spiritual formation (nn. 45-50), intellectual formation (nn. 51-56), and pastoral formation (nn. 57-59).

Space does not permit me to enter into a detailed discussion of the richness of education and formation provided in each of the key areas.In my future columns, I hope to present the four areas of formation in detail.

I assure you that all of the areas are given constant attention, also regarding their relationship to each other.Both the administration, faculty and I are keenly aware that we must keep the formation at the highest level possible in every area. Msgr. Theodore L. Wojcicki, the rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and Father Timothy P. Cronin, the director of Cardinal Glennon College, give the day-to-day direction to the seminary program.Msgr. Wojcicki is helped in carrying out his weighty responsibilities by Father Edward J. Richard, MS, vice-rector and dean of formation, and Father Lawrence C. Brennan, vice-rector and dean of studies.Father Donald E. Henke, in addition to teaching moral theology, has charge of the pre-theology program. From my visits with the seminary faculty, I can see that all of them have in mind the total work of formation and the part which each of them is contributing.

In this regard, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is also served by a highly-competent board of trustees, of which I serve as the chair.The members of the board of trustees held me very much in my responsibilities for the seminary.Msgr. Wojcicki and Father Cronin take part in all of the meetings of the board of trustees, providing them an accurate report on the work of the seminary and receiving their counsel.Both Msgr. Wojcicki and Father Cronin maintain an active and complete communication with me, so that I can fulfill my essential responsibilities for the formation of our future priests.

Clearly, too, I, together with Msgr. Wojcicki and Father Cronin, bear a heavy burden of responsibility toward the other archbishops and bishops, along with the superior of the Sons of the Mother of Peace, who confide their seminarians to our care for their priestly formation.We make every effort to keep in good communication with all of them.

The apostolic visitation

In late January, our seminary will receive a visitation from the Apostolic See, more specifically from our Holy Father’s Congregation for Catholic Education.The visitation will be carried out by bishops and priests from our country, chosen and appointed by the Congregation for Catholic Education, who will be assisted by qualified members of the laity.The visitation is to take place in absolute confidence because it is carried out in the name and at the instruction of the Roman pontiff.The final report after the visitation will be given directly to the Congregation for Catholic Education, which will take appropriate action based on the findings.The visitation of our seminary will take place in the last week of January 2006.

The apostolic visitation, by definition, will examine every aspect of seminary life and discipline: the concept of the priesthood in the seminary, the governance of the seminary, policies for admission to the seminary, the seminarians themselves, the four areas of formation (human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral), promotion to holy orders and other concerns.The current apostolic visitation has two specific objectives.First of all, it is "to examine the criteria for admission of candidates and the programs of human formation and spiritual formation aimed at ensuring that they can faithfully lived chastely for the kingdom."Secondly, related to the first objective, it will give "particular attention" to the area of intellectual formation "to examine fidelity to the magisterium, especially in the field of moral theology, in the light of ‘Veritatis splendor’" (Congregation for Catholic Education, Seminaries and Institutes of Study, Instrumentum Laboris for the Apostolic Visitation of the Seminaries and Houses of Priestly Formation in the United States of America).

Background of the apostolic visitation

To understand the specific objectives, it is necessary to review the background of the apostolic visitation.The cardinals of the United States and the leadership of our conference of bishops requested the apostolic visitation during their meeting with our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II in April 2002, regarding the most grave evil of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy.Given the gravity of the evil involved, it was rightly observed that seminaries should be visited to make certain that every possible care be taken to avoid the ordination of a seminarian who would eventually sexually abuse children and young people.

The majority of the cases of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy do not involve true pedophilia, that is, the sexual abuse of pre-adolescent children, but homosexual acts perpetrated upon adolescents.The highest incidence of the acts occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, a period marked by a general decline in seminary discipline and the strong emergence of an erroneous moral theology.Over the past years, the Church has been giving constant attention to the restoration of the necessary discipline in seminaries, especially the asceticism required to lead a chaste life, in accord with the promise of celibacy or perpetual continence.With regard to seminary discipline, I can tell you that I am edified at the discipline followed at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

The erroneous moral theology, known as consequentialism or proportionalism, was addressed in a definitive manner by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical letter "Veritatis splendor (Regarding Certain Fundamental Questions of the Church’s Moral Teaching)," issued on Aug. 6, 1993.Consequentialism or proportionalism, "while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behavior which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values" (Veritatis splendor, n. 75b). As a result, consequentialism or proportionalism judges the morality of an act in two different ways: "its moral ‘goodness’ is judged on the basis of the subject’s intention in reference to moral goods, and its ‘rightness’ on the basis of a consideration of its foreseeable effects or consequences and of their proportion" (Veritatis splendor, n. 75b).In such a way of thinking, the moral goodness or evil of an act is "determined exclusively by the faithfulness of the person to the highest values of charity and prudence, without this faithfulness necessarily being incompatible with choices contrary to certain moral precepts" (Veritatis splendor, n. 75c).In such a way of thinking, moral precepts concerning grave matter are no longer seen as always and everywhere binding but rather relative to the intentions of the person acting and the expected consequences of the action."In this view, deliberate consent to certain kinds of behavior declared illicit by traditional moral theology would not imply an objective moral evil" (Veritatis splendor, n. 75d).

As you can imagine, the error of consequentialism or proportionalism easily led to self-deception regarding the rightness or wrongness of acts which the Church has always considered to be grave violations of the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue, including homosexual acts.When the error of consequentialism or proportionalism was taught in seminaries, it was harmful in two ways.First of all, it risked the compromise of the moral life of the future priest, and, second, it prepared the future priest to propagate the error in his teaching and counsel of others.

The leadership of the bishops in our nation and the officials of the Holy See, therefore, rightly saw the need to conduct an apostolic visitation to insure that every seminary in our nation is following the sound guidelines for seminaries and seminary formation.Clearly, particular attention needs to be given to the teaching of "Veritatis splendor" in the seminaries and the correct moral conduct of seminarians, in accord with "Veritatis splendor," particularly in what pertains to the demands of purity and chastity.Once again, I am pleased to say that the teaching of moral theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is thoroughly sound.We are blessed to have on the faculty two experts in moral theology whose teaching is fully coherent with the teaching set forth in "Veritatis splendor."As one faculty member observed to me, erroneous proportionalist thinking is not tolerated for a minute at the seminary.

Questions regarding homosexuality

As you may have noted in the coverage in the local secular media some two weeks ago, the claim was made that the apostolic visitation is directed at a kind of purging of any person with same-sex attraction from the seminary.The objectives of the apostolic visitation, rather, aim to assist seminaries and seminarians in dealing with erroneous thinking and practice in the area of sexual morality.The key is the right moral thinking and action of seminarians who are helped to grow strong in the virtues of purity and chastity, knowing that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and never justified.Put in another way, the formation in the seminary is to help the seminarians grow strong in respect for the conjugal meaning of the human body, both in their thinking and acting.In other words, one’s sexuality is seen as ordered to the exclusive and perpetual union of man and woman in marriage, which has its highest fruit in the procreation of offspring.For the seminarian and priest, respect for the conjugal meaning of the body means giving up the good of the marital union and, therefore, any sexual activity, in order to direct one’s affections totally to Christ and His Mystical Body in the priestly ministry.

The apostolic visitation rightly aims at assuring that the seminarians are correct in their moral judgments regarding sexual matters and, specifically, homosexual acts, and that the seminarians are, in fact, leading a pure and chaste life.For the rest, if a seminarian suffers from same-sex attraction, the matter must be addressed respectfully and thoroughly on an individual basis, so that no seminarian is advanced to holy orders who does not acknowledge, also in practice, the always disordered nature of homosexual acts, and so that no seminarian who cultivates same-sex attraction or engages in homosexual acts is permitted to remain in the seminary.The concern regarding the homosexual condition, which is required by the results of the study of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, is, therefore, placed within the context of the totality of concerns which the apostolic visitation must address.


It is my hope that what I have written acquaints you a bit more with Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and leads you to become better acquainted with our seminary of which we can all be rightly proud.I encourage you to make a visit to the seminary, at which you are always welcome.It is also my hope that you will have the occasion to meet one or more of our seminarians, so that you can witness first-hand the results of the excellent work of priestly formation at our seminary.

Regarding the Apostolic Visitation of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in late January, I hope that my explanation helps you to see the very positive good which the apostolic visitation should accomplish for the continued strengthening of the preparation of the future priests of the archdiocese and of the other dioceses and institutes of the consecrated life which use our seminary. In particular, the apostolic visitation will give us the occasion to strengthen our seminarians in the virtues of purity and chastity which must strongly mark the life of the priest as a true shepherd of the flock.

Finally, I hope that what I have written will lead you to pray for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary daily and also to be generous in your support of the seminary. The seminary is at the heart of the life of faith in the archdiocese.Let us all work together to keep our seminary strong, so that the archdiocese will continue to enjoy the strength of good and virtuous priests.

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