A seminary filled with men

A seminary filled with men

Both Mark Shea and Amy Welborn have noted this Minneapolis Star-Tribune article on the St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. The place is filled more than 100 seminarians, including 49 entering this year alone, training for 24 different dioceses.

It’s a place that hasn’t watered down the Church’s teachings at all, and instead presents a rigorous challenge to the young men. There’s an idea: appeal to what makes men men. Set an ideal, make it difficult to get there, provide a competitive, challenging environment. In other words, make it less like Club Med and more like Parris Island, USMC.

The Rev. John Klockeman, SJV’s spiritual director, understands this hunger. “Men need a heroic life,” he said. “Our culture wants to replace it with self-indulgence, to rob them of their call to heroism.”

Father Klockeman is actually a good friend of mine. We went to Franciscan University together and I knew from the moment I met him that he would make a great priest. Apart from my friend Fr. Kevin Gillen, who was also a friend in Steubenville, I had never met any guy so certain of his calling to the priesthood.

  • I’ve heard many good things about SJV, and it’s good to hear that they’ve had success.

    Just to note: where a seminarian goes is rarely up to him, except for in a few instances where seminaries actually give you the option. Dioceses designate where a student is best suited, usually amongst a number of possible options.

  • Who runs the seminary?  Is it a diocesan thing?  If not, who sponsors the seminarians?  Or do they just go through the program and try to market themselves afterward?

  • This caught my eye because I have a relative considering a vocation.

    Are there only two courses of action, religious orders and diocesan?  And if diocesan is chosen, one cannot request a certain seminary?

    My concern is that he goes to the most orthodox seminary possible, which wouldn’t be in our diocese.

    Any info would be most appreciated.

  • I don’t know of any “free agent” seminaries even existing in the country, although it is possible under extremely rare circumstances that a non-sponsored man is taken on. Sponsorship is a requirement at many (if not all?) seminaries, and I’m sure it’s a requirement at SJV. Check out http://www.vianney.net/content.asp?id=12 for an example of what you have to do before gaining admission.

    Most dioceses don’t have seminaries, so most send elsewhere. Of course, it’s likely that if your diocese runs one, you’ll be sent there.

    In most religious orders, I’d assume you’d have even less say over where you were sent.

    There’s a lot of trust involved with being a seminarian. Part of that trust is that your diocese knows you well enough to send you to a place that suits your needs.

    It’s my opinion that in the end, where your sent to discern a priestly vocation shouldn’t matter as much as what you yourself decide to do with your time.

  • Still interested in hearing which diocese are sending their men there.  Worcester is sending their seminarians to somewhere in Baltimore to a place described as “the Pink Palace” in the book “Goodbye, Good Men.”

    But, maybe the place has been cleaned up by now.

  • What do you suppose will happen when a graduate of St. John Vianney College Seminary meets the parishioners at St. Joan of Arc parish? 

  • Carrie, I’m sure the seminarians are aware of the variety of… umm… approaches throughout this archdiocese.  They live here, after all.

  • This afternoon I heard from a friend that some comments about St. John Vianney College Seminary were appearing on this site. 

    I am the Rector-President of the Seminary.  I appreciate the words of encouragement on here.  SJV’s motto is this: “Men in Christ.  Men of the Church.  Men for Others.”

    And we mean it.

    In answer to the questions about diocesan sponsorship, that is, how seminarians from various dioceses end up at one seminary or another, here’s the current practice in the US:

    1. Most bishops tell their prospective college seminarians where they are to attend seminary.  Sometimes they offer only one seminary as an option, sometimes more than one.  I do not know of any bishop who allows complete freedom to his seminarians regarding their choice of seminary.

    2. There are only 20 or so college seminaries in the United States.  (There are several other, small houses of formation or discernment), and about 1175 US college seminarians altogether.  Most dioceses, then, do not have their own college seminary.

    3. The bishops’ choices are based on their opinion of a seminary’s orthodoxy, its quality of formation, education, and sound spiritual life, its moral rectitude, and its tested results in preparing good men to be holy priests.  There are other factors as well: old loyalties among bishops to send someone here or there, relative costs, geographical proximity, and what we seminary rectors call the “mystery” factor. 

    4. The “pre-theology” programs at Franciscan University of Steubenville and at Ave Maria (both are great places)are somewhat distinct in this regard.  In addition, their self-designation at “pre-theology” at times can create some confusion.  That is, the term “pre-theology” is more typically used to refer to the catching-up process of those already holding a college degree, who need to get their undergraduate philosophy and theology requirements met, along with various other formation goals, before they may enter a “theologate” (the four years of graduate seminary that are typically, though mistakenly, called “major seminary”).  Francisan U’s and Ave Maria’s “pre-theology” programs include men who have not yet obtained a college degree, and are most typically (though again, with some oversimplification) distinguished by the fact that participants need not be sponsored by a particular bishop.  Again, this policy is evolving at the two locations, in part because of the growing recognition that a policy of non-sponsored seminarians has both pro’s and con’s.

    5. Are good college seminarians being sent to bad seminaries?  First, the good news: to the extent that fidelity to the Church’s directives and soundness of formation may be observed and measured, I would assert that at least 15 of the 20 US college seminaries are in good to very good shape. (Several college seminaries closed during the past four years; this was a factor in tipping the percentage, if you catch my drift.) The bad news: obviously, some good college seminarians are still being sent to the other places.

    Let me know if you’ve got further questions about seminaries.

    Father Bill Baer
    Saint John Vianney College Seminary

  • Do you have any idea how many seminaries have closed for lack of students, Fr. Baer? 

    One of the seminaries in the Cleveland Diocese has been sold to a developer and is now an upscale housing development complete with golf course if my memory serves me correctly.  And as I understand it there are very few students in the other seminary.

    I attended my first communion service recently and by doing so developed a much greater appreciation for priests!  May God bless every one of the seminarians who are studying in seminaries faithful to the magisterium and the Tradition.  They are badly needed.

  • Fr. Baer:  Any relation to Father Earnest “Sonny” Baer, America’s favorite red-headed priest, and my classmate from Saint Joseph’s School in Bristol, CT?

  • Thank you Josh M. for the link -bookmarking for future reference.

    Thank you, Fr. Baer, for the additional information.  God bless you and your seminarians! I’ll keep you all in my prayers, and I hope you’ll say one for a certain young man, that he will know and accept God’s will for him.