America’s largest seminary is looking for a few good men

America’s largest seminary is looking for a few good men

St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, has put together a short video (here in two parts) about the seminary, profiling some of the seminarians and pointing out what sets this seminary, with its 150+ young men, from other seminaries. For one thing, it is the largest seminary in the country. For another, as a college seminary, this is an undergraduate experience and many of these young men may never even go on to ordination. Instead they are discerning God’s call.

What makes this especially fun for me is that one of my friends from my Steubenville days, Fr. John Klockeman, appears as one of the priests in the video. He is on staff of the seminary.

So here are the two parts of the video:

[Thanks to American Papist for the link.]
  • Dom, Holy Trinity Seminary at the University of Dallas is likewise a college seminary, as Melanie might recall.

    Obviously I’ve never attended one, but personally I doubt such a setup is really helpful in the formation of priests. It sets up a situation of conflicting desires – to get married and have children and to be a priest. It also suggests living as a priest is like an ordinary life.  It seems to be treating the priesthood like simply one option among many rather than seriously and simply just discerning the priesthood and attempting to see how God calls them. I just doubt how helpful such a situation is in initially forming truly faithful and solid priests.

  • Katherine, I’m not sure I understand. The priesthood is indeed one option among many that young men discern.

    College seminary is a place of discernment, where a man determines whether he is called to the priesthood. Not all men go to a college seminary, of course, but it is a helpful step for some.

    But it is in major seminary where men are formed in truly faithful and solid priests, as you say. Once there they are oriented toward the priesthood in ways they are not in college seminary.

    It’s like pre-med and medical school. You can major in pre-med, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a doctor and they don’t really form you as a doctor. That comes in medical school, when you’ve decided to follow that path to completion.

  • Katherine,

    Alternately, one could look at it as those conflicting desires already exist in the men and the college seminary helps the men to sort through them to determine where God is really calling them. I’ve known a few guys at HTS who have left the seminary to pursue another vocation and yet do feel that God called them not to the priesthood but to the seminary, that it was a valuable place of discernment and they were very glad to have spent time there. They might not have become priests but I suspect they are better formed for whatever path God does call them to.

    I also know of good, holy guys who have spent time at HTS and are now in formation at a major seminary who are struggling there with their formation because of issues with liberal faculty who teach all sorts of heretical stuff. So a major seminary is, sadly, no guarantor of solid formation.

  • I don’t doubt some people could benefit from them, but then why call them seminaries if they are not specifically to form priests? Why not call them Vocation Discernment Centers for Men?

    Also, does that mean that the diocese (and hence laity) foot the tuition bills for men who don’t become priests?

  • I don’t mean this flippantly, but that’s what a seminary is. We have a word already that means vocational discernment center and we’ve used it to mean that for centuries.

    I don’t know how it is at St. John Vianney, but my understanding is that other college seminaries charge tuition.

  • My understanding is that men who leave the seminary pay back any money they have received toward tuition from their diocese. That was an issue with my sister’s friend who left HTS and wanted to continue at UD.

    Plenty of people spend time discerning vocations with religious orders only to decide after a period in the monastery or convent that they are not called to be a part of that community. That’s how discernment works. I don’t see why we should expect that every man who enters the seminary will become a priest.

  • Is there an age limit at this college seminary?  For example, do they limit admissions to men under the age of 25?  The reason why I am asking is many college seminaries offer admissions to men who are in their late 20’s and well into their 30’s.  Would they be exposed to the same formation to guys comming out of high schools and colleges?  Would men with life and work experiences be forced to “discern” their vocation in the same way because they never were graduated from college?  Seems silly to me.

  • Thanks, Dom, for posting our seminary’s video on your site.  I am the Rector-President of Saint John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  You have served Christ and the Church through your “Bettnet” blog in many ways, including your encouragement and promotion of holy vocations to the Priesthood.

    The questions raised by Katherine are good ones.  Yes, as you noted, the Church has always understood that the earlier stages of Seminary formation include a significant amount of basic discernment.  In today’s times, we cannot even presume that a young seminarian knows how to pray, much less discern, and so we offer quite a bit of formation in the basics of Catholic prayer and spiritual direction.

    Her other concern is also important, that is, the potential dangers to a vocation in placing a seminary like St. John Vianney on a larger college campus, where there can be many distractions and temptations.  We work very hard at SJV to provide sound guidance and formation with regard to such matters, and I would say that the overwhelming percentage of our seminarians conduct themselves in a very admirable way with the women on campus and with non-seminarians in general.  This is crucial training for their future as parish priests, when they will be interacting with all sorts of people and will need to have habits of moral propriety, pastoral charity, and fraternal accountability.

    Finally, with regard to finances, no two seminaries or sponsoring dioceses handle their financial support for seminarians quite the same.  In general, college seminarians pay much of their own tuition. On the other hand, dioceses that subsidize some or all of their college seminarians rarely expect to have their support returned if the student does not continue all the way to priesthood, since they recognize that this young person has already made a sacrifical choice to consider a possible calling.  It’s true that there might occasionally be a seminarian who is “using the system” to get a cheap education, but foregoing a dating relationship, getting up at 5:30 for Holy Hour every morning, and submitting to the overall rigors of seminary formation add up to a rather high price for any potential cheaters.

    Again, God bless you Dom for your tremendous service to the Church.