Cardinal O’Malley explains how property sale will affect seminary

Cardinal O’Malley explains how property sale will affect seminary

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley has penned a letter to priests of the archdiocese about the sale of the chancery property to Boston College and most specifically how it affects the seminary.

Among the details he highlights that I hadn’t seen before:

The buildings we have agreed to sell to Boston College include the Chancery, Creagh Library, the former priests residence adjacent to the Chancery, the Seminary Library, and Bishop Peterson Hall.


As the Archdiocese retains ownership of St. John’s Seminary, by way of a very favorable management agreement Boston College will maintain the building and exterior grounds and provide food service to the seminary. This agreement is of significant benefit to the seminary and assures high quality services for the long term. In addition, Boston College has committed to work exclusively with the seminary lay employees impacted by this agreement, to review possible employment opportunities.

The agreement with Boston College will also provide significant improvements for the Library, which is in need of capital investment to address deferred maintenance issues and upgrade the building’s systems and technology. Seminarians and seminary staff will have unrestricted access to the Library and St. John’s will retain ownership and control of the important and highly regarded seminary library collection.

He also briefly remarks on the moved-up departure of the seminary rector over the property sale. Fr. John Farren, OP, who nearly everyone agrees has done a great job turning St. John’s around over the past four years, including tightening up the faculty and improving formation by leaps and bounds, was being reassigned by the Dominicans and was set to leave on June 30. However, when the sale was made public, he announced his immediate departure because of his disagreement with the action. The cardinal made an indirect response by saying: “We do not believe that the sale of additional property from our Brighton campus will harm or hinder the essential work of St. John’s. The independence of the seminary, its ability to prepare candidates for the priesthood, and to be the source of the formation and training for lay ministries, will be preserved.” He added his gratitude for Fr. Farren’s service.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • From the campus map, it might seem that the Archdiocese is only keeping St. John’s Hall (#2 on the map) and its Lake St. driveway, if that. 

    If Weston School of Theology moves over from Cambridge as part of its planned merger with BC, and takes up the rest of the property, I can well understand concerns about preserving the seminary’s independence and the integrity of Catholic teaching there.  It might become all too tempting for St. John’s to stop offering courses in subjects served by BC and Weston.

  • This is absolutely awful.  I go to St. John’s often to ESCAPE BC food.  I don’t want to go there and find MORE of it.  No wonder Father Farren resigned.  One of the first actions he did was improve the food at SJS>

  • The seminary has been sold to BC, part of a three phase plan, the second phase just took place.  Third will be sale of seminary.  BC is now taking over the courses in the seminary.  BC kids will be able to join the courses, the seminary will be co-ed during the day.

    That’s good for priestly formation, isn’t it?

  • Lynne: I don’t know where you got that from, but that isn’t true. The seminary has not been sold and isn’t being sold. BC is not interested in running a seminary. While laypeople have been able to take certain classes at the seminary for some time under the adult formation regime, that’s a long way from saying the seminary is co-ed.

    There’s enough to deal with and discuss with making more of the situation than it is.

  • BC is not interested in running a seminary.

    They don’t have to take over St. John’s.  They’re already bringing Weston School over from Cambridge with a Fall 2008 target date. 

    St. John’s might end up like Theological College in Washington, reduced to a house of formation for archdiocesan seminarians who study at the big school next door.

    In regard to co-eds, students from the other Boston Theological Institute schools have had access to courses at St. John’s for years; that includes BC.

  • Never say never, but I don’t think that’s on the horizon for any of the pastoral leadership in Boston. I don’t think anybody wants St. John’s to become an adjunct of BC, least of all the priests of the archdiocese.

    And access to courses is not the same as making it a co-ed school. Priestly formation is more than taking classes. The past four years have been a big turnaround for the seminary. I don’t think they plan on losing the momentum.

  • The thing that has me concerned is the fact that BC is taking over and “improving” the library. For good formation, you need good materials to study from. What type of books and journals are going to be purchased for the collection in the library?

  • I took it to mean “improve” as in improve the infrastructure and the technology of the library, not to fiddle with the collection which would continue to be managed by the seminary.

    The cardinal specifically says the seminary will retain ownership and control of the collection.

  • While they will own the library collection (no books are being tossed out), the seminarians tell me that they think the agreement does in fact allow BC to add books that belong to BC to the collection and expand its hours (it is open very rarely now).