The springtime of evangelization that Pope John Paul II described is blossoming at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. Numbers are high as eager seminarians and lay students alike began classes last week.
For the first time in 31 years, there are 100 seminarians enrolled, who come from 19 dioceses and institutes of consecrated life. There are a total of 442 people enrolled in the School of Divinity, which both delights the rector of the seminary, Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, and gives him the task of finding housing for all of the seminarians.
“It’s great,” he said. “We’re proud of our seminary and we’re proud of our men. We think they’re going to be a blessing to the church. . . . We’ve noticed some considerable growth, so we’re praying and studying for the best possible solution to this wonderful challenge.”
Due to the high number of seminarians, housing is at a premium. In fact, 24 seminarians will live off campus — along with two priests —at the former convent at St. Mark in St. Paul. There are no plans to build any additional housing at the seminary, although Msgr. Callaghan expects the numbers to stay high.
“We’re trying to manage the numbers effectively,” he said. “It’s not a numbers game, it’s trying to help men who are called to the priesthood to get the best possible formation for the priesthood, and we want to do that in a studied manner where we can provide the means and the personnel to make that possible.”
The rise in overall numbers is reflected in the 30 new seminarians and 14 lay students enrolled this fall. One of them, Dan McClure, graduated from the University of St. Thomas last spring in Catholic studies and theology, and made a firm decision to become a Theology I student at the seminary this fall, with his sights set on the priesthood.
“I decided at the end of my sophomore year [to pursue the priesthood],” said McClure, whose mother, Mary, a religion teacher at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights, is enrolled in the master of arts in theology program at the School of Divinity. “It was actually during the [Easter] Triduum. It had been a long development.
“I’ll let the church discern me at this point. I’ll just trust that, if there’s a reason that I shouldn’t be a priest, my formators will help me figure that out. In my own generation, we’re afraid to commit to something. But, Dr. [Don] Briel [director of the Center for Catholic Studies] said something that really helped me out. He said we’re made to give our lives away. Life is short, eternity is long.”
Also making a commitment to serve the church is lay student Cara Hubly, who, likewise, graduated from St. Thomas in May with a degree in theology. She was one of three winners of the John Ireland Scholarship, which she says makes possible her plan to pursue a master of arts degree in theology.
She hopes to go on to doctoral work and, ultimately, be able to find a way to share the knowledge she gains with others. She is part of an apostolic lay movement in the church called the Ecclesial Movement of Schoenstatt, which is headquartered in Germany and is spreading throughout the world.
“I would like my studies to be instrumental in helping to serve the movement in the future,” said Hubly, who grew up in Clarks Grove near Albert Lea.
For another new lay student, Jon Hickman, enrollment in the MAT program represents a return to the seminary where he studied in the early 1980s. He was there for two years, then discerned a call to marriage, which happened later that decade.
After working as an engineer for 25 years, he moved to the advanced competitive science program at Benilde-St. Margaret School in St. Louis Park, where he has taught full time for the last five years. He tries to weave theology into his science lessons, but would someday like to do it more deliberately as a religion or theology teacher.
“I have had, from a very young age, this love of Scripture planted in me,” said Hickman, who belongs to Holy Name of Jesus in Medina. “My hope would be that something would open up within the theology or religion department here at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. That would be my first choice. This is a great community.”
Ultimately, the high seminary and School of Divinity numbers will benefit all Catholics, as those who go through the program graduate and become teachers of the faith to others. Those beginning their studies today already are looking ahead to the time when they will be able to give back.
“I’m glad to be starting,” said McClure, a parishioner at Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul. “I definitely see the importance of throwing myself into my studies, not necessarily for academic reasons, but because people are hungry for the truth, and I need to get better at expressing that truth to them.”
Added Hubly: “I think it’s a huge blessing for the church that both programs [for lay students and for seminarians] are growing simultaneously because the work of theology isn’t solely the work of our pastoral leaders, our clergy. They also need the support and the co-responsibility of the lay community.”
Seminary faculty take Oath of Fidelity
At the opening Mass of the school year Sept. 7, the faculty of St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity took the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity in St. Mary’s Chapel before Archbishop John Nienstedt and the seminary community.
In the chapel filled to capacity, Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, rector of the seminary, and faculty professed their belief in the fullness of the teachings of the Catholic faith and promised fidelity to this faith in their teaching. This ritual is repeated in seminaries throughout the world as canon law requires all rectors of seminaries and seminary professors of theology and philosophy to participate in both acts.
For Stephen Hipp, associate professor of systematic theology at the seminary, proclaiming aloud his acceptance of the church’s teachings and his commitment to hold firm to those teachings in his work as a professor demonstrates the awesome responsibility of the work to which he was called.
“The principal duty of all Catholic theologians is to heed St. Luke’s mandate to confirm the brethren in the faith, and by taking the oath we make a promise to do just that,”?he said. “In one way, we have already begun to fulfill that promise by publicly taking the oath, as we might encourage others by our witness.”
Hipp also said the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity “expresses and brings about greater unity with God and with one another. As a faculty, when we profess together the very faith he has given us, we are fulfilling Christ’s prayer that we may all be one.”