As plans were being finalized for its relocation, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary opened once again this fall for the education and formation of 148 seminarians from 11 (arch)dioceses and six religious congregations, including Allentown, Harrisburg, Lincoln, NE, Trenton, NJ, as well as dioceses in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam! We are blessed to have 65 of the seminarians preparing to become priests in our archdiocese. Founded in 1832, our seminary has provided excellent priestly formation for our archdiocese, (arch)dioceses around the country and, indeed, worldwide. I am very proud of our seminary and grateful for the outstanding preparation it offered me in my priestly formation. It’s clear that we need a seminary and so, as it has done several times in the past to address changing needs and situations, it will be moving to Gwynedd Valley in 2024. Groundbreaking on this new site will be held on 8 December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception – the namesake of its theologate chapel.
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary has operated in several locations since its founding. It first opened on 5th Street and then moved to the corner of 18th and Race Streets in Philadelphia. In 1859, Bishop John Neumann established a preparatory seminary at Glen Riddle. As the number of students in both divisions of the seminary (preparatory and theologate) grew, however, a new site was needed and, in 1871, 128 students from both the preparatory seminary in Glen Riddle and the theological seminary in Philadelphia moved into what is now known as the “Upper Side,” the older complex that is still to be found on the 75 acre site on the corner of Lancaster Pike and City Avenue. The main building of the seminary that is prominently seen from both Lancaster Pike and Wynnewood Road, often called the “Lower Side,” was built in 1928. After reaching its peak of more than 500 students in the late 1950’s, enrollment in the seminary has continued to decline, and as they age, the buildings require millions of dollars in maintenance and repairs. Besides, they do not meet the needs of a modern seminary.
So, after careful study by a variety of Archdiocesan advisory groups, it was determined ten years ago that the wisest plan would be to sell the property and build a new seminary adjacent to one of the 11 Catholic colleges or universities in the archdiocese. After years of research and extensive negotiations, the seminary has purchased 11 acres from Gwynedd Mercy University in Gwynedd Valley. Building plans have been approved and we hope to move there over the summer of 2024. Main Line Health Care has purchased the property where the seminary currently stands for $43.5 million. With these funds, the Archdiocese is currently planning to build a new seminary in line with the current needs. It will incorporate a new dormitory from Gwynedd Mercy University already on this property into its plans and will add a chapel, classrooms, offices, a library and a dining hall. St. Charles Borromeo Seminary will remain a separate institution, retain academic accreditation and confer its own degrees in philosophy and theology.
Partnering with a college or university is a rather common practice, both here in the United States and around the world. Approximately one-third of the seminaries throughout our country follow this model. In fact, many of these seminaries find that such an arrangement has many benefits, including the ability to expand lay formation programs. We expect to do this here as our seminary continues its mission at its new location. In case you’re not familiar with it, the School of Theological Studies – a division of our seminary – provides the opportunity for laypeople to earn a Master of Arts degree in Theology, as well as other certifications. This allows teachers, catechists, youth ministers, lectors, Church employees and, in fact, all Catholics to grow in their knowledge of the faith. It is already an important and vibrant division in our seminary. Being located next to a Catholic university offers new opportunities for this division that are already being explored. So, you can see, there is a new vibrancy to the seminary, with great plans for the future!
Along with every other registered parishioner throughout the archdiocese, you should have already received a packet from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary as it begins its annual direct mail appeal. Support for our seminary is especially important today. As part of our annual Seminary Appeal, Mr. Przemek Rozestwinski, who is studying at the seminary in preparation for priestly ordination and has been assigned to our parish for his Thursday Apostolate, will speak at all the Masses next week to let you know about the seminary and ask for your continued support. The motto for this year is: For Today. For Tomorrow. For All of Us – a very fitting motto as we look to support the seminary today as it prepares the priests, deacons and laity to serve us for years to come! Please be as generous as you can in supporting our seminary to ensure a continued bright future for this very important institution of our archdiocese.