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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Seminary faces challenge of making space for new faces

More signs that the vocations "crisis" isn't universal, and that those places (Diocese, seminaries, religious orders) that are faithful to the Magisterium are experiencing real growth.

From St. Louis Review Online

by Jennifer Brinker, Review Staff Writer

A noticeable growth spurt at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary has caused administrators there to devise some creative ways of accommodating its seminarians and guests. This year, the seminary is housing 112 seminarians who are enrolled in the Kenrick School of Theology and pre-theology program and Cardinal Glennon College, according to president-rector Msgr. Ted L. Wojcicki. "That’s an increase of 50 percent over the the 75 seminarians enrolled last spring," he said. Because of the tight living arrangements, several modifications have been made to areas in the seminary used for living, eating and studying, he noted. Seminarians "have had no complaints about the situation," said Father Timothy P. Cronin, rector of Cardinal Glennon College. "There’s such a positive spirit, knowing that the number of seminarians and anticipated applicants for the future are growing." That growth is evident through a rise in new enrollments in recent years, according to Father Michael T. Butler, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Vocations. Nineteen new seminarians for the Archdiocese of St. Louis were accepted into Kenrick-Glennon this year, he said. That number was the same as last year’s new enrollments; however, "about four years ago, it seemed like we were hitting a cap of 15 every year, and that’s where we were staying," said Father Butler. Of the total number of seminarians housed at the seminary, there are 82 theology and pre-theology students at Kenrick and 30 at Cardinal Glennon College. Because of the higher number of Kenrick seminarians, some of them have volunteered to move to living space that typically is reserved for Cardinal Glennon seminarians. "It actually works out pretty good," said Msgr. Wojcicki. "It promotes communication, as they normally wouldn’t see each other as much" because of different classloads. What also has garnered some attention is the move of several students into the convent building at the seminary. An attached wing of the main seminary building, the convent also is home to the archdiocesan Office of Vocations and the Carmelite Religious of Trivandrum, India, who work at the seminary. "There are nine students living in the convent — they’re on the third floor," said Msgr. Wojcicki. The third floor of the convent previously had been used for visiting family members of seminarians, he said. That has prompted administrators to closely look at how the seminary will be able to accommodate guests in the future. "We have so many seminarians that we’re not going to be able to have as many guest rooms available this year," he said. Similarly, the number of available student rooms — which are provided to those who are interested in visiting and perhaps applying to the seminary — are at a premium. Student rooms also are typically used for programs offered through the Office of Vocations, including Kenrick-Glennon Days and the annual Archbishop’s Retreat. Student rooms also have been used as part of a longstanding tradition of the Church to offer accommodations to seminarians who are passing through town or are coming to visit friends at the seminary, said Msgr. Wojcicki. "It’s just part of our tradition that we offer that kind of hospitality," he said. One possible solution for housing student guests is converting the West Dormitory into temporary living space, according to Father Butler. Located in one of the wings of the seminary, the dormitory was a barracks-like sleeping area for seminarians until the 1970s, said Father Butler. Beds were lined up in rows, with sinks and showers spaced along the walls. Today, the West Dormitory is used as meeting space for youth activities, such as Kenrick-Glennon Days and Christ Power retreats, Father Butler said. "We’re not sure what we’re going to do yet, but that we’re at least considering it shows that we’re pretty much booked," he said. Some adjustments also have been made to the seminary’s classrooms, Father Cronin said. For example, a conference room has been converted into a classroom for the college’s philosophy program. This is the first year in which philosophy courses are being taught on the grounds of the seminary. "We have some periods where virtually every classroom space is taken," said Msgr. Wojcicki. "We’re really operating three programs in one here — theology, pre-theology and philosophy. That’s a lot to juggle — six classrooms — in that amount of space." Even the seminary’s dining room is feeling the effects of growth. Four tables have been added to the area, said Father Cronin, and the period in which lunch is served has been extended so everyone has a chance to eat. The parking lot also was expanded last year to make way for 55 new spots, said Msgr. Wojcicki. The driveway was widened for the pull-in parking spots. The seminary has been making the adjustment for another good reason, too. Father Butler noted that 18 men already have received applications for next year. That’s an increase from this past year’s 12 applications. "I need to reiterate that an application isn’t a seminarian, and a seminarian isn’t a priest," he said. "But it’s a positive thing."

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