Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota has announced the closure of the diocese’s college seminary program after the upcoming school year, citing the need for good stewardship of donations and church resources.
In a Thursday statement he reported that the number of college seminarians at Cardinal Muench Seminary (CMS) has risen above 20 only twice since 1988. Though having an “excellent” formation program, only seven men are registered for the seminary’s 2010-2011 school year.
“The cost of education per college seminarian, when the numbers are so few, is excessive,” he wrote.
He reported that the annual cost of educating one CMS seminarian averages $115,000 per year, while seminarian tuition is about $15,000 per year.
By contrast, the annual cost of educating a seminarian in major seminary, where he completes his final years of formation, is about $35,000 per year.
“While donors to Cardinal Muench Seminary have been very generous over the years, we are now at the point when we have to recognize that the best use of donations toward seminarian education is to provide scholarships for our seminarians to attend seminaries elsewhere, rather than trying to fund our local program at an excessive level of expense,” the bishop explained.
Given the small community size, he questioned whether appropriate formation could be provided for men in their first years of study and discernment for the priesthood.
According to Bishop Aquila, the discontinuation of the seminary program has also prompted a “complete review” of metro area parish and Catholic school properties to ensure “better stewardship” of donors’ gifts and “more effective and efficient use” of Catholic facilities.
With several parishes considering capital campaigns for facility improvements, he added, it would be “irresponsible” to approve the proposals without examining area facilities as a whole.