While some seminaries across the country are closing their doors, Assumption Seminary in the Archdiocese of San Antonio is expanding.
Enrolment has steadily increased at the bilingual seminary throughout the 1990s and especially in the last four years, said Fr. Larry Christian.
“In the late 1970s, there were 25 students. We’re double where we were 20 years ago,” the rector told CNA. He expects enrolment will continue to increase.
Maximum accommodation at the seminary is currently 55, but the new expansion will allow for 100. The seminary will decommission one of its old buildings and the new facility will offer housing for 80 students, four faculty suites a chapel and a common space.
The seminary currently has 52 seminarians – 41 are in residence and 11 are in their pastoral internships and living in parish rectories.
Only 11 are from the Archdiocese of San Antonio. About 50 percent of the students are American; the others are foreign students from Spanish-speaking countries, said Fr. Christian. Ten men are expected to be ordained in 2006.
Established in 1915, Assumption Seminary offers priestly formation in English and Spanish, and training that caters to the needs of dioceses to minister to an ever-growing Hispanic population.
“The growth of the Hispanic influence in this diocese means that seminarians will need training in this area,” said Fr. Christian.
“The Hispanic population is growing throughout North America,” he added. “An increasing number of bishops (throughout the country) are sending their seminarians down to be trained in serving Hispanic communities.”
The seminary launched a $13-million campaign to fund the project in mid-November. Half will be used for the building project. The remaining $7.5 million will be used to establish an endowment fund for the institution. Close to $3 million has been raised to date.
The now retired Archbishop of San Antonio, Patrick Flores, committed $1 million to the seminary expansion project. The funds, which were raised through the annual Archbishop’s Appeal, will be distributed in $100,000 increments over 10 years.
Archbishop-designate Jose Horacio Gomez, who will be installed as the new Archbishop of San Antonio on February 15 at the San Fernando Cathedral, has already expressed that promoting priestly vocations will be one of his pastoral priorities.
The new building for the seminary should be completed in three years.