Eighty-seven seminarians are now enrolled at the Archdiocese of Boston’s St. John’s Seminary, more than doubling the number of seminarians who were studying there just two years ago.
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley resisted calls to close the troubled archdiocese’s seminary, making its preservation a priority of his tenure, Michael Paulson writes in the Boston Globe. The cardinal has encouraged bishops from New England and elsewhere to send their seminarians to Boston to prepare for the priesthood.
"When I arrived, the enrollment was way down, and there was a lot of pressure on me from some of the pastors to close the seminary," Cardinal O'Malley said to the Boston Globe. "I told the priests, we have to give it one good try to see whether we can save the seminary, because once we close it, we'll never get it back, and for New England, with the large Catholic population that we have here, the presence of our own seminary is very important."
Though many of the seminarians will return to serve their home dioceses, church officials said that the increased enrollment will encourage prospective priests.
"Two years ago, when I went down to visit, you were in a hall all by yourself as a visitor, and now you have to call ahead to make sure there's a guest room available," Rev. Dan White, director of vocations and seminarians for the diocese of Burlington, told the Boston Globe.
"When those seminarians talk about the good experience they had, that's the best advertisement for other dioceses sending men there."
Though the seminary has a greater proportion of American-born students than other seminaries, its percentage of foreign-born seminarians is increasing. St. John’s Seminary also benefits from students from the Neocatechumenal Way, an international Catholic movement.
Enrollment at St. John’s was hard hit after its reputation suffered significantly from the sexual abuse crisis. According to the Boston Globe, many of the Boston-area priests who sexually abused minors had graduated from the seminary.
Seminary Rector Arthur Kennedy said he hopes to continue to increase the size of the seminary class to as many as 125 men.
Other bishops have praised the seminary’s reform.
"In the Northeast there are so many Roman Catholics, and St. John's Seminary has a noble tradition, and it's very worthwhile to be able to have our own seminary with a fine and reputable formation program," said Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester told the Boston Globe.