Apostolic seminary visitation team arrives here this week

Apostolic seminary visitation team arrives here this week

A team of bishops and others who have experience in seminary formation will visit the two seminaries at the University of St. Thomas Feb. 19 to 24 as part of a national review of all U.S. seminaries and houses of formation.

The apostolic visitation and review of 229 U.S. seminaries, in the planning stages since 2002, began last fall at the request of bishops of the United States.

The team will visit both the graduate-level St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity and the undergraduate-level St. John Vianney Seminary.

Father Peter Laird

Father Peter Laird, vice rector of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, is coordinating the team’s visit here. “The apostolic visitation aims to assist each seminary in its mandate to prepare candidates for the priesthood in light of the complexity of present-day circumstances,” he said.

During their visit, team members will interview faculty, students and graduates, and consult with members of the seminary’s board. They also will join in the daily life of the seminaries and will join the seminarians for Mass and prayer.

According to the guidelines for the visit, special attention will be paid to the intellectual formation of the seminarians, as well as to criteria for admission and to the programs of human and spiritual formation aimed at ensuring that they can live faithful and chaste lives.

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, national coordinator for the visits, said they are “an assessment of institutions and not of individuals, to see whether our seminaries and houses of formation are doing the work they were established to do – to train men to be Catholic priests who accurately and fully convey the church’s teachings to their people and who live out their lifelong priestly commitments, especially with regard to celibacy.

“The visitation,” he said, “is meant to look at the life of each institution as a whole to see whether it is helping to form men who, from a human, intellectual and spiritual point of view, will be faithful to their commitments as Catholic priests and worthy leaders of the communities for which they will eventually be responsible.”

O’Brien added that the visitation process is confidential and the names of the team members are not made public. This will allow them, he said, “to be as free of outside pressure as possible in preparing their reports.”

Following their visits, the teams will submit a report to the Vatican which, in turn, will forward the results to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops and to local bishops and archbishops.

An apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries took place in the 1980s, and the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity participated in a similar, voluntary evaluation during the 1997-1998 school year.

The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity has an enrollment of 110. Of that number, 60 are enrolled in the seminary division of the master of divinity program, which leads to ordination. The St. John Vianney Seminary, which serves 104 undergraduate seminarians, is located on the university's main St. Paul campus. The seminarians live and worship as a community and attend classes at St. Thomas.