Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity announces $23 million endowment campaign

Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity announces $23 million endowment campaign

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity has announced a $23 million endowment campaign that will, in the words of Archbishop Harry Flynn, “transform a very good seminary into a premier institution for the formation of priests and lay people.”

At a kick-off dinner held at the seminary Thursday evening, Flynn announced that $12,150,000, or 53 percent of the $23 million goal, already has been raised in the campaign’s advance phase.

Flynn, who heads the seminary’s Board of Trustees and also serves as the honorary campaign chair, said the campaign represents the first endowment fundraising effort since the early 1890s when Methodist railroad tycoon James J. Hill and his Catholic wife, Mary, not only built the seminary but donated an endowment fund to ensure its stability.

The Saint Paul Seminary opened at the far western end of Summit Avenue, overlooking the Mississippi River, in 1894. It was founded by Archbishop John Ireland to meet a huge shortage of priests on the frontier.

The campaign announced today will seek to triple the seminary’s current endowment. Called “I Will Give You Shepherds,” the campaign is expected to run until about 2010, said Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan, the seminary’s rector.

The campaign grew out of an extensive, three-year self-study that led to a plan to provide much-needed financial aid for seminarians, attract and retain outstanding professors, expand pastoral and formation training for seminarians and provide scholarship funds for lay parish workers.

The self-study was conducted in response to the late Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Will Give You Shepherds), on the education and formation of priests. The letter stressed the urgency of taking “a new look at the contents and methods of priestly formation.”

The campaign’s goals are:

  • $12 million for scholarships for seminarians.
  • $6 million for endowed faculty chairs.
  • $2 million for educational programs for lay parish workers.
  • $3 million for seminarian formation programs.

The campaign’s $12 million goal for scholarships, when invested, will provide $500,000 to $600,000 annually. In addition to helping seminarians with tuition, Callaghan said the endowment “will enable bishops from across the country to provide the very best program of priestly formation at the Saint Paul Seminary without placing undue financial burdens on their dioceses.”

The $6 million that will be raised for faculty chairs not only helps attract professors with outstanding reputations, the annual income stream helps the seminary’s budget on an ongoing basis. The campaign already has received one $2 million chair, in homiletics, and hopes to obtain funding for two more by the end of the campaign, Callaghan said.

The $2 million that will be raised in the campaign will provide about $100,000 annually to support the Saint Paul Seminary’s lay students who are studying for graduate degrees in the fields of pastoral studies, religious education, theology and divinity. As the number of priests has declined, lay people have taken on greater responsibilities in parish work. Priests depend on them for help in the areas of education, pastoral care, music and church administration.

The $3 million earmarked to endow formation programs will provide an annual income of about $150,000 to underwrite a range of programs that address the “four pillars” of priestly formation developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition to academic study, the pillars consist of human development, spiritual growth and pastoral formation.

To prepare seminarians for the demanding life of work as pastors, for example, they must now become conversant in Spanish – through language study and summer internships – and to become immersed in the cultures of their future parishioners.

Tom Ryan, vice president for institutional advancement and campaign director, explained why the campaign is focusing on endowment.

“Endowments enable an institution to prepare and execute a long-term strategy,” he said. “Endowments in the academic world are consistently one of the marks of the quality of an institution.

“Funds are accumulated throughout the campaign and are then carefully invested. A portion, perhaps 4 or 5 percent, is spent annually to support programs and the remainder is retained in the investment fund to grow. That process repeats itself with each priority receiving an increasing amount of funding year after year.”

“Our lives have been blessed by the men who have been our priests,” said Joanne and Bill Reiling, co-chairs of the campaign. “Catholics are facing a shortage of vocations that Pope John Paul II has called a crisis and we can think of no better cause than to help raise up leaders for the future of the church.”

“This campaign,” the Reilings added, “will strengthen the seminary’s ability to attract, train and educate more good priests, and will provide theological education for lay women and men who assist in parish work and other ministries.”

Callaghan explained that the shortage of priests that prompted the founding of the Saint Paul Seminary in the 19th century is facing the church again in the 21st century.

From the years 1965 to 2004, America’s Catholic population grew 42 percent, from under 46 million to more than 64 million. During that same period, the number of diocesan priests in America declined from 35,925 to 28,967, a drop of 20 percent. The number of parishes without a resident priest grew tenfold, to more than 3,000, and the number of permanent deacons jumped from under 900 to more than 14,000.

While the Saint Paul Seminary’s enrollment trend is on the upswing it still has room for more students. “With its infrastructure the seminary could expand its capacity to increase enrollment by about 25 percent with minimal additional investment,” Callaghan explained.

Bolstered by seminarians from as far away as Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska, today’s enrollment is 63 seminarians, up from its low point of 51 in 1993. “There is room for 96,” Callaghan said. “More young men would enroll if the seminary had the financial aid to assist them.”

More than 3,000 men from more than 60 dioceses have been ordained from the Saint Paul Seminary since its founding 112 years ago. Another 200 lay women and men have received graduate degrees.

Its alumni include priests, bishops, archbishops, professors, uni
versity presidents and seminary rectors, military and hospital chaplains, missionaries, deacons and lay ministers. One of the best-known among the alumni is the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Following a 1987 affiliation agreement with the University of St. Thomas, the seminary built a modern Mankato-stone administration building and residence hall overlooking the Mississippi. It renovated its Romaneque-style chapel, and its library has a national reputation among theological scholars.

Members of the campaign’s honorary leadership committee, in addition to the Reilings, are Cathy and Gerald Brennan, Joan and Robert Cummins, Clara and John Dolan, Janan and Thomas Gainor, Jacqui Gardner, Jennifer and Patrick Gaughan, Anita and James Hidding, Anita and James Hidding, Mary and Alfred Hoedeman, Ann and Norman Hoffman, Barbara and David Koch, Jean and Laurence LeJeune, Beverly and Eugene Lentsch, Barbara and Lawrence Matthews, Andrea and Lawrence McGough, Harry McNeely, Monica and Gerald Nilles, Margaret and Gilman Ordway, Kathryn and Henry Pabst, Laurie and Michael Pohlen, Jean and Don Regan, Henrietta and Gerald Rauenhorst, Chriss and James Renier, Faye and Eugene Sitzmann and Marilyn and Michael Sullivan, Judith and Franklin Sunberg and Dolores and Donald Traxler.

“In addition to the current 54 exemplary lay Catholics who have publicly endorsed the campaign by serving on the honorary leadership committee,” Ryan said, “another 15 to 20 additional members are expected to join by the time the leadership committee roster is finalized.”

For more information about the seminary’s endowment campaign, contact Tom Ryan, vice president for institutional advancement, (651) 962-5795 or

As an independent, nonprofit corporation under the supervision of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Saint Paul Seminary is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the physical assets (land and buildings) associated with the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, which was formed through an affiliation agreement with the University of St. Thomas in 1987.

In addition, the Saint Paul Seminary Corp. is committed to enhancing the academic and formation program for priesthood candidates and lay ministers in the church, which programs are the academic and fiscal responsibility of the University of St. Thomas through the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas. This campaign is one of the most significant ways for the Saint Paul Seminary Corp. to achieve this latter responsibility.