New York dioceses announce seminary partnership


Catholic News Service

HUNTINGTON, N.Y. — The New York archdiocese and two dioceses will join forces in a single program of priestly formation that is described by the partners as an expression of episcopal collegiality and a model for diocesan cooperation.

New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Rockville Centre Bishop William F. Murphy signed a joint agreement Nov. 10 to create the St. Charles Borromeo Inter-Diocesan Partnership in Spiritual and Theological Formation for Clergy, Religious and Laity.

The signing concluded an evening news conference convened at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington on Long Island.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., shake hands during their Nov. 10 announcement of the creation of a seminary partnership among their three dioceses. (CNS)

Beginning in September 2012, St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers in the Archdiocese of New York, will be home to the graduate-level priest formation program for seminarians from the three collaborating dioceses. The agreement effectively merges two major seminaries currently operating in Yonkers and Huntington. The new graduate program also will serve candidates from other dioceses and religious orders in the United States and overseas.

“We realized that by combining our resources and bringing together the best of our respective institutions, we would be able to provide the best seminary formation that we possibly could,” Archbishop Dolan said. “It’s what our future priests deserve, and it’s what our people deserve.”

Archbishop Dolan estimated there would be 100 seminarians at St. Joseph’s in the fall term. There are now approximately 90 men studying at St. Joseph’s and Immaculate Conception. Most are preparing for service in the three dioceses, but St. Joseph’s also trains candidates for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Immaculate Conception has students from the dioceses of Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y., and Scranton, Pa. Both locations host men who will be ordained for dioceses in their native countries.

The new partnership also merges two graduate religion programs for the laity and establishes an institute for ongoing spiritual and pastoral formation for priests and permanent deacons. It envisions a preaching institute, formation workshops for international priests, special workshops for new priests and distance-learning opportunities.

The three dioceses began their official collaboration this past September, with a single program of priestly formation for 77 college seminarians and pre-theology students at the Cathedral Seminary Residence of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston, in the Brooklyn diocese.

The bishops described the merged formation program as a collaborative effort that will strengthen both vocation recruitment and training of candidates. Archbishop Dolan said a potential student who finds a chapel full of seminarians and a dining room abuzz with activity will get the impression that “this is not a Titanic. Our best days are ahead.”

Archbishop Dolan called the partnership daring, innovative, bold and attractive. He said it is “somewhat novel” because it departs from the traditional model of seminaries run by individual dioceses or religious orders. “That could either cause some nervousness or that could excite you,” he said. “I think we’ve chosen the latter.”

He said the three bishops saw the collaborative formation model as a good example to pastors of cooperation needed among parishes and schools. Archbishop Dolan also said people will watch to see how the venture will work.

The current rector of Immaculate Conception, Msgr. Peter Vaccari of the Brooklyn diocese, was named rector of St. Joseph’s.

The bishops said the partnership will ultimately save money through reduction in costs for overhead, faculty and staff.

Archbishop Dolan told Catholic News Service that initial financial savings “will not be towering.” He said in the long run, combining faculty will create an abundant pool of qualified candidates and “free up others for work in the church.”