12 June 2010

Saint Lawrence Seminary Celebrates 150 Years

Soon after arriving in the United States and establishing the first, permanent presence of Capuchins in the country, Bonaventure Frey and Francis Haas realized that if the fledging jurisdiction was to survive, it needed to recruit and train local vocations. So it was that in 1860 they opened a school for boys that would become known as Saint Lawrence Seminary. On 3 June 2010, the seminary celebrated the 150th anniversary of that courageous and prophetic decision.

That the seminary exists at all is fairly remarkable since most high school seminaries in the United States closed in the 1970's due to declining enrollments. A Chapter of the Province of Saint Joseph (Calvary) discussed just such an option, but decided to do everything in their power to keep the doors open. The enrollment in recent years has been about 200 students, which is lower than at the school's height, but higher than in the 70's and 80's. Although only a small percentage of Saint Lawrence Seminary's students eventually become priests or religious, all are formed to become leaders in the Church and in their communities. Numerous bishops, priests and brothers were among the alumni who attended the anniversary celebration. Some of those present for the celebration are shown in the picture below. They are (from left to right, with alumni indicated by *): Br John Celichowski*, Provincial Minister, Bishop Octavio Cisneros*, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, Bishop Joseph Perry*, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, Bishop Jerome Listecki, Bishop of Milwaukee, Bishop Richard Sklba, Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, Bishop Paul Schmitz*, Apostolic Administrator of Bluefields (Nicaragua) and Br Dennis Druggan*, Rector of St Lawrence Seminary.

In my remarks, I mentioned that running an educational institution might appear to be a strange ministry for an Order whose founder viewed higher education with some suspicion and forbid his brothers to have any book other than the breviary. I recalled, however, something that Br Raniero Cantalamessa said at the International Chapter of Mats in 2009—that Franciscans were once known for their work of evangelizing the lost. Using biblical images, he said that we were once more fishermen than pastors. Given that youth are overrepresented among the unchurched today, the education of youth may be among the most Franciscan of all ministries.

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