Cardinal Wuerl Dedicates Blessed John Paul II Seminary

“…bless this house and all who study here so that the vision, the dream and the legacy of Blessed John Paul II will long continue at the service of God’s holy Church.”

October 22, 2011

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, formally established a new seminary for the archdiocese at a Mass on October 22, the feast day of Blessed John Paul II who was beatified in Rome this past May. “This new seminary is a manifestation of the New Evangelization,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “We see Blessed John Paul II’s legacy continued in the formation of new priests in this archdiocese.”

The seminary is located near The Catholic University of America at 145 Taylor Street, NE, Washington, DC. Renovation of the building began last year after plans for the seminary were announced in October 2010. Seminarians for the Archdiocese of Washington will begin their formation through the new seminary, which opened its first semester on August 29. The seminary has space for 30 men who will attend The Catholic University of America while receiving their priestly formation at the seminary. Before ordination, they will complete an additional four years of theology studies. Currently, 72 men are studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Washington, including 35 in college and pre-theology studies.

“The men who will be formed here are preparing to be priests of this millennium, the agents of the Holy Spirit renewing the face of the earth and the voice of the New Evangelization calling all people near and far to embrace the Lord Jesus and to respond to the call, “Who do you say that I am?” and “Do you love me?” said Cardinal Wuerl in his homily at the dedication Mass for the seminary.

“Just as Jesus on the cross entrusted John to his mother, so does the Church today continue to encourage all of us to entrust our lives, our vocation, our ministry, our service to Mary, mother of Jesus, mother of God, mother of the Church. It is under that title that we bless this chapel — dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church,” said Cardinal Wuerl. The seminary’s chapel was completely restored in the renovations.

Housed in the chapel is a first-class relic, the blood of Blessed John Paul II stained on the cassock he was wearing when he was shot and critically wounded during an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. Pope John Paul II was struck four times, twice in the stomach, and suffered severe blood loss. The man who shot him, Turkish militant Mehmet Ali Aðca, was apprehended immediately, and sentenced to life in prison by an Italian court. The Pope immediately forgave Aðca for the assassination attempt.

Additionally, the seminary contains another relic of Blessed John Paul II, an amice that he wore when he celebrated Mass. An amice is a liturgical vestment that consists of a white cloth, traditionally of linen, connected to two long ribbons by which it is fastened around the shoulders to cover the collar and protect the other vestments. Its use is no longer mandatory, but it is still to be worn if the alb does not cover completely one’s ordinary clothing. It symbolizes the helmet of salvation and is a sign of resistance against temptation.

The altar and ambo in the chapel are the ones built and used for the Papal Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on April 17, 2008, at Nationals Park. The altar stone in the chapel at Blessed John Paul II Seminary was the one used by Archbishop John Carroll, the first Bishop (later Archbishop) of Baltimore, and the first Bishop in the United States. The stone contains relics of two early martyrs (identities unknown) and was also used with the altar at the Nationals Park Mass.

“What makes this altar particularly significant is that it is the very altar on which our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, celebrated Mass at Nationals Park three years ago. It says to us that Benedict, who is the chief shepherd, who came to our country in the exercise of his ministry as Successor to Peter, to confirm us in our faith, is the rock on which our Church stands and the rock that we turn to for support and confirmation in our faith,” said Cardinal Wuerl in his homily. He continued, “The ambo also used at that Papal Mass reminds us that it is the Word of God that the priest proclaims, it is the teaching of the Church that he announces. His fidelity is to both because it is not himself that he preaches but Jesus — and Jesus crucified.”

Cardinal Wuerl announced the faculty appointments for the seminary at the Chrism Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on April 18 this year:

• Monsignor Robert Panke is the Rector and is serving as Director of Formation for all the seminarians of the archdiocese and as Director of Continuing Clergy Formation for all the archdiocese’s priests.
• Father Carter Griffin is Vice-Rector and the new Director of Priest Vocations for the archdiocese.
• Father William Gurnee is the Seminary Spiritual Director and the Director of Spiritual Formation.
• Father Scott Woods is Assistant Director of Priest Vocations for the archdiocese and will continue as pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in St. Mary’s City, Maryland, and St. Peter Claver Parish in St. Inigoes, Maryland.
• Father Robert Walsh continues as the Assistant Director of Priest Vocations for the archdiocese and as the Catholic chaplain at the University of Maryland.
• Father Mario Dorsonville is Adjunct Spiritual Director and continues as Director of the Spanish Catholic Center and Vice President for Mission at Catholic Charities.

To read more about Blessed John Paul II Seminary and to meet the archdiocesan seminarians, please visit

To see a video of the dedication, please click here.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 600,000 Catholics living in Washington, DC and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi
Office of Communications
[email protected]