Cardinal Wuerl Dedicates New Wing at Saint John Paul II Seminary

Second expansion of fully occupied, six year-old seminary will provide conference and meeting space for the seminarians.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated Mass on Sunday and formally dedicated the new wing and conference center of the Saint John Paul II Seminary. Saint John Paul II Seminary is an institution of the Archdiocese of Washington established in 2011 to prepare college-aged men and young adults for entrance into major seminary and eventual ordination to the Catholic priesthood.

Cardinal Wuerl began his homily by reflecting on the special ties the seminary has to three popes. The seminary’s patron saint, John Paul II is a role model of self-giving to the Church and an example of a man who gave his life as a servant both of God’s people and of Jesus Christ in his Church, he said, and continued, “As a reminder of the seminary’s patron saint, the chapel has two relics of Saint John Paul II – a liturgical vestment known as an amice that was worn by him, and the saint’s blood stained on the cassock that he was wearing when he was shot and critically wounded during an assassination attempt in Saint Peter’s Square in 1981. These relics remind me and the seminarians of how priests bring Jesus to their people through the word of God and the Eucharist at Mass, and how they are called to give their lives totally, even to the point of death, for Christ and his Church.”

The cardinal spoke of how the Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, who succeeded Saint John Paul II’s pontificate, are teachers for the seminarians: “Pope Benedict XVI personally signed an apostolic blessing issued for the seminary’s inauguration that is on display at the entrance to its chapel. The altar used by him at his historic 2008 Papal Mass at Nationals Park is now at the seminary’s chapel, a reminder to the seminarians at every Mass there of what that pope proclaimed throughout his visit, Christ is our hope.”

He continued, “Then in September two years ago, Pope Francis honored our seminarians and priests with a visit to the Saint John Paul II Seminary. By his presence and his teaching and example, he shows those men studying to be the future priests of our archdiocese how to proclaim the joy of the Gospel and be missionaries of God’s mercy, meeting people where they are, and accompanying them to finding Christ’s love and truth in our Church.”

“The story of our archdiocesan seminary has been one of growth. The initial seed planted six years ago consisted of an inaugural class of 20 seminarians, three of whom who were just ordained in June,” said Cardinal Wuerl. The seminary underwent an expansion in 2014 with a newly constructed addition of 20 student rooms, an enlarged classroom space, a common room, an exercise facility, quarters for two faculty members and a large library and reading room. The 2017 expansion has added a conference center that will seat up to 200 people, as well as an enlarged dining hall for the growing number of seminarians living and studying there.

“It is a particular joy for me to welcome all of you as we bear witness to the ongoing life of our archdiocesan Church, its hope as it sees so many future priests being prepared for ministry and our great gratitude to those who have made possible in its initial form and now in its expansions Saint John Paul II Seminary,” the cardinal said. “But the most important growth underway is in the hearts of the seminarians who live, study and are formed here,” he continued. “The program of priestly formation speaks of four pillars of formation: the spiritual, the pastoral, the academic and the personal. None of this happens overnight.”

The cardinal cited the academic formation that transpires at The Catholic University of America, where the seminarians attend classes and receive academic instruction. He also pointed out that the seminarians receive pastoral formation through the apostolic works and ministry of the Catholic institutions and parishes within the archdiocese. “The human formation, the growth in virtue and maturation into adult relationships, is strengthened here, experienced as well at the University and encouraged within the context of our whole archdiocesan Church,” he said. “But, most significantly, is their spiritual formation.   This area of growth is to help these young men so that they, too, can renew daily in their heart, ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God,’ but also to deepen their own loyalty to the one to whom Jesus replied, ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.’”

Seminarians at Saint John Paul II Seminary attend classes at The Catholic University of America while receiving their priestly formation at the seminary. Those pursuing an undergraduate degree enroll in a normal schedule of classes with a major in philosophy, while those who already hold an undergraduate degree undertake a special non-degree program for two years with an emphasis in philosophy and ancient languages. Before ordination, they will complete an additional four years of theology studies. Currently, there are a total of 78 men who are studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes 27 who are at Saint John Paul II Seminary. There are currently 24 seminarians from other dioceses who are receiving priestly formation at Saint John Paul II Seminary.