A Brief History of Priestly Formation


We offer this historical survey of seminary formation, well aware of its brevity and somewhat American interest (Canadians have not failed to learn from or be influenced by their closest neighbours!). Where sections may seem inadequately developed we welcome your suggestions for improvement. John Tracy Ellis, in his Essays in Seminary Education[1], has well documented the history of priestly formation. This survey will draw largely on him, with the intention of showing some of the elements of continuity and discontinuity in the fulfilling of this noble task over the centuries.

The Gospel Method

The simple but comprehensive profile of the first seminary is sketched in the words of the Gospel: “He appointed twelve to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). This being three full years with the Master, Jesus Christ, would set the pattern for priestly formation in the Western church down through the centuries. The apostle Paul followed the same method of personal accompaniment when he selected St. Timothy whom he “wished to go forth with him,” (Acts 16:3) as he delivered to his churches the decision reached by the Council of Jerusalem ca. AD 49. Both these examples are in continuity with the great prophet Moses, who desired Joshua to undergo a long apprenticeship in his company. Moses had learned this method from God himself. When Joshua took up his charge of leading the people of Israel, God exhorted him: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you;” (Jos. 1:5).

What does the Church see in this being with him that she should return to this model throughout her history? By being with Christ, the apostles became the witnesses of the crucified, risen and ascended form of life they saw and heard in him (cf. Acts 1:8). Jesus Christ handed on to them this form of life as he saw and heard it lived out in the bosom of God, that is, in the Trinity. Jesus said of himself: “He who comes from heaven is above all… He bears witness to what he has seen and heard…For it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit.” (John 3:31,32,34). Being with Jesus, intimately associated with him in every phase of his mission, enabled the apostles to be credible witnesses of his life.

It is not enough simply to recount the main historical developments of seminary formation. Rather, in order to grasp the importance of this work, one must measure it against the simple yet comprehensive standard of the Gospel: to be with him, to imitate what he has seen and heard from the Father and the Spirit.

Early Centuries of Christianity – before Augustine

In the centuries leading up to St. Augustine, one cannot yet find any extant evidence of special institutions for the formation and education of the clergy. However, one does find traces of sacerdotal apprenticeship, in keeping with the model set by Christ. In the Didache (late 1st century) priestly service is described primarily in prophetic terms, that is, in terms of witness: “… For they, too (bishops and deacons), render you the sacred service of the prophets and teachers.”[2] Similarly, St. Polycarp (d. AD 155), himself a disciple of St. John the apostle, writes: “The presbytery must be tender-hearted, merciful toward all, turning back the sheep that has gone astray, visiting the sick, not neglecting the widow or orphan or poor man…”[3] St. Polycarp is describing not a priest’s preaching or his administration of the sacraments but his witness of life. In stressing the prophetic aspect of priestly service, these early writers show their continuity with the New Testament, which presents the public ministry of Jesus himself predominantly in prophetic terms. Only with the letter to the Hebrews do we find a stronger sacerdotal interpretation of his ministry. Perhaps the strength of the priesthood in the early Church lay precisely in its emphasis on prophetic witness. The priest had to be an authentic disciple of the Lord before he could be singled out to be a priest.

Patristic Era: St. Augustine

It is well known that fifty years prior to St. Augustine, St. Eusebius of Vercelli “combined the monastic discipline with a common life for the parochial clergy with whom he lived personally” (Ellis 4). The combination of monastic discipline and the common life already suggests a substantial formation of the clergy, since monastic life always included study, asceticism and community life. Soon after Augustine became bishop of Hippo in 396, “his Episcopal residence at Hippo was the school for the superiors of a good many monastic houses as well as for a considerable number of diocesan bishops, and in this way clerical community became a model for imitation elsewhere” (Ellis 5). Note again the emphasis on clerical training in community with others, especially with the bishop. The weakness of clerical formation in the modern age will be precisely a distancing between formation and community, between seminary and bishop. Again, given the monastic and community ambience in the residence at Hippo, clerical life would not be without its human, spiritual and intellectual formation – normal to any monastic community. Augustine had it as a rule that no one would be ordained a priest unless he had lived in community for some time.

By measures such as these, Augustine left behind him an educated clergy, the essential features of whose formation would be repeated through the ages.

St. Benedict and Monachism

With the rise of Western monachism under the rule of St. Benedict, clerical education took on a more monastic expression. It was customary for Benedictines to receive boys into their monasteries for the purpose of forming them to become monks. Besides the regular hours of manual labor, monks spent several hours each day in sacred reading, which consisted of reading and copying the Scriptures, and reading monastic writings and the Fathers of the Church. Secular authors also had a place in monastic culture.

Under certain monastic figures, such as Cassiodorus in Vivarium, the monastic school took definite shape. St. Bede two centuries later gives us a clear picture of what the intellectual aspects of monastic formation looked like in his day:

“I have spent all the remainder of my life in this monastery and devoted myself entirely to the study of the Scriptures. And while I have observed the regular discipline and sung the choir offices daily in church, my chief delight has always been in study, teaching, and writing.”[4]

What the Venerable Bede is describing would be called the trivium (reading, writing, speaking). Later in the early medieval period, monastic formation would also come to include the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music). These two levels of education were the prerequisite then for studying philosophy and theology. The scholastic age would see the elaboration of a fuller philosophical and theological curriculum.

Middle Ages – Cathedral Schools and Universities

During the early medieval period a series of monastic schools spread throughout Christendom. The famous monastery of Fulda founded by St. Boniface gave rise to many daughter houses and schools. Toward the end of the eighth century the Emperor Charlemagne passed several decrees that required all clerics to read and write and possess sufficient knowledge to fulfill professorial duties. The penalty for not doing so was suspension and deprivation of office. Reading schools were established for clerics and bishops were appointed to examine their competence. Thus not all clerical education took place in monastic schools. Cathedral schools also played a large role in higher education. Alcuin, head of Charlemagne’s palace school, was a product of the cathedral school at York.

The distinction between monastic schools, cathedral schools and emerging universities is not always clear. The majority of clerics received brief informal and practical education at the hands of a priest in either a monastic or episcopal cathedral school. In the Middle Ages the most famous cathedral schools were those of Paris and Chartres. In Spain under St. Leander, the cathedral school in Seville had a wide influence. It was Leander who, presiding at the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633, saw the promulgation of a law which made it obligatory for priestly candidates to live in a single building near the cathedral. At these schools one finds a degree of uniformity in curriculum and method of supervision. This uniformity extended to philosophy and theology as well. The proximity to the cathedral guaranteed the priestly candidate a certain pastoral mindset as he prepared for ordination.

Whereas universities took their origin from a great variety of circumstances, nearly all of them had links to the monastic and cathedral schools of their time. The University of Paris, for example, was born out of a concentration of professors and students of monastic and cathedral schools. Regardless of their origins, the universities of medieval Europe had ecclesiastical connections which guaranteed their academic program. This was due to the fact that the licentia docendi (license to teach) was usually granted by a clerical office, such as a chancellor or archdeacon (Ellis 13).

End of the Middle Ages – Problems Arising from the University Setting

However, university settings were not always conducive to clerical formation. Only a small number of clerics would hold university degrees. One factor for this was the length of time needed to complete a university degree. At the University of Paris, for example, a doctorate could take up to 15 or 16 years to complete. Few could afford the expense or time. Universities, furthermore, did not take responsibility for spiritual or pastoral formation, although circumstances on the campus, such as clerical residences, could enhance these possibilities.

As the Middle Ages drew to a close, laxity in clerical life grew. Bishop Francesco Chierigati of Teramo (1522), in the wake of Luther posting his 95 theses, lamented, “We all, prelates and clergy, have gone astray from the right way, and for long there is none that has done good; no, not one. To God, therefore, we must give all the glory and humble ourselves before Him” (Ellis 21). Although hope sprang anew with the election of Pope Adrian VI in 1522, nonetheless, effective action would still be slow in coming. While the causes for this are many, one of the major contributing factors was the lack of institutions of priestly formation which maintained high standards of conduct. Indeed there were exceptions such as the zealous reform measures of the Primate of Spain, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros. However, by the 15th and early 16th centuries, monasteries and religious orders had receded from the forefront of societal life. Even the Fifth Lateran Council of 1512 was unable to effect a substantial change with its reform measures. It would take the strong reform spirit of the Council of Trent to address in a comprehensive manner the formation and education of the clergy. Antonio Cardinal del Monte summarized its spirit: “The aim of the reforming activity is the revival of the pastoral ministry–the cure of souls.”[5]

Council of Trent

Pope Paul III appointed a commission to undertake the cause of clerical reform in the Church in 1536. In 1537 the commission submitted a report to the Pope which scrutinized the causes for the principal abuses of the clergy. This report while making  an honest examination of the matter did not yet suggest the prior need of institutions which would be devoted to the spiritual and intellectual formation of future priests and bishops. In was 1547 only during a plenary that the subject of clerical reform was clearly stated during the Council. Prior to this the conciliar debates had only indirectly touched upon the question. It was not until the reform minded Giovanni Cardinal Morone suggested that the newly founded Jesuit order open a college in Rome to educate German candidates for the priesthood that clerical reform began to take the front seat again. The recommendation was warmly accepted by the new Pope Julius III. The Roman College was opened in February 1551. By 1565 nearly 1000 students attended lectures on philosophy and theology. The regulations St. Ignatius wrote for the Roman College were adapted for a number of later seminaries in Rome.

In an English decree drawn up by Reginald Cardinal Pole for a national council in November of 1555, it was stated “that in cathedrals there be educated a certain number of beginners, from which, as from a seed bed (seminarium), priests can be chosen who can worthily be placed in charge of churches” (Ellis 36).  The text of this decree was to have an important influence on the decision of the Council of Trent regarding seminaries in 1563.

Tridentine Decree on Seminaries

In its decree on seminaries, the council of Trent stated:

  • Every cathedral and metropolitan Church is obliged to have a seminary of its own.
  • Smaller and poorer jurisdictions might band together to form what today would be called a regional seminary.
  • While every diocese is obliged to have a seminary, not every candidate whom a bishop ordains has to be educated in a seminary.
  • Candidates for the seminary should be at least twelve years of age with skills in reading and writing and be of suitable moral character.
  • Preference is to be given to the sons of the poor.
  • Intellectual formation is to be suited to a candidate’s age and abilities.
  • However, a curriculum of sorts is specified: they are to study letters, the humanities, chant, and the science of “ecclesiastical computation,” scripture, dogmatic, moral and pastoral theology, and rubrics.
  • Spiritual formation includes wearing the clerical dress, receiving the tonsure, assisting at daily Mass, going to Confession once a month, and to Holy Communion as often as the advice of one’s spiritual director permits.
  • Professors in the seminary are to be qualified academically with master’s, licentiate, or doctoral degrees in the particular field of their expertise and are to be competent in discharging their offices.

After these specifics of intellectual and spiritual training, the rest of the decree concerned itself with largely financial and administrative details. Important among these details was the naming of the bishop as the supreme administrator of the institution.

With its precise stipulations, the council of Trent wished to put in place a uniform high standard for priestly formation and especially to prevent unworthy and unsuitable candidates from being ordained.

Post-Tridentine Seminary Formation

The establishment of seminaries desired by Trent was slow in taking root in the post-Reformation Catholic world. However, as we shall see, various partial yet effective initiatives by high-minded and holy men of the Church gradually led to a sort of cross-fertilization from which emerged the model of seminary formation we are familiar with today.

St. Ignatius, as we mentioned earlier, had a lead in introducing a new style of formation for the clergy. Soon after the conclusion of the council of Trent, other prelates and some major religious orders carried the reform spirit of Trent further. Of these religious orders, we can name the Sulpicians, the Vincentians, the Eudists, the Dominicans and later the Carmelites and Franciscans.

With the centralization of Church government promoted by Trent, seminary formation became remarkably standardized throughout the Church. The academic curriculum was renewed, as was also the spiritual life, the life of discipline and common prayer, and finance and administration.

Italy and Germany

In Italy, the first seminary modeled on Tridentine directives was initiated by Marcantonio Cardinal Amulio, Bishop of Rieti, in 1564. More famous among the prelates leading the reform, however, was Charles Cardinal Borromeo, the metropolitan of Milan. His regulations for seminaries proved very useful to other seminary pioneers like Jean-Jacques Olier and St. Vincent de Paul in France. St. Charles himself had borrowed, among other things, some of the devotional practices of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The first German seminary was begun in 1564 at Eichstätt in Bavaria.

England, Portugal and Spain

In England, the official proscription of Catholicism prevented any foundation of seminaries in the country. As a result, Douai College was established in 1568 in the Low Countries to cater to English and Irish needs. (England and Ireland called their seminaries “colleges”). Douai College and other such continental institutions combined both minor (Arts) and major (Theology) seminaries in 1612. Later, the advent of the French Revolution actually forced some of these continental seminaries to relocate in England where the longstanding hatred of the Catholic faith had by then abated, overridden by more national interests.


The two priests who started off the clerical reform in France were Adrien Bourdoise and Pierre de Bérulle, later Cardinal. Bourdoise, a year before his ordination, opened a house with twelve other clerical companions at St. Nicholas de Chardonnet, in 1612. Bérulle founded the French Oratory in 1611 with several companions and then opened two other seminaries for French clerical students in Paris (1612) and Langres (1616). In retrospect, of all the post-Tridentine reforming initiatives, those in France would have the widest influence on seminary formation down to the middle of the twentieth century.

These reforming initiatives gained wider backing when the French bishops, in an effort to lift the moral tone of the clergy and test the fitness of candidates for the clerical state, inaugurated a system of ten-day retreats for candidates prior to their ordination. For a while this remained the principal means for preparing men for ordination in the French Church (Ellis 52). St. Vincent De Paul, the one who initiated this measure, was not content to rest there, however, and in 1636 his Congregation of the Mission opened the Collège des Bons Enfants in Paris for youths who showed an inclination to the priesthood. This experiment took time to mature and it was only in 1645 that St. Vincent pioneered a seminary that would be open to both boys and young men, as prescribed by Trent. It seems that high school seminaries may have taken their origin from this first experiment.

By the 1640’s, not only did the Jesuits, Oratorians, and Vincentians conduct seminaries in France but new orders also joined the effort to renew clerical formation. Among these were the Sulpicians, founded by Jean-Jacques Olier and the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, founded by St. Jean-Marie Eudes. The Sulpicians especially left their stamp on seminary formation. They brought to it a higher intellectual training than hitherto possible: they could enrol in the University of Paris which was situated close to their seminary at the church of St. Sulpice.

17th-18th Century

“But the movement that had produced such excellent results in the second half of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not escape the general decline that beset Catholicism with the dawn of the philosophes” (Ellis 56).

In 1763, Louis XV banished the Jesuits from France and its colonies. Ten years later this unfortunate decision was made universal when Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuit Order throughout the Church. From 1780 – 1790 Emperor Joseph and Leopold of the Holy Roman Empire suspended diocesan seminaries and replaced them with two state seminaries. Bismarck’s Kulturkampf demanded that candidates for the priestly ministry spend three years at a state university and submit to a state examination before being eligible for a priestly appointment. The unexpected positive result of this turn of events was the emergence of the dual system of seminary education so familiar in the twentieth century. In this system seminarians were educated both at the seminary and at a university.

In England two opposing schools of thought on higher education developed: one preferred that clerical and lay students study together while the other strongly opposed this. Ireland opened its national seminary of St. Patrick’s at Maynooth in 1794 and All Hallows College in Dublin in 1842.

The French Revolution had some unforeseen benefits for the spreading of seminaries. “By 1797 there were thirty French Bishops and around 5500 priests living in England alone, to say nothing of those who had found a haven in other countries” (Ellis 61). The havoc and general disruption that had befallen religious houses and ecclesiastical institutions brought widespread migration from Europe to America and beyond.

18th Century in America

In 1792 Fr. Jacques-André Emery, the head of the Sulpicians, with the support of John Carroll, the bishop of Baltimore, sent four priests to America. In September of that same year, with Father Franҫois Nagot as local superior, “St. Mary’s Seminary, the mother Seminary of the United States, had its humble beginnings.” (Ellis 63).

In the early years of seminary formation in America, four categories of seminaries gradually came into being. In the first there was little distinction made between major and minor seminarians, lay and clerical students. These houses were most often conducted by a religious order. A second category resembled the first but the seminary was run by secular clergy. In the third category we see attempts by a bishop, or a bishop assisted with one or two of his priests, to form his future clergy; this was an echo of the early patristic era. The fourth category, finally, was the “national” seminary, that is, one which catered to a particular ethnic group among the various immigrants to the States. For example, there were national seminaries for Irish, German and Polish immigrants.

For a time there was a bid to found a National Seminary, that is, one with a supra-diocesan structure, but the proposal was not approved by the First and Second Provincial Councils at Baltimore. It did finally materialize, though, with the founding of the North American College in Rome on Dec. 8, 1859. Furthermore, in 1889, with the pledge of $300 000 by a wealthy young lay woman, the Catholic University of America was opened “exclusively as a school of theology, although on a graduate level” (Ellis 76).

19th Century

In the period after the French Revolution that saw the growth of seminaries in the America, criticism of seminary formation was not lacking. The third council of Baltimore (1884) took up the topic of seminaries and issued some directives which may be of interest to our readers today:

  • the need for thorough education in English;
  • enough Greek to read the New Testament in that language;
  • the advantage of summer vacations for making contact with the world;
  • seminary professorships to be entrusted to men who were ready to sacrifice their selves to that end;
  • a conservative and apologetic approach to the teaching of Scripture, dogma and church history.

In the wake of this council more attention was given by some prelates to the intellectual formation of seminarians. The more influential among the prelates, such as James Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishop John Ireland, advocated a broad open-mindedness and a greater solidity in intellectual formation. Cardinal Gibbons especially supported a priesthood sustained by men “educated at home, breathing the spirit of the country, growing with its growth and in harmony with its civil and political institutions” (Ellis 98). Along with Cardinal Gibbons, who wrote The Ambassador of Christ (a critique on clerical formation of the day), Fr. John Talbot Smith also tackled this topic in his volume Our Seminaries: An Essay on Clerical Training (1896). Fr. John Hogan, a contemporary of Smith, already foresaw the need for ongoing formation: “In reality, there is room even in the busy existence of a priest for much more serious study than is commonly thought” (Ellis 100-101).

An important development on the American scene at this time was the formation of the Educational Conference of Seminary Faculties inaugurated in May of 1898. Later this organization would amalgamate with The Association of Catholic Colleges and the delegates of elementary schools to form The Catholic Education Association.

The rapidly increasing Catholic population in the States throughout the 19th century was due in large part, as we have said before, to immigration. Following in the footsteps of the new immigrants were religious orders with interests in serving their fellow countrymen. For example, six German Redemptorists arrived in New York in 1832. In 1846, eighteen men were clothed with the Benedictine habit by Fr. Boniface Wimmer, establishing what would become St. Vincent’s Abbey, Pennsylvania. Other Benedictine foundations followed: St. Meinrad’s, Indiana, in 1854; St. John’s, Minnesota in 1856; St. Benedict’s, Kansas, in 1857; and Mount Angel, Oregon in 1882. It was from Mount Angel Abbey that the six pioneer monks set out in 1939 to found Westminster Abbey in the Vancouver Archdiocese and to conduct the Seminary of Christ the King.

The 20th Century

At the turn of the 20th century it was well recognized that American seminaries had failed to produce scholars in ecclesiastical disciplines of the calibre found in secular universities. Three factors were proposed as the cause:

  • academic formation in seminaries was being treated as a pro forma process through which one was obliged to pass;
  • there was a lack of incentive on the part of ecclesiastical superiors to place a high premium on the outstanding achievement of their men in the seminary;
  • religious superiors feared and discouraged intellectual endeavours which would expose the faith of their subjects to danger.

The papal encyclical of St. Pius X, Pascendi dominici gregis (1907), also put a damper on the intellectual forwardness of some Catholic scholars.

On the eve of Vatican II

To recapture the tenor of seminary life on the eve of Vatican Council II, we could cite Ellis’ suggestions for improvement in priestly formation. He was writing during the Council but before the decrees on the Training of Priests and the Life and Ministry of Priests had been promulgated (Ellis 173-184). In the first place, it seems that there was a greater need to find a balance between the spiritual and intellectual dimensions of formation. The spiritual tended to be fostered at the expense of the intellectual. While a seminary does not exist to produce scholars, nonetheless the intellectual life is second only to the spiritual life.

A second point for improvement concerned the isolation of the seminarian from the experience of the pastoral life. While it was necessary for the seminarian to have time to assimilate his formation within the confines of the seminary, yet it was equally important that he have sufficient exposure to the pastoral life which would be the locus of his future ministry.

Ellis’ last comment concerns a problem which is still relevant today! The liturgical life of a priest should become apparent in his homily. Homilies, he opined, should manifest the priest’s mastery of the spiritual life but at the same time show his clear perception of the people’s pastoral needs.

One further comment may be added in light of experience since the 1990’s. Given the sex scandals so many priests have been involved in, one must question whether seminary formation in the 1950’s gave sufficient emphasis to the integration of the emotional life with the spiritual life. In other words the need for human formation was addressed rather inadequately.

Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Development

Beginning with Vatican II’s foundational documents on the Church (Lumen gentium), on the priesthood (Presbyterorum ordinis) and on seminary formation (Optatam totius), the post-conciliar renewal has been both difficult and rewarding. Bl. Pope Paul VI himself contributed to the renewal of the priesthood with his encyclical on celibacy (Sacerdotalis caelibatus, 1967) at a time when this venerable Latin practice came under severe questioning and attack.

By the 1980’s and 1990’s most conferences of Catholic bishops around the world had produced renewed directives on priestly formation.

The Congregation for Clergy and the Congregation for Catholic Education also issued some important documents. Some dealt with an updating of a particular area of seminary teaching: patristics, philosophy, canon law, homiletics. Others dealt with a particular area of formation: spiritual, liturgical. Still others gave more comprehensive guidelines for the life and ministry of priests. When these are seen together with documents published by the Holy See which have a bearing on the whole Catholic Church, such as the Catechism and the Code of Canon Law, it is evident that priestly formation is undergoing continual renewal in the Church.

Catholic seminaries are still searching for ways to integrate these contributions to priestly formation into their academic and pastoral programs.

The post-conciliar development has striven to understand post-modern demands on priestly life and formation and to bring to these demands the best of the Church’s resources. All four Popes in these last fifty years since the Council have worked vigorously to renew the priestly vocation from within. One cannot but thank God for his tender and unfailing providence for his priests.

St. John Paul II

When St. John Paul II was elected to the papacy he brought with him a comprehensive vision of the renewal of the whole Church. Building upon the work of his predecessor, Bl. Paul VI, he called successive Synods of Bishops, each treating with important ecclesial vocations in need of post-conciliar renewal. Following up on the 1971 Synods of Bishops on the priesthood, the Holy Father began an annual address to priests each Holy Thursday. In 1990, the 8th Ordinary Synod of Bishops was dedicated to the theme  “The Formation of Priests in Circumstances of the Present Day”. St. John Paul II gathered the fruit of synod discussion and his own profound reflections in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores dabo vobis (I Will Give You Shepherds) in 1992. For the last twenty years and more, this has been the touchstone for all efforts of Catholic bishops’ conferences to renew the formation of their clergy and seminarians. Pope St. John Paul II gave the formation and the identity of the priest a solid dogmatic foundation. He showed how the priesthood is founded on the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, the person of Jesus Christ and the mystery of the Church, and how formation flows from these principal truths of the faith.

Benedict XVI

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has also made a considerable contribution to the priesthood in the areas of liturgy and spirituality. His numerous addresses and exchanges with priests and clergy all over the world have deepened the renewal begun by his immediate predecessors. His deep scriptural and spiritual commentaries on matters concerning the priesthood are destined to become a sure reference point for priestly life in the years ahead.


Our present Holy Father, Francis, has also surprised the Church with his grasp of the obstacles facing priestly holiness, formation, spiritual life and pastoral action. He has sought to renew the Catholic clergy by returning it to the fundamental pastoral charity that springs from a well-grounded life of prayer and adoration as well as a keen openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

S.C.K. Today

Seminary formation is arguably one of the most challenging responsibilities in the Church today. The monastic community of Westminster Abbey has chosen to engage itself in this work of formation with a steady attention in two fundamental directions. On the one hand, the community looks to its founder, St. Benedict, and preserves its unity of commitment to his Rule. On the other hand, it maintains a spirit of close, open collaboration with the local Archdiocese. With ears attuned to the spirit of St. Benedict, to the needs of the diocese, to the Holy See and to the signs of the times, we strive to make gradual but solid progress in this difficult but privileged responsibility of forming future priests and religious.


We conclude this historical survey with the hope that even an initial acquaintance with the history of seminary formation may help us maintain in our formation here at the Seminary of Christ the King an openness to the Church, to the world and to the signs of the times. In the paraphrased words of Cicero, ignorance of history keeps man in the condition of perpetual boyhood.


[1] Notre Dame, IN: Fides Publishers, 1967. References to this work will be cited as “Ellis [page number]”.

[2] Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. 1, The Beginnings of Patristic Literature (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1983) 34.

[3] Quasten, Patrology, 80.

[4] Venerable Bede, A History of the English Church and People, trans. Leo Sherley-Price, rev. R. E. Latham (London: Penguin, 1968) 336.

[5] Hubert Jedin, A History of the Council of Trent (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1967) 1:580.