In September 1884, Saint John’s Seminary was consecrated by Archbishop Joseph Williams and opened its doors for the first time. It has trained men to preach, serve, and administer the sacraments ever since. Today, the seminary also trains laity to serve as catechists, chaplains, and teachers, among other ministries.
Priestly formation at Saint John’s demands that each seminarian cultivate a deep spiritual life. Daily Mass and community prayer are the basis for this work. Each seminarian meets regularly with a spiritual director who encourages his ongoing discernment, helps him develop a mature love of others, and leads him closer to Christ. Frequent retreats intensify the men’s self-knowledge, repentance, and love for the Lord. This rigorous life of prayer prepares every Saint John’s graduate for a life of sacrificial love for God’s people.
Academic and pastoral training builds on this spiritual foundation. Classes on Scripture, the Trinity, and Eucharist ready men to preach and teach the Catholic faith with clarity and insight. Other courses explore contemporary ethical questions, training the students to counsel parishioners on the moral and social issues that will confront them.
At the same time, the seminarians regularly serve in parishes, prisons, and hospitals. These “pastoral assignments,” guided by a priest or supervisor, keep the students grounded in the concrete needs of Catholics and teach them the crucial skills of counselling, organization, and catechesis. Such an education forms priests who know their people and have the skills to serve them well.
In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “the laity are really co-responsible for the Church’s being and acting.” For this reason, Saint John’s prepares lay men and women to teach, minister, and evangelize alongside ordained priests and religious. Through a rigorous theology curriculum and challenging pastoral experiences, the Lay Formation programs equip students to serve the Church throughout New England. In their professions, their families, and their ministries across the region, lay graduates of Saint John’s proclaim the gospel not only through their ministry but also by the example of their lives.
At Saint John’s, the laity play an essential role even in priestly formation. Lay professors instruct seminarians in philosophy, Church history, and the theology of the body, to name a few. Generous benefactors give in order to support the critical mission of Saint John’s. Lay men and women across the region pray daily that the men now in seminary will persevere in their vocations and one day be ordained. In different ways, many recognize their great responsibility and execute it faithfully.
In 1884, Saint John’s began training priests for the Archdiocese of Boston. Since then, its work has grown to include every diocese of New England. At the same time, the need for lay leaders and evangelists has become evident throughout the Church. Thanks to devoted clergy and laity, Saint John’s has adapted to meet these new responsibilities. While the burden has grown heavier, the mission remains the same: to form disciples and to proclaim Jesus Christ.