Home > Log > February 17, 2005

Letter from Archbishop Timothy Dolan regarding Saint Francis Seminary

To Friends united in love and service of Jesus and His Church:

As you know the Commission on Ministerial Formation shared its report with me last month. I spent considerable time reviewing the Commission members’ fine work, as well as all of the other data that I have gathered, and reflecting on the next steps that must be taken.

Last evening, I shared a summary of the Commission Report and those important next steps with members of the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary Board of Trustees. Today, members of the seminary staff and faculty, students, and archdiocesan central office team members are receiving similar updates. I believe it is important that you, my trusted and valued collaborators throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, receive this same information as well. You will play an important role in helping us develop and implement the work of renewal and strengthening that lies ahead.

The report from the Commission on Ministerial Formation provided an important component in our extensive and exhaustive consultation on the future of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. I am deeply grateful to all involved in the process of consultation – the seminary community, alumni, the Council of Priests, the Pastoral Council, and the Ministerial Formation Commission chaired by Father Dan Pakenham, who so generously and patiently participated in this comprehensive study. After careful review of all the input, I have reached the following conclusions.

Saint Francis de Sales Seminary will remain open. It is the cornerstone for ministerial formation for priests, deacons and lay ecclesial leaders in southeastern Wisconsin. Since 1845, the seminary has served the archdiocese and served it well. The importance of the mission of Saint Francis Seminary clearly fits into the pastoral priorities of the archdiocese, which call for heightened attention to ministerial formation for candidates for the priesthood, diaconate, and professional lay ministers, an increased focus on vocations in the Church, continued support of our parishes, strengthening of Catholic education and life-long faith formation, and, most of all, the pursuit of holiness.

Yet, we have much room for improvement and renewal of our commitment as a Church and as an archdiocese to strengthen this vital program. There are five specific areas I have identified for substantive renewal, refinement and intensification, all of which were highlighted as well in the perceptive report of the Ministerial Formation Commission.

1. The program for priestly formation needs to be strengthened, protecting its integrity and independence. The need to provide unique and intense formation for men preparing for priesthood in today’s Church is paramount. This does not minimize the need to maintain a collaborative formational model, which is, and will continue to be, an attractive component of our system, but emphasizes the distinct needs of a priestly formation program. We must look into new models of structure, even the possibility of looking at a distinction in the name and titles of our programs. To aid in this process, I will ask the upcoming Apostolic Visitation of Seminaries, scheduled to begin this fall, coordinated by the Holy See at the request of the cardinals of our country, to visit our seminary as early as possible to help us fortify the priestly formation program and set our course for the future.

2. Saint Francis de Sales Seminary must arrive at fiscal solvency, in conjunction with the overall fiscal priorities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. This, too, is one of our six pastoral priorities for the archdiocese: stewardship. The seminary’s development efforts must be a subset of the archdiocesan development efforts to support men studying for Holy Orders, and men and women preparing for lay ecclesial ministry. The seminary is financially expensive – in resources and personnel – to operate, and must ensure that we are models of sound stewardship.

3. Enrollment for all programs must be increased dramatically. Recruitment and aggressive promotion of vocations remain key values. The strengthening of the priestly formation program is a necessary component in the recruitment effort. Not only do we need to increase vocations within the archdiocese, but we need to invite and encourage other dioceses to send candidates to our seminary for their formation.

4. Saint Francis Seminary must identify opportunities for collaboration with other institutions, both within and outside the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. This includes working with Sacred Heart School of Theology, Marquette University and Cardinal Stritch University to offer programs that avoid duplication of energy and resources, as well as examining potential programs for both priestly formation students, lay graduate students, and others, at institutions outside the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

5. Examine and evaluate the Certificate program to make it a more cost- effective, flexible and accessible resource, including identifying areas of duplication that could be fulfilled by other institutions, and where extension-style programs should be added to extend the reach of the seminary’s formational programs to outer areas of the archdiocese.

The future is bright. The need is great. The number of candidates for the priesthood is rising. We must be effective stewards of the gifts God has given us to prepare men and women to minister in His Church. This seminary is a great gift. It has always risen effectively to meet the challenges posed by the needs of the Church.

My next step will be to ask five different individuals to assemble a team of people to work with me, the seminary rector, the seminary community, and my executive council, in each of the five areas I have outlined above. I will ask them to propose a creative, innovative, yet practical plan that addresses each issue, and then help me implement the renewal in each of these five areas. That work will begin immediately and must be a priority for our Church.

My goal is to have the substantial changes called for by our consultation and study, especially the work of the Ministerial Formation Commission, implemented for the 2006-2007 academic year.

Revised February 27, 2005.