St. Mary’s Seminary celebrating 60 years in Memorial

November 25, 2014

HOUSTON — With the motto “Bear Fruit with Steadfast Endurance” (Luke 8:15), St. Mary’s Seminary is commemorating its 60th anniversary on Memorial Drive with a year-long celebration of remembering the past, anticipating the future and treasuring the present.

To open the celebratory year, a Mass was held for the seminary community in the campus chapel, followed by a reception and alumni reunion. 
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the principal Mass celebrant, was joined by Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza, Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz, retired Auxiliary Bishop Vincent M. Rizzotto, Bishop Curtis Guillory of Beaumont and Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. 

More than 80 priests — most of which are alumni of the seminary — attended the Mass and reception, along with numerous seminarians, faculty members and supporters.

After all of these years, St. Mary’s continues to “bear fruit” while having a lasting impact on its former seminarians and future priests. There are currently 81 seminarians representing 12 dioceses at St. Mary’s, as well as 11 religious seminarians.

The spiritual, pastoral, human and academic formation the men receive at St. Mary’s reaches far and wide as they enter their permanent ministries in the Archdiocese and beyond, according to Father Trung Nguyen, the seminary rector.

“It can be a challenge, but I am living a dream,” said Father Nguyen, a product of St. Mary’s himself. “It is powerful and joyful to be witness of that formation. These are very gifted men in the seminary, willing to give up their lives for the Lord. That in itself is a miracle, God’s grace working in people’s lives … Seeing these men answering God’s call, being formed and transformed into the priests that God is calling each one of them to be.”

Special bonds between seminarians and priest faculty are forged through these years of formation, according to Father Brendan Cahill, director for Clergy Formation and Chaplaincy Services for the Archdiocese. 

Besides experiencing the many cherished Liturgies and spiritual memories at the campus and in the chapel, moments of levity play a significant role in the life of every seminarian — whether those moments are unexpected or premeditated, as practical jokes are not uncommon in seminary life. 

During the alumni reunion, generations of seminarians shared anecdotes — both inspiring and amusing — from their days at the Memorial campus.

“There is a spiritual brotherhood that we share as alumni of the seminary,” said Father Cahill, who had served as the seminary rector just prior to Father Nguyen. “The most treasured memories are from the friendships among the brother seminarians — especially funny stories that happen when you live with classmates over an eight-year period.”

Monsignor Chester Borski, pastor of St. Martha Church in Kingwood and former St. Mary’s rector, said the campus is designed for the development of a community in a spiritual environment.

“I encourage (seminarians) not to be too worried about tomorrow, but to focus on the blessings of the current day,” he said. “Those young men who are blessed to study at St. Mary Seminary will develop lifelong friends and mentors whom they will cherish as they enter into priestly ministry after ordination.”

Monsignor Borski said when young men approach him about attending St. Mary Seminary, he emphasizes that they will be in a learning environment that reflects the “dynamic nature of the Church” in this area of the world.

“The presence of the Texas Medical Center and its related challenges to the medical-moral tradition of the Church, the growth of the Church in the Southwest with the presence of newly arrived Hispanic and Asian Catholics joining the older generations of Texan Catholics, and the modern means of communicating the Gospel message will all be part of their experience,” he said. “In addition, they will enjoy the beauty of the physical grounds at the seminary’s location at 9845 Memorial Drive which lends itself to quiet reflection and serious study.”

And it is at that location where God continues to work in the lives of young men, bearing fruit for the faithful of the local Church as St. Mary’s Seminary celebrates its diamond anniversary.

“We have come a long way,” Father Nguyen said. “I am so proud of those who have come before us that have continued to make this a better place for formation.”

Father Cahill agrees. “The quality and number of seminarians is truly inspiring,” he said. “I believe the best days of St. Mary’s Seminary are right now.”