by Charles J. Healey, S.J.
Fr. Charles J. Healey, S.J. is a member of the Jesuit Community at Boston College and has been a member of the University Chorale for roughly 40 years. He is currently professor of systematic and spiritual theology at Blessed John XXIII Seminary and is presently writing a history of the Seminary as part of the observance of its 50th anniversary.
Boston College has recently completed a successful celebration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of its founding. It is well to note that there is another nearby institution celebrating its 50th anniversary this year that has a number of connections with Boston College. The institution is Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, MA, founded in 1964.
Richard Cardinal Cushing, the Archbishop of Boston from 1944 to 1970, announced in 1963: “I have decided with God’s help, with the approval of the Holy See and with the aid of generous benefactors to build that seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston as a National Seminary for older men, endowed with the necessary educational and spiritual qualities who have been called by God to His Holy Priesthood. Construction will begin before the end of this year.”
This new seminary in Weston would have a unique and novel mission. It was to be established for the training of older vocations, men called to the priesthood at an older age and thus coming to their seminary studies with much life experience. At that time there was no other seminary for this purpose in the United States, and in the world for that matter, with the exception of the Pontifical Beda Seminary in Rome, established by the bishops of England in 1898.
Archbishop (later Cardinal) Dino Staffa, Secretary of the Congregation of Seminaries, was present as the personal representative of Pope Paul VI for the formal dedication of the Seminary in Weston on September 5, 1964. In the presence of the rector/president, faculty, and many invited guests, Cardinal Cushing consecrated the chapel, dedicated the building, and formally opened the doors of the new building. One of the founding faculty members at this time was Fr. James W. DeAdder, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and a graduate of Boston College.
On September 7, 1964, forty-five men, between the ages of 28 and 58 and coming from all walks of life, reported to the Seminary to begin their priestly formation. Two came from as far away as Australia, and altogether 28 different dioceses were represented. Four years later, 23 of them were ordained to the priesthood. Cardinal Cushing ordained seventeen from this number in June1968 at St. Ignatius Church on the Boston College Campus. Since that historic beginning, over 600 priests have been ordained from the Seminary, representing some 150 dioceses and religious communities. Cardinal Cushing’s vision and dream have indeed become a reality.
A number of Jesuits from the BC Jesuit Community and others from Boston College have been affiliated with Blessed John XXIII Seminary over the course of its 50 years. I have been a professor of systematic and spiritual theology for close to 30 years, serving also as academic dean for fifteen of those years. Members of the BC theology department who later became full-time members of the seminary faculty include Frs. T. Frank Devine, S.J., William Leonard, S.J. and Paul Gilmartin, S.J., as well as former administrator, Fr. George Drury, S.J. Other full-time members of the seminary faculty with Boston College connections were Fr. Leo Manglaviti, S.J. and Fr. John Moriarty, S.J. Fr. Ronald Tacelli, S.J. of the philosophy department at BC is currently an adjunct professor in the Seminary’s pre-theology program, and Professor Peter Kreeft also taught for a period in that program. Two long time professors who taught as adjunct professors after their retirement from BC were Frs. Frederick Moriarty, S.J. and John Willis, S.J.
Boston College faculty members who served as members of the Seminary’s Board of Trustees include Dr. Mary Griffin, former dean of the School of Education, and Fr. Matthew Lamb and Fr. Robert Imbelli, former members of the theology department. Among the number of BC graduates who studied for the priesthood at the Seminary is Fr. Nicholas Sannella, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and a longtime member of the Board of Trustees of Boston College.
As Blessed John XXIII National Seminary currently observes the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1964, it is fitting to note its many connections with Boston College. It is also fitting that during this anniversary year, the Seminary’s patron, Pope John XXIII, will be canonized in Rome during Easter Week of this year.