Fall Semester Opens With Full House, New Formation Year

Monday, October 17, 2022

Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology has a packed house this fall with new seminarian enrollment at its highest in almost 10 years.

Forty-three new seminarians began studies on August 29, bringing the seminary’s enrollment to 121 students. Last fall the school year opened with 100 students. (At this writing, four other students have yet to arrive, waiting on visas or a military discharge, which would bring the total to 125.)

“Our enrollment this year is very strong, representing a 25% increase over last year’s enrollment,” says Fr. Denis Robinson, president-rector of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. “They are very bright and enthusiastic men. The spirit in the house is very strong and very prayerful.”

The seminary community represents 24 dioceses and eight religious communities. New and returning dioceses include Fort Wayne-South Bend, Birmingham, Shreveport, St. Augustine, and Little Rock.

Of the 121 students, 35 were born in countries outside the United States. The seminary community represents 15 countries of origin, compared to last year’s 30 international seminarians representing 12 countries of origin.

“We are a very diverse group of people in the seminary,” says Fr. Denis. “This makes for a wonderful interaction in which all have something to learn about their brothers.”

This fall, the seminary is putting into place some new elements from the sixth edition of the Program of Priestly Formation, the U.S. bishops’ document that guides priesthood formation. One of the most significant changes was the addition of a propaedeutic year; this fall 10 seminarians are enrolled in the new program.

The propaedeutic year is a year of spiritual and human formation for seminarians who did not attend college seminary. It provides the opportunity for the students to learn the habits of prayer and other essential components of formation before beginning philosophy studies.

Traditionally, students who did not attend college seminary would begin with two years of philosophical studies. Now, that will be preceded by the propaedeutic year.

“In my estimation, this year only has benefits,” says Fr. Denis. “Spending a year in prayer, discernment and reflection enriches not only their lives, but also that of the whole seminary community. I believe their presence has made us more prayerful this year.”

The new school year also brings a couple of new appointments. Fr. Luke Waugh, OSB, is serving as the dean of the propaedeutic year. He will continue his work at St. Isidore Parish in Bristow, IN, as custodian of Monte Cassino Shrine, and in the Office of Pastoral Formation.

Fr. Kolbe Wolniakowski, OSB, is the spiritual director for the propaedeutic year seminarians. He will also continue his work as parochial vicar at St. Paul Parish in Tell City, IN.

In August, Nolan Snyder joined the Seminary and School of Theology’s music department as the music director. As music director, Nolan will serve the seminary community as organist, accompanist and conductor during liturgies.

Snyder will graduate from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance from the Jacobs School of Music in 2023. He has been involved with the “One Bread, One Cup” youth conferences for eight years. He was a participant for four years, an intern for three, and served as a catechist this past summer.

The Graduate Theology Program opened the fall semester with 72 students. There is one full-time student, 62 part-time, seven non-degree, and two audit students. Enrollment is down from last year’s 85 students.

The Continuing Formation Program is expanding the Parish Catechetical Leadership Institute to include a track tailored to Spanish speakers. The staff is collaborating with the dioceses of Evansville and Owensboro and hopes to expand to the archdioceses of Indianapolis and Louisville.

The Continuing Formation Program will also welcome a new cohort this spring for a certificate in spiritual direction.

In the Permanent Deacon Formation Program, 10 dioceses are enrolled in the program with 157 students. Saint Meinrad is also providing ongoing formation to 10 dioceses.

The program is being updated to meet the requirements for the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States of America, 2nd Edition. Changes are being made to existing courses to add new content that is now required by the updated Directory. A course that will be a comprehensive seminar is being added at the end of the program to enhance the deacon candidate’s integration of formation dimensions and to assess their readiness for ordination.

Saint Meinrad provides the intellectual formation for permanent deacon candidates. The spiritual, human and pastoral dimensions of formation are typically provided by the diocese, but some dioceses lack the resources to do so. The Permanent Deacon Formation Program is exploring ways to provide the spiritual, human, and pastoral dimensions of formation through recorded courses, live webinars or on-site instruction.