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A historic day in the life of the Seminary at the Athenaeum

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The skies may have been leaden, but the light of what Archbishop Dennis Schnurr called an “historic event” shined bright on those gathered under a tent on in the Marian Courtyard of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West Nov. 2 as ground was broken for a new residence building.

The $11.5 million Fenwick Hall will take 16 months to complete and comes as the Archbishop said the seminary is facing the same challenge it faced 100 years ago, “We’re growing so we’re building,” he said to the crowd of lay, clergy, faculty and seminarians gathered in the plaza adjacent the 88-year-old main structure of the seminary. “The addition of this new building is a landmark moment in the long history of our seminary and for the more than 450,000 Catholics in southwest Ohio,” The Archbishop said. “The new building is an expression of our gratitude to God for hearing our prayers for an increase of vocations and guiding us to a future of hope.”

The new four-story addition will also include two classroom/conference rooms, a kitchen and lodging for overnight guests, including the men in the permanent diaconate formation program. A full basement will provide storage for seminarians’ belongings when they vacate their rooms at the end of the academic year. The seminarians’ rooms can then be used by retreat and summer program guests.

Individual rooms will not be elaborate but will be livable, much like a hotel room. This design maximizes the number of rooms in the building. “We’re being very careful with the money that people entrust to us for this project,” Athenaeum Vice-President for Finance Dennis Eagan said.

“This new building looks to the future and it is a sign that we take the Lord at His word and that the Lord is generous to those who believe in Him,” said Father Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh, Rector of the seminary. “We have 82 seminarians here at Mount St. Mary’s today, from many diocese and many parts of the world: eighty-two grace-filled, honorable, courageous men, answering a call and trusting in the Lord. Eighty-two seminarians is the biggest number here in over 30 years.”

“But we all know that 82 aren’t enough and we believe that more men are called and that more will answer that call,” he said.

As local television cameras recorded the event, representatives of Watson Architects Inc. turned the soil in the Marian Courtyard on the west end of the main seminary building with the Archbishop, Father O’Cinnsealaigh, Vice-Rector Father Anthony Brausch, Archdiocesan Vocations Director Father Dan Schmidtmeyer and the Athenaeum’s many benefactors were joined by Bishop Daniel Thomas of the Diocese of Toledo. The Toledo Diocese is one of many in the region that send seminarians to the Cincinnati facility and there are several attending from other countries.

Father O’Cinnsealaigh told the gathering the building signals faith in the future: “It’s about vision, trust, courage and most of all faith. A priest in every parish, school, hospital, that’s the vision and the goal. The proclamation of the gospel, the teaching of the faith, the celebration of the sacraments, the building up of the Kingdom, the vision and grace of Christ sown in every heart, that the mission. Settling, adequate, average, mediocrity, these words are not in our vocabulary, nor in our nature, nor in our character, and so we are building with faith and hope and we are building with confidence,” he said.

In addition to a prayer of blessing from the Archbishop, the Mount St. Mary’s Seminary Latin Schola choir group sang “O Blessed are the Poor in Spirit,” and “Salve Regina.”

The new building is named after Edward Dominic Fenwick who was consecrated as the first Bishop of the new Diocese of Cincinnati in 1822. He went to Europe in 1823 to raise funding for the new diocese and returned in 1826 with resources to begin the construction of the cathedral, parochial schools, and to found convents. In 1829 Bishop Fenwick established the St. Francis Xavier Seminary. This was the third oldest Catholic seminary in the United States and the oldest Catholic seminary west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Athenaeum of Ohio-Mount St. Mary Seminary claims its roots through the St. Francis Xavier Seminary and is located in Cincinnati.

Gallery of Groundbreaking at the Athenaeum of Ohio, November 2, 2017

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