Athenaeum of Ohio to Expand
New building needed to house growing numbers of future priests
Groundbreaking Nov. 2 at 88-year-old Mt. Washington campus
By Colleen Kammer (from our print edition)
Groundbreaking ceremonies for a major expansion of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West will take place Nov. 2 at the Mount Washington institution as increased enrollment and projections of continuing growth placed demand on the 88-year-old structure.
The building has been frequently renovated to meet the needs of the dynamic vocations scene in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The 2017-2018 class at the seminary boasts 82 men but the facility currently can house only 76.
As a result, the Athenaeum of Ohio’s leadership team embarked on the expansion project. The new facility will provide lodging for an additional 32 seminarians and it will serve multiple other needs as well, according to Rector, Father Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh.
The Athenaeum boasts major renovations, a healthy endowment, increasing enrollment, no deferred maintenance costs and no debt – all of this without access to government fund. Other institutions come to find out why, Father O’Cinnsealaigh said.“What is the answer to all of this? God is the number one answer,” he said, “plus good management that carries out the vision.”
“Organizations are not successful because they are lucky” said Dennis Eagan, vice president for finance and administration. “Leadership, management and the generosity of the people must come together at the same time. We have been blessed in that way.”
“We’ve engaged in very serious, long-range planning that began more than six years ago,” Athenaeum Board Member Mike Conaton said. “Every aspect of the operation came into play.” He said the board studied enrollment projections to ensure that the number of students that they are preparing for is sustainable.
Mount St. Mary’s Seminary enrollment has more than doubled in the past six years.
Conaton credited this to Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr’s committed involvement and his request to Catholics to pray for vocations, plus Father O’Cinnsealaigh’s emphasis on recruitment inside and outside the archdiocese. The people’s combined efforts throughout the Archdiocese, from active recruitment to prayer and adoration, have gained the favor of God, he said.
“It’s a tremendously positive thing for our Church to have 82 men who are very committed to Catholicism,” Archbishop Schnurr said. “They go into parishes and schools and share their faith with the people. That is a great blessing that we have here.”
The formation leadership team determined that 90-120 students are best for optimal formation at this seminary.
Along with that is the importance of seminarians and priest faculty members living together under the same roof, as opposed to commuting to and from the campus. Students learn about the priesthood from the witness of the priests living in community with them, and priests observe students’ application of classroom knowledge in all aspects of the students’ lives.
The Athenaeum is regarded as the epicenter for Catholic formation in the archdiocese. Conaton said the institution engages the archdiocese in evangelization by hosting convocations, speakers, high school retreats, etc. Some of those activities have been suspended in recent years due to lack of space.
The new four-story addition, which will take approximately 16 months to complete, will 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,” Eagan said.
Moving forward, the Athenaeum seeks to preserve a religious legacy. “We think about the people who built this place a year before the Great Depression and those who financed it,” Eagan said. “We look to generations of people before us who viewed this
institution as a way they could spread the Gospel, to provide for their children and grandchildren and to perpetuate the faith. We’re just building upon the good things that started long before us.”
The people of the archdiocese believe in the Athenaeum and they commit their resources to continue its mission of forming Church leaders. “My parents couldn’t have afforded to send me to the seminary. The priesthood is really maintained because of the generosity of the Catholic people who make it possible for the men to answer that call,” Father O’Cinnsealaigh said.
For more information about the archdiocese’s seminary, visit Athenaeum.edu.