Who We Are
Saint Vincent Seminary is the fourth oldest Roman Catholic Seminary in the United States. It has its canonical foundation in the papal bull Inter ceteras (1855), issued by Pope Pius IX, but its actual origins go back to the vision of a single Benedictine monk from Bavaria, Boniface Wimmer (1809-1887).
Sebastian Wimmer had been a priest of the Diocese of Regensburg, Bavaria, before discerning a calling to monastic life. Upon entering the Benedictine abbey of Saint Michael in Metten, Bavaria, Sebastian received the religious name Boniface. This bears some significance as Wimmer felt an affinity with Saint Boniface, the eighth-century English Benedictine who converted the pagan Germans to Christianity. As a monk, Wimmer was concerned for the pastoral care of German Catholics in America. From reports he had read, German Catholics in the U.S. lacked priests to minister to them in their native language; in many cases, they lacked any priest at all. Father Boniface sought and received permission from his abbot to go to America to serve those German Catholics whose spiritual plight had so moved him.
In 1846, Wimmer, with a company of eighteen young postulants, arrived in western Pennsylvania in response to an invitation the bishop of Pittsburgh had extended to him to work in that diocese. Father Boniface and his confreres settled at the parish of Saint Vincent de Paul, which was founded in 1790 and is near what is now the City of Latrobe. On that site, he established a monastic community, the center of his vision as a missionary.
To prepare monks for ordination, Wimmer planned for a seminary and a college. The college would provide the monks with requisitetheir seminary courses in theology, specifically studies in Latin and philosophy.
The college would provide the monks with requisite basics for their seminary courses in theology, specifically studies in Latin and philosophy. From almost the first year, however, Father Boniface found he needed to modify his plan, which continues to be the case to this day; that is, the need for flexibility on the part of today’s “missionaries.”
Wimmer faced three main challenges. First, while he encountered many Catholics, there were fewer German Catholic immigrants than he had believed. Secondly, some local men had hoped to study in the college but not pursue holy orders or enter into monastic life. Thirdly, the bishop of Pittsburgh asked to send his diocesan candidates for priesthood to Saint Vincent to study theology. Although these needs challenged the scarce resources of the new arrivals, Father Boniface adapted his plan to meet the needs of English-speaking Catholics (mostly Irish). He further developed a college curriculum broad enough for secular students without compromising the dynamics of a major seminary composed of diocesan and monastic seminarians. Throughout his decades as superior and then Abbot (later Archabbot) of the monastic community at Saint Vincent, Wimmer saw this pattern repeat itself. Other bishops began sending their seminarians to Saint Vincent, and more men seeking a liberal arts education without the obligations of monastic vows or priestly ordination applied to the college.
Seminary adaptations after Archabbot Boniface were in line with the trajectory he had set. Throughout its history Saint Vincent Seminary has had to address the changing cultural and pastoral needs of the lay faithful served by priests ordained from the Seminary. When Boniface Wimmer arrived in western Pennsylvania, he found more Catholics who spoke English than German. He therefore directed that seminarians studying at Saint Vincent should be proficient in both English and German. As such, they could preach and minister to parishioners of both languages. This pastoral adaptation echoed in the early twentieth century when waves of immigration from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire brought Catholics who spoke Slavic languages. Since the majority of ethnic parishes staffed by men who had studied at Saint Vincent were Slovak, the Seminary began to offer classes in that language. As Slovak-speaking Catholics assimilated into American culture and began to use English as their first language, the need for Slovak classes in the Seminary declined and in time disappeared.
Our current programs for Hispanic Ministries and English as a Second Language seek to meet the contemporary needs of a changing Church in the United States, just as offering seminarians courses in German, English, and Slovak did in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During its long history, Saint Vincent Seminary has met various challenges and has learned to change and respond to the needs of the Church.
The challenges posed by Catholic seminary education in the twenty-first century reflect in many ways those faced by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer in the early days of the Seminary. Although the situation of the Catholic Church in the United States is much different now than it was in Wimmer’s time, fundamental principles such as the discernment of the students’ needs, adaptation to address those needs, and fidelity to the universal Church, remain constant.His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze gave a series of lectures at Saint Vincent Archabbey, Seminary, and College on April 17 and 18, 2013, and also celebrated Mass with Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., and members of the Saint Vincent Community. The lectures were part of the Archabbey Year of Faith Lecture Series and the topic was Vatican II.
The faculty, staff, and students of the Seminary realize that as history marches on and diverse cultures come together in new ways, many of the same questions arise. As a community of faith, we seek mutually enriching ways of sounding the depths of the unchanging message of the Gospel. Just as the pioneer professors and administrators of the Seminary sought to provide for the needs of a bilingual Catholic population so also today the members of the Seminary faculty face a similar task as they prepare prieststo serve both English speaking Catholics and the growing population of people from Hispanic, Asian, Africa, and Eastern Europe cultures.
Moreover, while the first generations of students at Saint Vincent Seminary largely consisted of men of a very young age, at present, the students completing their work here span a wide age range. Many are well into their adult years by the time they come to the Seminary and the present day faculty adjusts its approach to instruction and training in order to accommodate both the needs and the valuable real-world experiences of the student body.
At the same time, unlike most candidates in the early years of the Seminary who had already completed a high school seminary curriculum before pursuing more advanced seminary formation, seminarians today often begin their studies with notable gaps in their basic knowledge of the faith and without a familiarity of the rich history of the Church. To address this challenge, the faculty at Saint Vincent Seminary designed a pre-theology curriculum—consistent with the requirements of the Program of Priestly Formation—that provides the necessary intellectual, spiritual, pastoral, and human bases upon which the Seminary builds its successful priestly formation curriculum. At a time when priesthood retention has become a major concern, our records indicate that 96.5 percent of the men ordained from our program since 1989 are still in active priestly ministry. However different America in the twenty-first century is from America in the nineteenth century, Saint Vincent Seminary strives to preserve its heritage of innovation amidst unchanging ideals.
Saint Vincent Seminary shares its campus with a coeducational liberal arts college, a parish, and a monastic community of more than 150 Benedictines. The Archabbey, Seminary and College were founded in 1846 by Boniface Wimmer, and to the present-day, all continue to embody the ideals and character of Wimmer, as well as the tradition of a 1,500-year-old Benedictine heritage.
Located just outside of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, nearly every east-facing window on campus affords a view of Chestnut Ridge. Within a 60 minute drive to the west is the city of Pittsburgh and its museums, sports teams and restaurants, and within 30 minutes to an hour to points east, south and north are the Forbes State Forest, hiking and biking trails such as the Youghiogheny River Trail, the West Penn Trail and the Ghost Town Trail, state parks such as Ohiopyle, county parks such as Twin Lakes and Mammoth Park, Seven Springs and Hidden Valley ski resorts and other recreational opportunities in the Laurel Highlands.
Since the mid-1990s, Saint Vincent Seminary has instituted programs to expand and upgrade classrooms, offices, facilities and living space, and continues to plan for future upgrades. Additionally, seminarians benefit from campus-wide renovations and facilities such as the Conference Center at Saint Vincent College, located in the Fred M. Rogers Center; more than a mile and a half of nature trails at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve; a coffeehouse at Saint Vincent Gristmill; swimming pool; the Latimer Family Library and more.
An expansion completed in 1997 saw the dedication of the Elizabeth J. Roderick Center and Saint Gregory Chapel. That expansion and renovation provided additional student rooms, and more faculty and administrative offices, as well as a reception area and conference room. In 2004, the late Annette and John H. Brownfield funded renovation of the Brownfield Center, the Seminary classroom building. That enabled each classroom to receive wireless internet access, computers, projectors and other equipment, technology that facilitates teaching and learning utilizing the most effective tools available. The centerpiece of the renovation was the construction of a teaching chapel, a hybrid of a classroom and a chapel that includes a sanctuary, altar, presider’s chair and pulpit much like a typical chapel. It also includes desks and chairs like a typical classroom. The teaching chapel contains video equipment to enable taping of students as they progress in training.
In more recent years new furnishings were provided in all of the Leander Hall dormitory rooms, and the Seminary dining hall has been refurbished. Planning is ongoing to continue to keep Seminary facilities current. While clearly separate living quarters, classroom areas, and dining rooms support a necessary sense of distinct identity for the Seminary student body, some mutually interactive space with the monastery and easy access to the common library, sports facilities, and other parts of the campus preclude any sense of isolation. For more about life on campus visit this link.
Degrees and Accreditations
Saint Vincent Seminary
Accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the
Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada
and the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association.
The following degree programs are approved:
Master of Divinity (M.Div.)
Master of Arts Degrees (M.A.): Theology, Sacred Scripture, Monastic Studies, Ecclesial Ministry, and Catholic Philosophical Studies
Saint Vincent Seminary is also accredited by the Vatican Congregation for Education in affiliation with the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’ Anselmo, Rome, Italy to offer the:
Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.)
The Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada
10 Summit Park Drive
The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association
3624 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-2680
Educational and Vocational Effectiveness Statement
Saint Vincent Seminary is a Roman Catholic Seminary which provides education and formation for candidates for the Catholic Priesthood. We have developed a variety of direct and indirect assessment measures to evaluate the extent to which our students are achieving the outcomes described in our Saint Vincent Seminary Bulletin for the various degrees and programs they are pursuing. It is to be noted that the failure to meet academic standards is only rarely a determining factor among those who do not continue beyond the Pre-Theology Program and those who withdraw from Seminary formation. Faculty and Administration regularly review the data in ongoing assessment of the educational effectiveness of the Seminary, as well as to measure the success and timely completion of students in its degree programs.
Critical to an accurate evaluation of any institution’s Educational and Vocational Effectiveness is consideration of its mission. The mission of a Roman Catholic Seminary is always twofold – namely, it is first of all a place of vocational discernment to the Roman Catholic Priesthood, and, secondly, it is an academic institution charged with the appropriate education and formation of those who discern a priestly vocation. Discernment of this vocation continues in both an active and passive manner throughout the student’s years in the seminary. This means that each student is both being formed and informed. Each student is also being evaluated, not only on the basis of his academics, but also on his human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation – the so-called, “four dimensions” of formation. For this reason, a student who matriculates into a seminary could potentially have the academic ability to perform well and succeed, but, if it is discerned by him or his formation directors, in conjunction with his diocese or sponsor, that he does not have a true vocation to the priesthood, he would not be encouraged to continue in the program and would subsequently withdraw. Another reason for withdrawal is that seminarians are assigned to Roman Catholic seminaries by their sponsors (Bishops or Religious Superiors). It does happen that from time to time a bishop is changed, resigns, or dies, or might simply change his mind as to where he wants to send his seminarians, and so he withdraws his men from one seminary and sends them to another. All of these reasons account for the fact that in seminaries there tends to be a relatively high attrition rate when compared to regular colleges or universities. Because of this fact, when evaluating the educational and vocational effectiveness of a Seminary, one needs to look not only at the graduation percentages, but also at the vocational retention or perseverance rates after graduation. This rate is often more significant since it attests not only to the value of the academic achievements of the student, but also to the formation programs of the seminary, the vocational discernment, and the personal commitment of the graduates while they were in the seminary.
Notice of Non-Discrimination
Accordingly, nothing in this equal opportunity policy shall require Saint Vincent Seminary to act in a manner contrary to the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church. Nor shall the policy be construed as a waiver of constitutional or statutory rights which the Seminary enjoys as a religiously-affiliated institution. Nor does this policy abrogate the right of the Seminary to specify as a qualification for employment an individual’s willingness to fully embrace Saint Vincent Seminary’s mission as a Catholic, Benedictine institution.
300 Fraser Purchase Road
Latrobe PA 15650-2690
(724) 805-2324, and
300 Fraser Purchase Road
Latrobe PA 15650
The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and to serve as the overall campus coordinator for purposes of Title IX compliance:
300 Fraser Purchase Road