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New School Year, New Seminary

Seminarians prepare a bonfire on the grounds of Saint Joseph Seminary College. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Saint Joseph Seminary College

By Margaret E. Hynes | Photo Courtesy of Saint Joseph Seminary College

New School Year, New Seminary

Located on River Road in Saint Benedict, Louisiana, sits Saint Joseph Seminary College. The grounds are dotted with mirrored lakes and gravel roads, and enveloped in opulent greenery. The students there are surrounded by a beauty that beckons them to reflection and prayer.

This idyllic sanctuary is now a home away from home for young men discerning priesthood from the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

“We are inviting these young men to be self-aware at seminary. We are inviting them into a process of growth and growing up that their peers aren’t experiencing. They have 1,200 acres at Saint Joseph’s, situated in a Louisiana forest. It’s on massive grounds. It’s quiet so the seminarians can feel like they’re detached and really learn about themselves, but they’re still 45 minutes from New Orleans. They’re also five minutes from a Walgreens,” said Father Chuck Dornquast, Director of Vocations, Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Saint Joseph Seminary College not only offers a stunning campus, but also an enriching program that is customized for the different stages of a young man’s development.

“At Saint Joseph’s, they’ve got a well-structured program of formation when it comes to walking with our seminarians. It is like a normal college experience (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior), and each year, Saint Joseph’s has conferences specific to that year, recognizing that a freshman right out of high school is going to be in a very different place from a senior whose been in seminary for three years. They’re dealing with different questions,” said Father Chuck.

The curriculum fosters intellectual enrichment as well as physical, mental and spiritual health

“The seminary has full-time personal trainers so that they learn good and healthy habits. There is a fulltime on-staff psychologist, recognizing that more of our young people are growing up in households or in dynamics that are incredibly broken and that they carry that brokenness,” said Father Chuck.

In the past, college seminarians from the Diocese of Saint Petersburg have attended Saint John Vianney Seminary located in Miami.

But Bishop Gregory Parkes felt that this was a good, new direction for our seminarians.

“I made the decision to send our seminarians to St. Joseph Seminary because of the tradition and excellent reputation that they enjoy in preparing men for priesthood.  I have a high degree of confidence in the faculty and staff there who are assisting our seminarians to grow spiritually, academically, and in all aspects of life.  While I haven’t personally had the opportunity to visit the seminary yet, I look forward to doing so in the near future,” said Bishop Parkes.