SHST sees near-record enrollment

SHST faculty and staff for the 2010-2011 school year.

Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis., is seeing its largest group of incoming seminarians in 20 years.

Forty new seminarians have been admitted to the school, approaching the all-time record of 42 new students set in 1990. The average over the last 10 years has been 21 fall entrants.

As the seminary builds its track record of strong academic, human, spiritual, and pastoral formation, it has added five new sponsoring dioceses and religious orders, notes Fr. Jan de Jong, SCJ, SHST president-rector.

“With God’s guiding hand, our graduates shine in their ministry. In this way, He has allowed us to develop a strong national reputation,” Fr. Jan said.

The increase follows the enrollment of nine new seminarians last January, the highest mid-year enrollment since 1996.

“Our alumni make an extremely powerful statement about the quality of our formation program. They come out of Sacred Heart with deep faith and love for the Church, a solid knowledge of theology and the teaching of the Church, healthy attitudes, and pastoral skills that allow them to offer meaningful ministry in parishes across North America,” said Fr. Jan.

The seminary will have about 110 seminarians for the fall semester, plus students in the ESL (English as a Second Language), and 15 non-seminarians in the Master of Arts Program.

The 40 new seminarians include seven from the Milwaukee Archdiocese. They live and receive most of their formation programs at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in St. Francis while taking classes at Sacred Heart.

Many of SHST’s sponsoring dioceses and religious communities have seen growing numbers of men expressing an interest in priesthood.

Some have suggested that recent economic crisis has helped to contribute to the increase in seminarians.  It’s not that men look at the priesthood as a new job opportunity; however “we have some new students who experienced a career upheaval that, in turn, gave them some insight as to where their true calling lies,” said Fr. Tom Knoebel, SHST’s director of recruitment.

“At the same time, we’ve made a concerted effort, through advertising in sponsoring dioceses’ newspapers, to raise awareness of the possibility of vocations for older men,” Fr. Tom added.

Sacred Heart is the largest Catholic seminary in the United States with a focus on men over 30. The average age of its seminarians is 43. Most of the seminarians live at the school. Those whose sponsors have formation houses in the Milwaukee area often commute to Sacred Heart for classes and other formation activities.

Sacred Heart School of Theology  is an apostolate of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. For more information on the seminary, visit its website by clicking here.