Due largely to the addition of seven new sponsors, 30 new seminarians began the priestly formation program at Sacred Heart School of Theology this fall, well above the historical average of 21, and up from 19 in the fall of 2011.
Sacred Heart’s reputation with bishops has improved in recent years, according to Fr. Tom Knoebel, SHST vice rector and director of recruitment, thanks to the endorsement of existing sponsors, the addition of several strong faculty members, and objective affirmation from an apostolic visitation team and accrediting agencies.
Sponsors are dioceses or religious orders who accept men for future priestly ministry. Sponsors generally pay most or all of their seminarian’s tuition, and decide which seminary will provide the formation program for each man. The seven new sponsors account for nine of the 30 new seminarians. Sacred Heart now has 34 sponsors.
The Very Rev. Msgr. Ross A. Shecterle, president-rector of Sacred Heart, said “I’m grateful to be in a position to build on the hard work of those who have enhanced the seminary’s programs over the past several years. The addition of seven new sponsors is a significant affirmation of their skill and dedication.” Msgr. Shecterle became the seminary’s 19th rector on July 1 of this year.
With the additional students, seminary enrollment stands at 100. Overall, the school currently has about 152 students, including those in its Master of Arts Program, those in its English-as-a-Second-Language Program, and non-degree students.
New sponsors sending seminarians to Sacred Heart this fall for the first time, or after a long hiatus, are the dioceses of: Rapid City, S.D.; Salina, Kan.; Tulsa, Okla.; Stockton, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; and Tucson, Ariz.; and the Benedictine Monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey.
The new students range in age from 22 to 61, with an average age of 38, continuing a younger trend of several years. Fully half were born outside the United States.
Sacred Heart is North America’s largest Roman Catholic seminary specializing in priestly formation of men of all ages, with a special emphasis on seminarians over 30. Dioceses and religious orders across the United States and in Canada use Sacred Heart for the formation of their future priests.