The 1927 buildings of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, vacant since May 2013 for an extensive systems and mechanical remodel, have come back to life with the completion of renovations and the start of a new academic year this week.
Improvements totaling $9 million included replacing antiquated plumbing, electrical and heating systems; installing new energy-efficient windows, and adding air conditioning and a sprinkler system.
“I’m so grateful for the donors who had a sense of stewardship for this great facility we have,” said Father Scott Traynor, installed as rector Dec. 12, 2013. “The infrastructure desperately needed to be replaced and now it’s in great shape for the next 70 years.”
On Aug. 17, 87 men from 14 dioceses reported to SJV on the campus of the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in south Denver. The campus is also home to Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary that has some 30 men in formation. The seminaries share buildings and resources.
“Our seminary has a proud history,” Father Traynor said. “It’s an outstanding program of formation, it’s an outstanding education in philosophy and theology, and we have outstanding men.”
The upgraded buildings will accommodate anticipated growth.
“We want to grow to about 125 men,” Father Traynor said. “That’s the sweet spot for us where we don’t have to build extra buildings or hire extra staff, but we can maximally use the resources we have here.”
Father Traynor was encouraged by the record number of men entering SJV this year, 27. Their first year, deemed a Spirituality Year, is a component unique to Denver’s formation.
“It’s an essential year for rooting guys in a life of prayer, a real foundation in Scripture, basic teachings of the Church from the catechism, and spiritual classes of our Catholic faith,” he said. “To have six more years of formation after that to build on … there’s just no seminary in the country that has a greater foundation.”
Father Traynor described each seminarian as a “mini miracle.”
“A guy doesn’t just end up in the seminary by accident in our day and culture,” he said. “He’s had an experience with God that stirred something in his heart to pursue priestly formation. … I consider that a miracle; unexpected and beautiful.”
The new rector plans to open the academic year with a message of adventure.
“Much more than a date for ordination, as important as that is … I want to offer the guys the adventure of pursuing sainthood and holiness,” he said. “(That) God is calling you today to live a life of holiness, to receive his love, and to love him, and to love the people around you.”
He hopes the launch of a new initiative, that will involve a modified weekly schedule, will help them reach that goal. This year the five-day academic week will change to four days of classroom instruction (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday), with two days (Wednesday and Sunday) designated for formation and apostolate in the field.
“This program will really equip the men with the tools they need to bring the power of our faith to people in useful ways in their daily lives,” Father Traynor said.
The two days will be spent serving in parishes, hospitals, prisons, schools, shelters and other Catholic organizations.
“We are well positioned to really form priests in a unique way for the new evangelization,” he continued. “I couldn’t be more excited.”
For more about SJV, visit their new website at www.sjvdenver.edu.
A New Harvest update
What: Campaign to support seminaries
Goal: $35 million ($9 million capital repairs, $26 million endowment)
Pledged: $42 million
Collected: $20 million
Contact: The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado
Call: Hal Goldwire at 303-867-0614
Mail: Gifts for a New Harvest, P.O. Box 8478, Pueblo, CO 81008-8478