St. Joseph Seminary has largest enrollment in 35 years
St. Joseph Seminary College kicked off the new school year with its largest enrollment in 35 years.
The 121 students enrolled in the seminary college north of Covington marked their first day of class by gathering at the St. Joseph Abbey Church on Aug. 26 for the Mass of the Holy Spirit, with Benedictine Abbot Justin Brown offering prayers for a blessed school year.
“It was impressive to see so many seminarians,” said Benedictine Father Gregory Boquet, president-rector.
He said he was “excited” about the burgeoning enrollment. Just two or three years ago, enrollment was at 83.
How does he explain the growth? He gives three reasons. First, the seminarians who come are staying.
“The quality has gone up,” Father Boquet said, giving credit to dioceses for doing a better job of recruiting men for the priesthood. And, he added, the best recruiters are the seminarians themselves, who tell their friends about their experiences at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College.
The second reason, Father Boquet said, is the broader reach. “We are pulling from outside the region,” he said.
The majority of seminarians are not from New Orleans. For instance, 20 or more are from the Diocese of Lafayette and many are from dioceses in Texas, Father Boquet said. The seminary serves approximately 20 dioceses across the country.
Finally, Father Boquet credits the quality of the seminary program with attracting an increasingly large enrollment.
“Over the years,” he said, “we have maintained a consistent, quality program of formation.” Dioceses feel they can “entrust their seminarians to us.”
Father Boquet said he feels a growing sense of commitment from dioceses, who know that the seminary offers “a quality product.”
A growing student body brings about some challenges as far as physical space, Boquet said. “We have to house some of the men in the monastery,” he said, because the seminary housing maxes out at 105.
Renovations to the seminary housing will eventually make room for 146 students.
“It is being built to meet the needs of seminarians of varying ages,” Boquet said, noting that they get young men from right out of high school to those embarking upon second careers. The private rooms with private baths will be especially appealing to the older seminarians, he said.
The overall atmosphere of St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College appeals to all ages. “As Bishop (Robert) Muench said, you don’t find a place like this around the corner,” he said. “It is a unique environment.”
“With the assistance of Archbishop (Gregory) Aymond,” Father Boquet said, “we will continue enhancing what we have as we continue to grow.”
Father Boquet said the public is invited to come meet the seminarians and support the Seminary College during the Deo Gratias fund-raiser on Oct. 26 on the grounds of St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College. For more information, visit the website at www.sjasc.edu.