Charlotte Catholic diocese starting seminary for college-age men who want to be priests

Published: Mar. 19, 2016 at 3:35 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 18, 2016 at 3:35 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (Tim Funk/The Charlotte Observer) - The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte plans to start a seminary this fall for college-age men who feel a vocation to the priesthood.

St. Joseph College Seminary will open in September in temporary facilities near St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte. Nine men will live there together in community and prayer while they attend classes at Belmont Abbey College.

St. Joseph College Seminary, set to open in Charlotte this fall, will have a shield or coat of arms. "Noli Timere" is Latin for "Do note be afraid," which the angel told Joseph in the Bible story about his impending marriage to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The lion on the shield also represents St. Joseph.Courtesy of the Diocese of Charlotte.

Diocese spokesman David Hains said a $7.5 million building to permanently house the seminary will be built on or near the Belmont Abbey campus in Gaston County. A fundraising campaign has already raised $4 million, much of it coming from outside the diocese, Hains said. The completed building will be able to house up to 20 men.

A college seminary, also called a "minor" seminary, is for men who are considering the priesthood but who are only 18 to 22 years old. After graduating with a philosophy degree from Belmont Abbey, they will then need to go on to what's called a "major" seminary to study theology and receive more specific priestly formation. Only when they complete this four years of post-graduate work can they be ordained.

Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis' decision to establish the seminary comes at a time, Hains said, when "there's a recognition from the (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) that vocations need to be identified earlier."

While they are students at Belmont Abbey, the men of St. Joseph Seminary will live together, apart from other students, following a "rule of life" that will include daily Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary, spiritual direction and conferences.

"They will live the seminary life while they get their college education," said Hains.

Living with the men, as rector, will be the Rev. Matthew Kauth, who will leave his current post as chaplain at Charlotte Catholic High School.

Jugis, who has made promoting priestly vocations a priority, said having a college seminary in Charlotte will benefit young men who already live here.

"It's a good opportunity for our young men to discern a vocation close to home rather than be sent several states away to a seminary," he said. "Here, they'll be close to their family, and their bishop, and the priests who have already been nurturing their vocations. Having that ongoing support ... is important."