End of an Era


It’s both surprising and sad that a prominent national seminary, our oldest abroad, with a distinguished history and many prominent alumni, can simply disappear. But such is the case. In June the American College of Louvain in Belgium will close its doors.

In one sense, though, it’s not a surprise. There were too few students even in my time more than twenty years ago, and there have been recurrent rumblings among the U.S. bishops for as long as I can remember. With the arrival of each fall newsletter, I was grimly amused by how succeeding rectors would attempt to make the few new matriculating seminarians sound like a lot. The favored approach was to speak of “the community,” which included philosophy students and priests in residence as well as actual seminarians. 

But in an official communiqué released this past November, there was no beating around the bush. The current rector, Msgr. Ross Shecterle, and the ACL board chair, Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, summed up the American bishops’ reasons for shutting the theologate: “small enrollment numbers; the significant challenges in peer formation in a small seminary; the shortage of priest faculty; and a small number of sending dioceses.” The bishops also cited “stewardship of priestly and financial resources considered from a more universal church perspective.” 

If the Louvain closure is understandable, it is also regrettable, not only because the seminary’s record of service will come...

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About the Author

Timothy P. Schilling, studied theology at the Catholic University of Leuven and earned a doctorate in practical theology at the Catholic Theological University of Utrecht. Since 2003 he has served on the staff of the Center for Parish Spirituality, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.