Conception Seminary has record enrollment

by Jarrod Thome

CONCEPTION, Mo. — If you turn on the news today, most likely you’ll be inundated with reports of rising prices, economic turmoil, and distillations of fiscal policy discussions from the most recent political debates.

Amid this constant barrage, it’s good to remind ourselves that the U.S. and world economy is a bit different from the “economy of salvation” — God’s plan for our redemption accomplished through the church.

With that in mind, here is some breaking news that you might actually want to hear: A record enrollment at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., bodes well for the economy (of salvation).

Why? Because an increase in future priests means that the message of the Gospel will reach more people, and the people who are already receiving it will receive it more effectively.

With 108 young men on the path to the priesthood at Conception Seminary College — including four seminarians from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas — and nine young monks in formation for Conception Abbey, it appears that the Holy Spirit is at work in answering the prayers of Catholics for vocations.

On a broader level, Conception may very well be a bellwether of the times to come, ringing in the dawn of Pope John Paul II’s “springtime of the church.”

In any case, it is plain to see that this auspicious beginning of the 2008-09 academic year can only mean good things for the future. What does this growth look like, though, in the specific context of a bustling seminary or a vibrant religious community?

Thanks to an 88 percent increase in enrollment since 1996, Conception Seminary College can call itself one of the largest free-standing college seminaries in the nation. To accommodate this growth, renovations to St. Maur Hall, the main seminary administration and classroom building, were completed in 2005.

Today, the seminarians, faculty and staff are putting the building to good use. A typical schedule for a seminarian finds him in the Holy Cross Oratory — the seminary chapel —at 7 a.m. for the office of readings and morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.

From then on, the day is packed with classes, Mass, student committee meetings, wellness activities, formation conferences, and/or reflection groups depending on the day. Things finally start winding down with 5:50 p.m. evening prayer and the subsequent evening meal.

As you can see, the young men in priestly formation at Conception really do have a demanding schedule. But the stretching this causes them to do is nothing more than the growing pains associated with drawing closer to God on the path to the priesthood.

And as far as growing pains are concerned, they’re not the only ones going through them. Due to this blessing of increased vocations, the seminary itself must grow in order to meet the increased demands of more and more young men discerning priestly formation.

This is something Conception Seminary College has done time and time again over the course of its history, as evidenced through initiatives such as program for deacon formation and for pre-theology. The seminary also offers the Language, Culture, and Church program, which this past summer was offered specifically for international priests.

As numbers grow, the facilities, faculty and staff are stretched and strained to their limits, but nothing is uncomfortable yet.

When asked about the possibility of even further growth, Father Samuel, president-rector of the seminary, said, “If enrollment does continue to increase significantly, we’ll have housing, classrooms and additional teachers to worry about — a happy problem, but a challenge nonetheless.”

With the continued prayerful support of the Catholic community, Conception Seminary will continue to face its challenges and, with God’s grace, see them to a joyous resolution.

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