Saint Augustin stands at the entrance of the chapel at the Grand Séminaire de Montréal on Wednesday March 15, 2017 during the open house for the media.
Montreal’s Grand Séminaire at 2065 Sherbrooke St. W. in 2010.
Montreal’s Grand Séminaire, which has been educating young men for the priesthood in a historic building on Sherbrooke St. W. since 1857, is downsizing.
“The building has become too difficult to maintain physically and financially,” Christian Lépine, the archbishop of Montreal, said Wednesday. “When the seminarians return to their studies in August, they will be living on Boyer St. in a building that was previously occupied by a religious community.”
The building, at 6929 Boyer, at the corner of Bélanger St. in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, was the former convent of the Soeurs des Saints Noms de Jésus et de Marie.
A steady decline in the number of candidates for the priesthood led to a search for a smaller residence. When La Compagnie des Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice de Montréal, commonly known as the Sulpicians, opened the seminary, there was room for 200 candidates. In the 1950s, there were as many as 318 students with 75 young men being ordained as priests annually.
“There has been a decline in vocations over the past 20 years,” said Lepine. “There will be 16 seminarians moving into the new building along with personnel.”
The Sulpicians will continue to oversee the formation of future priests, but the administration will pass to the Archdiocese of Montreal, as is the case in most dioceses where the Sulpicians operate seminaries. A new Corporation du Grand Séminaire de l’Archidiocèse de Montréal, under the authority of the Archbishop of Montreal, has been established. The academic formation of seminarians, while remaining under the responsibility of the current teachers of the Grand Séminaire, will now be provided in partnership with the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences of Université Laval, providing seminary education in a collaborative setting. This new location is the result of a collaborative effort among the Grand Séminaire de Montréal, the Fondation du Grand Séminaire de Montréal, the Œuvre des Vocations du Diocèse de Montréal and the Diocesan Priesthood Guild, which creates new pastoral momentum.
“This move to an urban neighbourhood will help to develop synergy between the key elements of seminary formation: a deeper grounding in Christ, in community life and in missionary outreach,” explained Lépine. “This new seminary building, which can accommodate up to 20 seminarians, will be conducive to learning how to live together and to work as a team, all the while being in contact with local parishes.”
There are currently 400 active priests in the archdiocese but Lépine said only 200 of those are Montreal natives.
“We have a large number of foreign-born priests,” said Lépine. “In some cases, there are immigrants who have a priest in their family and they get permission from their bishops to come here for a number of years. In other cases, we have priests who have been displaced by war or other unrest.
The building on Sherbrooke St., whose fieldstone towers date back to the original Sulpician mission in the 17th century, will continue to house classrooms and administrative offices. One-third of the building is occupied by Centennial Academy, a private school for students who have learning difficulties.
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