By Gia Myers
After 150 years at its current location and visitations by two popes, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary will move next summer from its Wynnewood campus to a newly constructed campus in Lower Gwynedd, for its 193rd academic year.
The seminary has an enrollment of 147 men, 14 of whom are from the Diocese of Allentown.
“St. Charles Borromeo Seminary has been a part of the formation of our priests, even before we were officially a Diocese,” said Father Mark Searles, Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Allentown and a former seminarian at St. Charles, ordained in 2014. “We have a heritage at St. Charles.”
Parishioners in the Allentown Diocese will have the opportunity to help their seminarians build a new home through a special collection at Masses the weekend of Nov. 4-5, coinciding with the feast day of St. Charles Borromeo on Nov. 4. Seminarians in the Diocese will visit their home parishes and speak at Masses.
“They’ll share with the people about their experiences in the seminary and ask them to help with this appeal to make sure we do our part to build this important work of the Church,” said Father Searles.
“We want our people to be able to play a part in the formation of future holy priests for our Diocese,” he said.
“We have been a proud part of the seminary community for over 60 years and look forward to the future,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert in a recent letter about the seminary.
“St. Charles is embarking on a truly inspiring and exciting time. The Seminary’s continued vitality has now led to moving into a new chapter in its history, with construction for a new home in Lower Gwynedd Township, Pennsylvania. The relocation of the Seminary to a newly developed campus is a source of hope, as the mission to form priests who will be servant leaders after the Heart of Jesus Christ will continue in a modern facility that meets the needs of 21st century priestly formation.”
The buildings on the Wynnewood campus were constructed between the 1880s and 1920s, and the aging buildings have millions of dollars of deferred maintenance.
In 2016, the seminary decided to relocate to strengthen its programs and facilities. Construction is underway, and will provide students with updated technology, improved services, modern facilities, two new chapels, and a new library.
“It’s nice for the guys to have clean, neat, and modern facilities,” said Father Searles.
“I understand the decision to move and build a more sustainable campus, and there is a lot of hope and excitement which comes with a new start,” said Transitional Deacon Aaron Scheidel, who entered St. Charles right after high school and is now in his eighth year at the seminary.
Deacon Scheidel’s home parish is St. Benedict, Mohnton, where he will be speaking Nov. 4-5.
Efforts are being made to preserve the history of the Wynnewood campus wherever possible. In constructing the new main chapel, to be named the Immaculate Conception Chapel, “a lot of the altars, [stained glass] windows, and pews will be moved from the old campus to the new one,” said Father Searles. “It will have some of the beautiful history.”
Another benefit of the new campus is that it’s closer to the Diocese of Allentown. “It’s a shorter commute for some of our guys” when they return to parishes in our Diocese for weekend assignments, said Father Searles.
A rendering of the proposed campus is pictured on the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary website.
The estimated cost of the project – including the purchase of property from Gwynedd Mercy University – is $54.5 million.
“St. Charles is recognized as one of the larger and more vibrant programs in the country,” said Father Searles. “There’s a need for the continuation of the formation, which is very strong right now.”
On Nov. 4-5, the second collection at all Diocese of Allentown Masses will support the Campaign for St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. You can also give online at www.allentowndiocese.org/scbs.
Top photo: An artist’s rendering of a proposed St. Charles Borromeo Seminary building is pictured on the seminary’s website.