Published April 09 2010
Fargo diocese to close Cardinal Muench Seminary
Diocese Bishop Samuel Aquila said the decision to close the seminary was a financial one, and he cited the high cost of educating students at the seminary, 100 35th Ave. N.
The average cost to educate a CMS student for a year is $115,000. The Fargo Diocese currently subsidizes CMS college-level students at $100,000 per student for the school year. Each seminarian pays $15,000 in tuition, room and board.
“(We) know that it just isn’t financially responsible to underwrite it at that cost,” Aquila said.
Three seminarians will graduate from CMS this May. As of Thursday, only seven men are registered for studies next year.
The seminary employs four priests and five professors, two of whom are retiring this spring. It also has eight staff members.
It has yet to be decided how the seminary property and facility will be used, but Aquila did say the diocese wants to maintain ownership of it.
Cardinal Muench Seminary opened in 1962 with 41 students – 38 freshman and three juniors. Today, 10 men attend. So far, the seminary has served more than 900 men.
It is a “college seminary,” where students work toward a bachelor’s degree in philosophy while on their way to becoming priests. They then move on to major seminaries, where the men receive theological training and spiritual formation for ordination.
The diocese will begin reviewing the use of all of its properties in June.
The aim is “to ensure better stewardship and more effective and efficient use of Catholic facilities in the growing metro area,” the diocese release states.
The review will “look at what is the best way to serve and use our facilities,” Aquila said. Closures and mergers of facilities as well as the redrawing of parish boundaries are all possibilities, as is new construction.
“Certainly looking at every parish and all of our Catholic schools in the metro area will be part of the study, and recommendations will be made by the consultant on the best possible way to serve the needs of the people and the growth in population,” Aquila said.
The review was prompted by the decision to close the seminary, he said.
Aquila said “there is a real sadness and disappointment in my heart” over closing the seminary.
Joseph Goering, Fargo Diocese vicar-general and vicar for clergy, graduated from the seminary and teaches New Testament at CMS. He called the closing “a sad thing but a necessary thing.”
He said it became clear during discussions that “this was going to be the best stewardship.”
Aquila said the diocese is not facing financial difficulties.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734