Blessed John XXIII National Seminary celebrates 40th anniversary

WESTON — In the fall of 1964, 39 men from all over the United States came to Weston to begin what was then considered a novel and experimental idea — second-career or delayed vocations to the Catholic priesthood. Since that day, 516 men have finished the program at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary and gone on to serve the Church in nearly every diocese of the United States and beyond. Last year, men were ordained for Brunei in the Western Pacific and Guam. On Dec. 8 this year, Joseph Morley, the first native diocesan priest for the diocese of Hamilton, Bermuda, will be ordained.

Msgr. Francis Kelly, current rector of the seminary, said “we are deeply grateful for the apostolic zeal and courage of Richard Cardinal Cushing who conceived this idea and brought it to fruition. He ordained the entire first class personally and we pray that we enjoy his prayers from heaven.”

The principal celebration of the anniversary took place during Alumni Days in October when a record number of alumni priests filled the seminary chapel to celebrate a votive Mass of Christ the High Priest to give thanks for their ministries fostered at Blessed John Seminary and those of the other 516 alumni. Of that number, 443 are still living.

In honor of the seminary’s anniversary, two friends of the seminary, John McNeice and Jack Shaughnessy, combined resources to offer the seminary a challenge grant of $1 million which is to be matched, dollar-for-dollar by contributions from other donors. The seminary rector, Msgr. Kelly, praised “the extraordinary generosity of these two exceptional Catholic gentlemen who recognize this seminary as a special beacon of hope for the Church.” A committee has been formed to work with Msgr. Kelly in cultivating matching gifts to successfully meet the challenge.

Jack Shaughnessy said that it was “the right and natural decision for him to make this gift to the seminary. These are men who have enjoyed a measure of professional achievement; many have married, raised families and endured the loss of a spouse. They clearly have tasted abundantly of all that life has to offer and yet, in spite of life’s successes and sorrows, they still seek to serve Christ. Our Church needs more of the candidates that Blessed John XXIII attracts to ministry — experienced, capable and holy men. This seminary exists to provide parish priests who will lead us by their strong faith and example and, as such, I am doing my part to advance the work of Blessed John XXIII and hope that others will do so, too.”

John McNeice is confident that the challenge grant will be successfully met once donors are made aware of the quality of the seminarians that are attracted to the seminary. “Blessed John’s graduates have much to offer as parish priests,” says John McNeice and, “they are of an age where life experience has led them to an understanding of their own personal strengths and shortcomings.” He has observed the Blessed John seminarians saying, “I wish only to serve.” These men are genuinely grateful and enthusiastic that, at this stage of their lives, the Lord has led them to this realization and opportunity.

Once the challenge is met, Blessed John seminarians will benefit from a windfall 2 million dollars in new funding. The seminary receives no direct support from the dioceses it serves and, for this reason alone, this financial base is essential for the seminary to build upon its 40-year record of providing holy and well-qualified parish priests.

The challenge grant is a unique opportunity to support priestly formation. Every personal contribution to the grant will be matched, dollar for dollar, so that the value of each individual gift is doubled.

[Editor’s note: For more information about the seminary, and the challenge grant, please call the seminary’s development office at 781-899-5500.]