MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. — It was a day to thank God for sending more laborers to gather his harvest, Diocese of Charlotte leaders said as they blessed and formally opened St. Joseph College Seminary.
The newly completed college seminary was blessed by Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis Sept. 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, after an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
With its striking Gothic architecture and 30,000 square feet of living-and-learning space, the college seminary serves as home to young men who are exploring a vocation to the Catholic priesthood while also pursuing undergraduate degrees at nearby Belmont Abbey College.
St. Joseph is the only college seminary program between Washington and Miami and has been a magnet for young men wanting to discern the priesthood.
The program has proven so popular that construction on a permanent home for the seminary had to be accelerated. Enrollment has more than tripled since the program began in 2016, and upon its opening, the college seminary building is already at two-thirds of capacity with 27 out of 40 seminarian slots filled.
Private donors have already contributed more than $15.5 million toward the $20 million project.
Bishop Jugis and others at the Sept. 15 ceremony gave thanks to God for answering prayers to provide more vocations to the priesthood – more laborers for his harvest, as noted in chapter 9 of the Gospel of Matthew, which was read during the opening ceremony.
“We dare to ask the master of the harvest to fill up St. Joseph College Seminary,” the bishop said, then added with a grin, “We hear there are still a few vacant rooms available.”
The bishop also acknowledged the intercessory prayers of Mary and of St. Joseph, patron of the college seminary.
“With all that has been done here with the guidance of Our Blessed Lord and the help of the Holy Spirit, let there be for us and into the future, many more blessings to come,” the bishop said, and added, “Let us continue to pray for, and especially to encourage, vocations to the holy priesthood throughout the Church, especially here in the Diocese of Charlotte.”
The Catholic population in western North Carolina has swelled to more than 400,000 – up 900 percent since the diocese was founded in 1972.
The opening ceremony was held exactly two years after ground was broken on the site for the college seminary. On Sept. 15, 2018, the bishop, seminarians and the college seminary’s rector, Father Matthew Kauth, braved wind and rain from Tropical Storm Florence for the groundbreaking.
Two years onward, Fr. Kauth reminded those gathered of the purpose for the seminary: to form men to serve as holy priests for the growing Catholic Church in western North Carolina. The work of the Church goes on, he said, despite storms, crises or pandemics.
God has blessed this project, Father Kauth said. “He has put his finger down here and he has blessed us.”