Mission and History

Mission

The mission of Saint John Paul II Seminary is to provide an environment that forms men to be committed disciples of Christ who are free to respond to God’s call to the priesthood, including the call to the celibate life.

It is an environment that strives to form well-rounded Christian men characterized by a life of holiness, human virtue, and generous service. Such a life is nurtured by a deep interior life of prayer and sound piety, filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a profound love for the universal and local Church. It is further nourished through a rigorous intellectual formation in a faithful and loving obedience to the Magisterium and the sacred truths entrusted to the Church.

The Seminary strives to instill the pastoral charity and priestly witness modeled by its patron, Saint John Paul II, and fulfills its mission through a balanced program of spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral formation, as outlined in Pastores Dabo Vobis and the Program of Priestly Formation.

History

Great things start first as ideas. Someone has a vision which will make things better, a way of improving something that matters. Saint John Paul II had a vision, and what he saw was that the mission given by Jesus Christ to the Church should be brought to completion (Phil 1:6). During his life, his priesthood, and ultimately his pontificate, every waking moment was dedicated to making that vision a reality.

That priestly example inspired Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. A man dedicated to educating others in the beauty and dignity of the Catholic faith, Cardinal Wuerl had the idea that the best way to share this sacred mission envisioned by the late Holy Father and himself was to give the Archdiocese its own place where men could be trained for service as diocesan priests. The idea became a reality on October 22, 2011 when the Cardinal formally dedicated Saint John Paul II Seminary. That day was the culmination of a lot of hard work, determination and prayer.

The process formally began May 1, 2011 when Cardinal Wuerl, judging it expedient to erect a seminary for college and pre-theology, signed the Decree of Erection. Having just moments before concelebrated the Beatification of the future saint in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Cardinal Wuerl founded the first seminary in the world with Saint John Paul II as its patron.

The site chosen by His Eminence (located at 145 Taylor St. NE) was originally built in 1951 by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement to train their future priests to promote Christian Unity. Eventually, the building would be purchased by the Archdiocese of Washington when the Atonement Fathers moved back to their provincial headquarters in Garrison, New York. For some time, the space was used for diocesan offices for the Catholic Standard, El Pregonaro and the Catholic Youth Organization.

Renovations had begun even before the decree was signed by the Archbishop. The building was completely transformed, with special attention given to restoring the chapel, the heart of our new home. The seminary is fortunate to have in its chapel the altar used by Pope Benedict XVI at the Mass at Nationals Park April 17, 2008, the altar-stone used by Bishop John Carroll, first bishop of the United States, and a First Class Relic of Pope John Paul II on display.

Even before the seminarians could begin their school year at the Catholic University of America, the renovation of their new home was not complete. For the first two months of our existence, the Society of St. Joseph (an Order known as “the Josephites”) was kind enough to give the seminarians and faculty the fourth floor of their seminary – located about a mile from our present location – so that they could live in together in a communal setting according to their own seminary rule of life.

These initial two years have been richly blessed, with the first nine men completing their preparations to enter major seminary in May of 2013. In the fall of 2013, Saint John Paul II Seminary received the first seminarians from outside the Archdiocese. We were pleased to welcome men from Baltimore, Richmond and Bismarck. The future points to the exciting moment ahead when the first graduates of Saint John Paul II Seminary are ordained priests!