Wednesday, August 15, 2007


When I was shorter and had much more hair and being a priest not much more than a passing daydream, I imagined the seminary a far different place than it turned out to be. I don’t know why, but I thought it would be much more, I don’t know, English, which is quite ludicrous I know. It was pictured as an old mansion type building set on the shores of Lake Erie. Leather bound books would be in oak bookcases in a library with leaded windows. Classes would be held in sitting rooms and be rather like sharing the wisdom of the elders than formal classes. In chapel we would sit in choir stalls and wear cassock and surplus and sing in Latin.

Not quite.

So I thought as I was giving a tour of the seminary during the FEST, I would take some pictures and give those of you who have not been in a seminary a little taste of what one is like. The tour is a rather limited one (or the tours would have gone on for hours) but you might get a better idea of what one looks like.

First I would like you to meet Fr. Mike Gurnik, classmate and head of vocations for the Diocese of Cleveland. He roped me in to give the tours of the seminary at the FEST. He’s the go-to man if you are thinking of becoming a priest in our diocese.

This is the seminary. Well, actually it is the Center for Pastoral Leadership (CPL) and actually houses two seminaries, St. Charles Borromeo Minor Seminary and Saint Mary, Our Lady of the Lake Major Seminary and Graduate School of Theology. In addition to these are all the other training programs for service in the diocese as well as some other programs run out of some of the buildings on the campus. The land was originally a farm evidenced by the large barn still on the back of the property. The farm was willed in half, one half going to the Good Shepherd Sisters who built the Marycrest School for Girls, the other to a Jewish Community who built Telshe Yeshiva.

In 1954 the Diocese bought the property from the sisters, expanded the building, and in different manifestations has had a seminary there ever since. The CPL sits on 54 beautiful acres and has a combined floor space of almost 280,000 square feet.

In the entrance way you will find this bronze piece in the floor that has the coat of arms for the Diocese. Legend has it that if a seminarian walk across it, he will not be ordained. Not wanting any prospective future seminarian to accidentally tread across it on this day, Fr. Gurnick put a plant on top of it.

If you turned left, there would be the Aula Magna (large hall) that was once the movie theater for the seminarians who were strictly forbidden to leave the grounds. Since then the floor has been leveled and it is now a large conference room. This is where Dawn Eden came to speak when she came to Cleveland.

In the other direction and through these beautiful gates is the Bruening-Marotta Library. It is one of the finest theological libraries in the United States. It is home to some historically significant works including the Bishop Ignatius Horstmann Collection that served as the original seminary library. The oldest book in this collection, which is pictured here, dates back to 1504.

As you walk around the building there is nary a corner that is not used as a display for art. One of the collections is known as the Hallinan-Newman Art Collection considered one of Cleveland’s premier religious art exhibits.

One of my favorite pieces is this one, hand carved in Germany. When closed it presents the first chapter of the Gospel of John, “In principio erat verbum . . .” “In the beginning was the Word . . .” When open we see a beautiful manger scene.

The heart of the campus is Resurrection Chapel. It is oddly shaped with the separate naves stemming from the sanctuary. This was from the Marycrest days when the nuns could have their own private chapel, the resident another and the third I was never quite sure about. Perhaps it was for visitors. Seen here are some of the many statues of saints that surround the seminarians as they pray.

This nave is used for the recitation of the Divine Office. The seminarians face each other for morning, evening, and night prayer, chanting the verses of the Psalms and prayers in an alternating fashion.

At the head of this nave is the Tellers Brand Pipe organ, a gem of an instrument. No matter how hard they try, electric organs just do not quite cut it like a good pipe organ.

Here is a model of a seminarian’s room. You can tell it is a model and not the real thing. No seminarian is this neat. That would be unhealthy.

There is a lot more to see, but you would get board reading and I would get board typing. There is of course the refectory where the seminarians and others eat. Fr. Gurnick supplied us with the statistics that the boys eat about 24,000 eggs and 30,000 slices of bacon for breakfast each year. And this is during a health craze in our country. Because of this there is also a weight room, gym and racquetball courts. Not to be forgotten are the classrooms that are not unlike typical college classrooms, lounges, recreation areas, courtyards, and other various and sundry nooks and crannies.

Here is one last thing though. This is model of the previous building which still stands in Rockefeller Park on Ansel Road which housed Saint Mary Seminary before it moved to this site. Talk about a gem of a building. But actually I would like you to notice the little white building to the side. There has been much speculation over the years as to what this house was. Some thought it the bishop’s house or some other building that was originally on the grounds. I know the truth. And now you will too. It is my house. When I was taking my model train set down, I brought one of the houses with me, opened the glass case and set in there about 12 years ago and there is has remained ever since. And that’s the rest of the story.

Here is the Vocation site for the Diocese of Cleveland. Please pray for the seminarians returning to studies soon!


Anonymous said...

I will.

Btw, how did you manage to get a photo of Ignatius of Loyola with Fr. Mike?

Fr. V said...

You might be surprised how often I get asked that ;>)

Anonymous said...

I saw that picture with St Ignatius and immediately thought of the 'Meditation on the two standards' and knew which one he and the Dir of Voc were under...without even seeing it.

Thanks for the tour.

For we foreigners, where in the Cleveland area is this facility located? Would one be allowed to 'tour' unannounced?

Anonymous said...

Ha! I thought I was the only one who thought he looked like Ignatius!

Odysseus said...

What happened to the model train?

Fr. V said...

The CPL is located in Wickliffe on Euclid Avenue east of the city. If you stand on the hill at the back of the property you can just make out Lake Erie.

If you want to Google it it is 28700 Euclid Avenue, Wickliffe, OH 44092.

I don't suppose there is anything keeping you from taking a drive or walk around the property but as to unscheduled tours I bet that would be a no go. There is an elementary school and a Montesori school on the property, not to mention residences of students, priests and nuns and other such things, so the buildings are not open.

HOWEVER, there are events throughout the year to which the public is invited and if you are contemplating the seminary, Fr. Gurnik will make some sort of arrangement.

Most of the model train is gone except for a box in my Dad's basement. *sigh* Maybe I should start a development in the seminary model next.