'Training ground for future shepherds': Mundelein seminary celebrates 100th anniversary
One hundred years after the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary was founded, Cardinal George Mundelein's original vision remains strong.
The Mundelein seminary remains an incubator for seminarians who go on to share their faith and knowledge as Catholic priests at parishes around the country.
The campus celebrated its centennial Sunday with a Mass led Cardinal Blase J. Cupich and Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and a former Mundelein student and faculty member.
Cupich read an apostolic blessing from Pope Francis that praised the campus as a "training ground for future shepherds."
"The United States has been blessed by the ministry of thousands of alumni priests who studied on this campus, where they prepared to serve God's people in parishes across the United States and around the world over the last 100 years," Pope Francis wrote.
Gregory spoke about the challenges the seminary's founder, George Mundelein, faced after he arrived in Chicago from New York in 1915.
"Chicago was still very much a frontier town, especially for a New Yorker," said Gregory, who was the first Black president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and first Black American cardinal. "In 1915, immigrant peoples, much like today, dominated Chicago's Catholic population, only these immigrants were from Poland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Germany and a dozen other European places of origin.
"Mundelein Seminary was his answer and his dream of creating a united presbytery," he added. "Everything about Mundelein's dream seminary was intended to highlight the American culture."
The Rev. John Kartje, rector and president of the seminary, said the work of many over the course of a century have led to its success. He mentioned the unsung heroes -- the groundskeepers, kitchen workers and housekeepers.
"This grand old place looks pretty good for being a hundred years old," he said.
In 1921, Mundelein opened the schools of philosophy and theology on the current campus under the university's charter, granted by the state of Illinois.
The Rev. Raymond Webb, professor emeritus and a former student, said that over the years, the seminary has adapted to meet the needs of the times. He pointed out that more than 30 other dioceses have students in Mundelein.
Sunday's celebration was a homecoming for the Rev. Andy Matijevic, associate pastor at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. He grew up in Palatine and graduated from the seminary last year.
"This place prepared me very well for ministry," he said, adding that he benefited from interactions with students from dioceses from various parts of the country.
Another recent graduate, the Rev. Robert Ryan, associate pastor of St. Joseph and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Wilmette, said he had left the faith while working in the corporate world. After being laid off from his job in Texas, he returned to his parents' home in Antioch and received the call of the priesthood.
"This is the place where it has been not only the seedbed of my faith, but the seedbed of my vocation," he said.