St. Joseph House of Formation residences undergoing renovations

Seminarians’ rooms will be ready by the fall; chapel will be complete near end of the year


The Borromeo and Hennessy houses, the two residences for the 21 seminarians in the St. Joseph House of Formation, are undergoing a renovation that will be complete by the time the seminarians return in the fall.

Father Michael Simone, director of the House of Formation, said the chapel at the Hennessy House is being enlarged and will be ready for worship later in the year.

The renovation is necessary because Bishop Carl A. Kemme announced earlier this year that he is adding a fourth year to the House of Formation, a formation program for seminarians studying for their undergraduate, college formation as part of Newman University’s new School of Catholic Studies.

The remodeling of the former rectory and convent, a total of about 12,000 square feet of work, is scheduled to be complete around Aug. 10, Fr. Simone said.

Earlier this year, Bishop Kemme invited the diocesan family to assist in the funding of the renovations, “So that we can continue to provide an enhanced home-style, home-like feel for the men, so that they feel comfortable, feel just like they’re right at home in their local parish – even though they’re away at school and away at seminary in formation.”

The fund-raising has two purposes: to renovate the two residences at a cost of about $2.3 million, and to establish a $2 million endowment for a professor of philosophy at Newman University. Just under $2.5 million has been pledged or donated.

Although the seminarians are out of the houses for the summer, the three priests who assist with formation – Fathers Simone, Chad Arnold, and Michael Baldwin – need only deal with the dust. Their rooms were renovated last fall.

Father Arnold is director of Vocations and assistant director of the house of formation. Father Michael Baldwin is director of Field Apostolates, assisting the seminarians in their various ministries.

Catholic Studies Program introduced

Changes are also being made for the seminarians at Newman University.

The university is developing a Catholic Studies Program for the seminarians that is modeled after the Integrated Humanities Program offered in the 1970s at the University of Kansas.

Father Joe Gile, associate professor of theology and dean the new School of Catholic Studies at Newman, said he and others involved in the program have interviewed some of the alumni of the KU program and have been working on developing the program at Newman for some time.

Three faculty members will teach from the “great books” of the Greco-Romans, Fr. Gile said, in the same style used by the Integrated Humanities Program.

“Students aren’t taking notes,” he said, “they weren’t allowed to take notes at KU. Instead, students were to listen and to get caught up in these great ideas that have an explicit appeal to their hearts and minds and imaginations. “They went stargazing; they memorized poetry; they read the Great Books to inculcate wonder in all sorts of ways.”

Father Gile said Newman U. plans to offer one class beginning in the fall and hopes to add the additional courses next year.

“Bishop is really supportive of this,” he said. “We greatly appreciate his interest and support of this program.”

Patrons generous but a bit more needed

Michael W. Wescott, director of the Office of Development and Planned Giving, said historically there has been “tremendous” support for the education of seminarians, whether through prayer or financially.

“One of the hallmarks of this diocese is the quality of number of young men discerning their vocation to the priesthood,” he said.

Wescott reiterated something Bishop Carl. A. Kemme recently wrote: “Whether or not they make it all the way to the priesthood, I am encouraged that so many are willing to listen to the Lord’s voice and give us a try! Please join me in praying for them for they are all truly a blessing from God.”

Want to help renovate the seminarians’ houses, build chapel?

If you feel called to help make the St. Joseph House of Formation a reality by giving a financial gift, please contact Mike Wescott at [email protected] or at 424 N. Broadway, Wichita, KS 67202.