Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix to create its first full seminary for future priests

Oct 4, 2023, 4:25 AM

Men entering seminary can spend two years at Nazareth House, which was established by the Diocese o...

Men entering seminary can spend two years at Nazareth House, which was established by the Diocese of Phoenix in 2019. The fast-growing diocese announced plans Oct. 3, 2023, to create its first full seminary. (Diocese of Phoenix Photo)

(Diocese of Phoenix Photo)

PHOENIX — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix announced plans Tuesday to create its first full seminary to educate and train future priests locally.

The Nazareth Seminary will provide housing and education for all Diocese of Phoenix seminarians as they complete their studies.

“Priests are formed in homes, not institutions,” Bishop John P. Dolan said in a press release. “So, rather than sending our guys away, we find that we can respect their love for family by keeping them in the community, our own portion of the Lord’s vineyard.”

Dolan’s diocese aims to ordain its first class of priests who completed all of their formation through the Nazareth Seminary in June 2030.

Historically, Arizonans have had to travel out of state to become priests. Most of the recent Diocese of Phoenix seminarians have gone to St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

How old, large is Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix?

The Diocese of Phoenix was founded in 1969 and consists of 94 church parishes, 23 missions, 29 elementary schools, seven high schools and three universities.

It serves 1.1 million Catholics over 43,967 square miles in Mohave, Coconino, Yavapai and Maricopa counties and the Gila Indian Reservation.

With the addition of more than 300,000 Catholics in the last 10 years, it’s one of nation’s fastest growing dioceses.

What are the steps to create Nazareth Seminary?

The process to create the Diocese of Phoenix’s full seminary began in 2019. That’s when Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who retired last year, established Nazareth House near St. Gregory Parish, where men entering seminary spend two years before going to Denver to complete their studies and training.

The next step was when Our Lady of Perpetual Help House opened in Scottsdale earlier this year for men in their third year, or Spirituality Year.

The diocese plans to complete the full seminary program with two more facilities.

First up, the St. Mary’s House is scheduled to open in downtown Phoenix in the fall of 2024 to house 20 men in their Philosophy Year.

The final piece will be put into place in 2026, when St. Joseph’s House opens in Phoenix for seminarians in their Theology Year.

What are the benefits of a local seminary?

Fr. Paul Sullivan, rector of Nazareth House, said future priests experience more personal growth in a community setting.

“As seminarians are formed closer to their parishes, we’re finding that it stirs up in men a greater love for their diocese,” Sullivan said in the release.

“And when men live in a smaller community they are known more; they have to be more accountable to guys in the house. It’s a model that is closer to rectory living.”

Nazareth Seminary will fully meet the specifications from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Program For Priestly Formation” after all four formation houses are open, the Diocese of Phoenix said.

Diocese also announces agreement with Mary College at ASU

The diocese also announced an arrangement with Mary College at Arizona State University in Tempe for seminarians to take Catholic Studies classes.

Mary College is an extension of the North Dakota-based University of Mary.

“There’s something beautiful about an engineering student from ASU and a seminarian in the same class,” Mary College Professor Scott LeFor said in the release. “It’s about building relationships. There’s a level of excitement with the seminarians and the other students.”

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Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix to create its first full seminary for future priests