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WASHINGTON (November 22, 2010) — Due to the small number of seminarians and available priest faculty, the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Leuven, Belgium, has announced its closure in June 2011. The announcement was made to the seminary community immediately after the decision was made by the board of bishops of the American College and confirmed by the body of bishops at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) General Assembly on November 17, in Baltimore.
“The seminary has served the Church in the United States and other parts of the world faithfully, steadfastly and zealously throughout its 154-year existence, and so this is a sad moment for many of us,” said Bishop David Ricken, chair of the board and bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The USCCB provides guidance to all United States seminaries through its norms for priestly formation found in the Program for Priestly Formation (PPF). The American College is one of two European seminaries governed directly by the USCCB; the other is the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Despite strong efforts, enrollment has not grown at the American College to a sustainable level. In addition, the seminary has struggled with obtaining qualified priests for its faculty. Small enrollment creates significant financial challenges as well as difficulties for priestly formation. The PPF notes that, “The seminarians and faculty form the heart of the seminary community, and this reality needs careful cultivation so that the distinctive aims of seminary formation can be achieved.” The difficulties in maintaining this necessary community environment for priestly formation led to the decision to close the American College.
“We hold a good relationship with both the theology and philosophy faculties at the University,” noted Bishop Ricken. “We are grateful to the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, the theology and philosophy faculties and the people of Belgium for their support and collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church of the United States for these many years.”
The American College of the Immaculate Conception was founded in 1857 by the bishops of the United States with the dual purpose of training young European men to serve as missionary priests in North America and of offering to American seminarians the philosophical and theological riches available at Europe's oldest Catholic university in Leuven.
Keywords: American College of the Immaculate Conception, Leuven, Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium, Bishop David Ricken, Program for Priestly Formation, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. bishops, seminary, Louvain
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