BLOOMFIELD – St. Thomas Seminary will celebrate the 85th anniversary of its dedication with an exhibit highlighting the history of the seminary from Sept. 23 through the month of October.
The exhibit at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, located at 467 Bloomfield Ave., is open to the public. Directions are available by calling 860-242-5573, ext. 2608, or going online to www.stseminary.org.
The Preparatory Seminary of St. Thomas of Aquinas was founded by Bishop Michael Tierney and originally was located at 352 Collins St. in Hartford. Under the direction of the first rector, Father John Synnot, classes were organized on Sept. 7, 1898. There were 37 students enrolled: 15 boarders and 22 day scholars.
As enrollment grew over the next 30 years, more space was needed. The rector, Father Maurice McAuliffe, moved the seminary from Collins Street to property on Bloomfield Avenue in Bloomfield. According to written accounts, “almost every detail was the work of Bishop McAuliffe,” and “a dream of his that was brought to realization.” The cornerstone of the new seminary was laid by Bishop John Joseph Nilan on Sept. 29, 1928, and the building opened for classes on Sept. 29, 1930.
The seminary has been visited by many notable personalities over its 85 years, including, in October 1936, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII.
The golden jubilee Mass of St. Thomas Seminary was celebrated on Oct. 8, 1947, by then-Bishop Henry J. O’Brien, who had been a seminary professor and rector. In 1953, he was named the first archbishop of Hartford. The seminary’s library is named in his honor.
Today, the seminary offers certificate programs in religious studies and biblical studies with accreditation from the Connecticut State Department of Education. “Most of the seminarians of the archdiocese spend time at the building during their breaks and summer vacation. Others who are studying at local colleges are in residence at the seminary,” said Msgr. Gerard Schmitz, current president rector.
The Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary also thrives as a conference and retreat center. It houses conference and meeting rooms, dining facilities and the Archbishop O’Brien Library. The center has a chapel with stained glass windows that were imported from Great Britain in the early 1930s and depict a dozen scenes from Scripture. Mass is celebrated at 12:10 p.m. weekdays and is open to the public.
The Gothic-style building is surrounded by a pastoral landscape designed by the well-known Olmsted Brothers Architectural firm.
In February 2007, renovations were completed for the Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin Residence for retired priests and dedicated by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell.