BLOOMFIELD – St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield enjoyed a long history of educating more than 5,000 young men in the Roman Catholic faith, some of whom went on to a vocation in the priesthood. The all-male school may be gone from the building, but the memories remain.
With that in mind, archdiocesan officials decided to reunite former students with their past. An all-classes reunion was held on May 2 and close to 200 alumni attended, even though getting the word out was a challenge because organizers often were working off decades-old records and addresses.
Everyone was given a name badge that included his year of graduation. The oldest alumnus was a member of the class of 1942. Some came from as far away as California to attend the inaugural event.
The reunion began with guided tours of the building, followed by a Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Leonard Blair, Archbishops Emeritus Henry J. Mansell and Daniel A. Cronin, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza and Auxiliary Bishop Christie A Macaluso, as well as 10 priests who studied and/or taught at the seminary.
The seminary is now known as the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary. The 86-year-old building now houses 21 ministries and also serves as a residence for retired priests and bishops.
A reception allowed alumni to mingle while watching a video showcasing the school’s past. Posters positioned around the room recalled each decade of STS history and featured class photos and other highlights. A surf-and-turf dinner was then served in the refectory, as the main dining room was known to the alums.
“It exceeded our expectations both in attendance and in the positive comments of those who attended. We have had numerous notes and emails commenting on the enjoyable time it was for our alumni,” said Msgr. Gerard Schmitz, former rector.
“The success of the reunion demonstrated the lifelong impact that St. Thomas Seminary had on the lives of those who attended school here. It was a testimony to their appreciation of their professors, coaches and others who guided them during their student days,” he added.
“I am most grateful to our hardworking committee and the support of the staff of the Archdiocesan Center for organizing this exceptional gathering. Our hope is that we can build on the success of this year’s reunion and reach out to other alumni as we plan for another reunion on May 15, 2015.”
“We’ve never had an all-class reunion,” said Robert McTiernan, director of development for the archdiocese. “The primary purpose of this is to reconnect with alumni.”
A mailing advising alumni of the reunion was undertaken last year. The event was also promoted in The Catholic Transcript, on WJMJ-FM radio and on the seminary’s Facebook page.
Those in attendance were told that this will become an annual event. They were also told that they and others will be asked to contribute toward a goal of $12 million to renovate the French and English Gothic college-style building, portions of which are sorely in need of repair.
“It’s in dire need of restoration and renovations,” Mr. McTiernan said.
The structure dates from 1930. Work recently began on the central bell tower, and those arriving for the reunion were greeted by the sight of scaffolding outside that part of the building.
The building once hosted both a high school and junior college program; the latter eventually evolved into a four-year college program in the 1970s.
As a result of a changing trend that had taken place all over the United States at the time, the high school program experienced a steady decrease in enrollment and closed in 1983. This trend continued and, in 1994, the college program was suspended.
The seminary offers certificate programs in religious studies and biblical studies with accreditation from the state Department of Education. It also serves as a conference and retreat center.
Alumni wishing to learn more about the school or next year’s reunion may call the archdiocesan Office of Development at 860-547-0513 or email www.stseminary.org.