Pontifical North American College

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For the college in Houston, Texas, see North American College.
Pontifical North American College
Latin: Pontificium Collegium Civitatum Foederatarum Americae Septemtrionalis
Motto Firmum est cor meum
Motto in English "Steadfast is my heart"
Established December 8, 1859 (155 years ago)
Type Roman Catholic Seminary; Continuing Formation Institute, Residence
Rector Msgr. James F. Checchio
Location Rome, Italy (on property subject in part to Holy See extraterritorial jurisdiction)
41°53′51″N 12°27′33″E / 41.89750°N 12.45917°E / 41.89750; 12.45917Coordinates: 41°53′51″N 12°27′33″E / 41.89750°N 12.45917°E / 41.89750; 12.45917
Campus Janiculum Hill (Seminary and Casa O'Toole Continuing Formation Institute)
Central Rome (Casa Santa Maria Graduate Studies Residence and Office for Pilgrims)
Colors Unofficially Red and Blue
Athletics Clericus Cup Soccer Team
Nickname North American Martyrs
Affiliations United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Website www.pnac.org

The Pontifical North American College is a Roman Catholic educational institution in Rome, Italy that forms seminarians for priestly ministry in the dioceses in the United States and elsewhere and that provides a residence for American priests pursuing graduate studies or continuing formation programs in Rome. Oversight of the College is the responsibility of the Holy See's Congregation for the Clergy,[1] delegated for most matters to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops acting through the College's Episcopal Board of Governors.


The North American College was founded in 1859 by Pope Pius IX. Its first home was at the Dominican and Visitation Convent, the Casa Santa Maria, located in central Rome near the Trevi Fountain.[2] It "occupied conventual buildings of the Dominican Priory at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva," which at that time also was the home of the Dominican College of St. Thomas which would grow into the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum.[3]

It was granted pontifical status by Pope Leo XIII in 1884[4] and was incorporated in the United States by a Special Act of the Maryland General Assembly in 1886 as a non-stock (not-for-profit) corporation under the name "The American College of the Roman Catholic Church of the United States."[5] This is its official name for the purposes of United States federal and state law, and for such things as contributions and bequests. The College enjoys tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status.[6]

Until the outbreak of the Second World War, all the College's students resided at the Casa Santa Maria. During the War, the various national seminaries in Rome were temporarily closed by Pope Pius XII and non-Italian students returned to their home countries. When the war ended and the seminaries re-opened, the Roman Catholic Church in America had experienced such an increase in vocations to the priesthood that the Casa Santa Maria could no longer accommodate the many seminarians whom United States bishops wanted to send to Rome for their priestly formation and university studies. To respond to that situation, the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States authorized construction of a new Seminary complex on the Janiculum Hill overlooking the Vatican. The complex was built on the grounds of Villa Gabrielli al Gianicolo, land the bishops had purchased in 1926.[7]

Pope Pius XII dedicated the newly built seminary complex on October 14, 1953.[8] The Casa Santa Maria then became a residence for ordained American Catholic priests pursuing advanced studies in Rome. In 2009 and 2010, an historic eighteenth-century residence on the Janiculum Hill Campus was renovated to provide a new home, the Casa O'Toole, for the College's continuing formation program for priests ordained ten years or more; and a new convent was built for the religious Sisters who make up part of the College staff.

Structure and enrollment[edit]

The College now consists of a Seminary, which prepares candidates for the Catholic priesthood; the Casa Santa Maria, for Catholic priests pursuing graduate studies, the continuing formation Institute for Continuing Theological Education (ICTE) and the Bishops' Office for U.S. Visitors to the Vatican, which serves pilgrims who come to Rome from the United States. The College also serves persons who travel to Rome from the United States on College or Holy See matters, particularly members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It has received numerous illustrious visitors, including four Popes, President John F. Kennedy, and Billy Graham.

The Board of Governors of the College consists of one diocesan or auxiliary bishop from each of the fifteen regions into which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is divided. As of 2013 the Chairman of the Board of Governors was John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, and the Rector of the College was James F. Checchio, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey.

For the 2012–2013 academic year, enrollment in the Seminary will be 255, at the Casa Santa Maria approximately 75; and at each of two continuing formation sessions, approximately 30.

Enrollment in the College is available to properly qualified Catholic seminarians and priests who are citizens of the United States of America, nominated for such enrollment by a diocesan bishop of the United States of America, and approved for enrollment by the Rector. Enrollment of students studying for other dioceses or not American citizens is by decision of the Board.[9] The College, however, is also currently open to enrollment by seminarians from Australia, and includes a small number of Australian citizens. The students of all departments may, as approval by their bishop and the Board of Governors, attend any Pontifical University or other educational institution approved by the Holy See.[10] Human, pastoral and spiritual formation is provided by the faculty of the College.


William Cardinal O'Connell was the seventh rector of the College from 1895 to 1901.
No. Name Years served
smiBernard Smith, O.S.B. (Pro-Rector) 1859–1860
1. mcclWilliam G. McCloskey 1860–1868
2. chaFrancis Silas Chatard 1868–1878
3. hosLouis Hostelot 1878–1884
schAugustin J. Schulte (Pro-Rector) 1884–1885
4. oconeldDenis J. O'Connell 1885–1895
5. oconelwWilliam H. O'Connell 1895–1901
6. kenThomas F. Kennedy 1901–1917
7. oheCharles O'Hern 1917–1925
8. burEugene S. Burke 1925–1935
9. hayRalph L. Hayes 1935–1944
keaJ. Gerald Kealy (Pro-Rector) 1945–1946
10. oconorMartin J. O'Connor 1946–1964
11. rehFrancis F. Reh 1964–1968
12. hicJames A. Hickey 1969–1974
13. darHarold P. Darcy 1974–1979
14. murCharles M. Murphy 1979–1984
15. purLawrence M. Purcell 1984–1990
16. obrEdwin F. O'Brien 1990–1994
17. dolTimothy Dolan 1994–2001
18. mccoKevin P. McCoy 2001–2005
19. cheJames F. Checchio 2005–present


View of the Janiculum campus of the North American College from the cupola of Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

In addition to their academic and pastoral activities, the students at the College participate in athletic competitions with students from other institutions. Since 2007, the College has competed in an annual soccer tournament among Roman Colleges, called the Clericus Cup. On May 12, 2012, the seminary's soccer team, the North American Martyrs, won the tournament by defeating the 2011 champions, the Pontifical Gregorian University, 3-0.[11]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

References and notes
  1. ^ "Ministrorum Institutio". Apostolic Letter - Motu Proprio. Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2013.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  2. ^ McNamara 1956, pp. 63–88.
  3. ^ "You can still see the faded lettering of the North American College over the doorway of the building in the Piazza Sopra Minerva." http://churchhistorysurprise.blogspot.com/2014/04/when-bishops-forgot-they-were-called-to.html Accessed 2014-4-14
  4. ^ McNamara 1956, p. 285.
  5. ^ Brann 1910, p. 110.
  6. ^ "Support the NAC". Pontifical North American College. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  7. ^ McNamara 1956, pp. 502–503.
  8. ^ McNamara 1956, pp. 656–665.
  9. ^ Canonical Statutes of the College, Article IV, 1 (March 19, 1998)
  10. ^ Canonical Statutes of the College, Article VII, 1 (March 19, 1998)
  11. ^ Glatz, Carol (May 14, 2012). "U.S. seminarians win first Clericus Cup championship title". Catholic News Service. Retrieved August 11, 2012. 

External links[edit]