St. Mary's Seminary and University

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St. Mary's Seminary and University
The seal of St. Mary's College and University
Motto Apostolica civilisque (Latin)
(Apostolic and public)
Established 1791 (223 years ago)
Type Roman Catholic seminary
Religious affiliation Roman Catholic Church
(Sulpician Fathers)
President Rector Rev. Thomas R. Hurst, S.S., S.T.L., Ph.D.
Students 294
Location Baltimore, Maryland,
United States

39°21′37″N 76°38′24″W / 39.3604°N 76.6400°W / 39.3604; -76.6400Coordinates: 39°21′37″N 76°38′24″W / 39.3604°N 76.6400°W / 39.3604; -76.6400
Campus 40 acres (16 ha)

St. Mary's Seminary and University is a Roman Catholic seminary in Baltimore, Maryland; it was the first seminary founded in the United States of America.


Founded in 1791 as a Catholic seminary under the leadership of newly ordained first Bishop John Carroll, (1735-1815), after he returned to America from his consecration in England that year. A former large tavern was secured just northwest outside of the growing Baltimore Town on the Hookstown Road (which later became known as Pennsylvania Avenue). Within a decade, the Seminary was moved to North Paca Street at the developed northwest edge of the newly incorporated city. St. Mary's was additionally chartered as a civil college by the State of Maryland in 1805 (1806?) and was operated until 1852 by the Sulpicians religious order and graduated hundreds of young men and formed an important educational role in the growing city during the first half of the 19th Century (replaced in the same year by the opening of Loyola College and Loyola High School by the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) in two small rented townhouses on Holliday Street, between East Lexington and East Fayette Streets). St. Mary's was established as a seminary in 1822 by Pope Pius VII, when it was authorized as the first ecclesiastical faculty in the United States with the right to grant degrees in the name of the Holy See.[1] The seminary was founded by the French Sulpician Fathers, and continued to be operated by that Community after 1852.

Designed in 1806 by J. Maximilian M. Godefroy, a renowned émigré French architect, (who also designed the Battle Monument at the old Courthouse Square on North Calvert Street between East Lexington and East Fayette Streets - 1815 to 1822 and the First Independent Church of Baltimore (later to become known as the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore (Unitarian and Universalist) at West Franklin and North Charles Streets - 1817). The original chapel stands adjacent to the Mother Seton House. It is the only part of the first group of original seminary buildings in Georgian/Federal brick style from the 1810s which were later razed and the second set of Victorian/Second Empire style architecture erected on the same site in 1878 and surrounded the Chapel that is remaining on North Paca Street into the 21st Century, and is now used as part of the seminary's Spiritual Center. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, (1774-1821), lived at the nearby house while she was in Baltimore during 1806 to 1809; it was later named for her.[1] The Seminary's influence increased in the late 19th century under the leadership of Alphonse Magnien, who served as superior from 1878 to 1902.

St. Mary's moved to a large 40-acre park-like campus at the southwest intersection of Roland and Belvedere (later Northern Parkway) Avenues in the Roland Park section of North Baltimore in 1929, with the construction of its present Beaux Arts style, central main building, designed by the firm of McGinnis and Walsh of Boston, which is set far back from Roland Avenue to the east across a great lawn.[1] [2]

In 1968, reflecting a more ecumenical spirit from the Second Vatican Council and partnerships with neighboring Christian (Protestant and Eastern Orthodox) and having additional space and resources due to a decline in the number of priests in formation by the late 1960s, an "Ecumenical Institute of Theology" was established with a separate board and began offering courses, programs, events with library resources and religious training on a graduate-level to the laity and clergy of the central Maryland area.

In 1974, the seminary's name was changed to "St. Mary's Seminary and University" to reflect its expanded departments and graduate degree programs.[2]

During his famous visit to the "Premier See" of Baltimore in 1995, the first by any "Bishop of Rome", Pope John Paul II, visited briefly at the Seminary Chapel and used the spacious front lawn to lift off in his papal helicopter ending his tour of the Archdiocese and its City.

Fr. Robert F. Leavitt retired as president/rector in spring 2007, having served at that position for 27 years—the longest tenure of any president/rector in the school's history. The seminary's alumni have gone on to reach bishop's positions in many cities of the United States.

Institutes and facilities[edit]

The Knott Library (endowed by Henry J. Knott) at St. Mary's Seminary and University houses the collected papers of Fr. Raymond E. Brown S.S. (S.T.B., 1951), an eminent Johannine scholar and St. Mary's graduate.[3]

The Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary's, founded in 1968, offers graduate degrees and certificates; it supports a diverse adult learning environment of different ethnicities and denominations. Dr. Brent Laytham, formerly of North Park University, is the EI's dean, succeeding Dr. Michael J. Gorman.[4] Gorman remains on the faculty as the inaugural Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology.

In May 2012, N. T. Wright was the keynote speaker for the graduating class at the EI and was himself awarded an honorary degree.

Notable alumni[edit]

Cardinal James Gibbons entered St. Mary's Seminary in 1857.


  1. ^ a b c "America's First Seminary". St. Mary's Seminary and University. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "St. Mary's Seminary & University". BrainTrack. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "Welcome to the Knott Library". St. Mary's Seminary and University. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  4. ^ "The Ecumenical Institute of Theology: An Invitation". St. Mary's University and Seminary. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  5. ^ "John Payne Todd". Find A Grave. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 

External links[edit]