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History of Seminary

History of Seminary

 

seminary_drawing

The Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius has the unique distinction of being the only free-standing, English speaking, Byzantine Catholic Seminary in the nation. Since its inauguration, the Seminary has prepared hundreds of priests to serve the Church and its people in the Byzantine Tradition.

The Byzantine Catholic Church is constituted of Christians under the governance of the Successor of Saint Peter, the Pope of Rome, and the bishops in communion with him. Our religious patrimony, distinct from that of Roman Catholics, took shape in fourth-century Byzantium (Constantinople; present-day Istanbul). These traditions were brought north to the Slavic people beginning in the ninth century. “Greek Catholic” emigrants from Eastern Europe brought their Byzantine faith to the United States at the end of the nineteenth century.

Until the Second World War, most seminarians for the Byzantine Ruthenian Church in the United States were trained in the seminaries of Prešov (in present-day Slovakia) or Užhorod (in present day Ukraine). The official dissolution of the Byzantine Catholic Churches by the Communist regimes after the war precluded the option of training candidates in Europe. Seminaries in the United States trained men in the Latin Rite only; obtaining a proper Eastern Catholic education was problematic.

Bishop Ivancho

By the beginning of 1950, it was clear to the Byzantine Catholic bishop, Daniel Ivancho, that the construction and staffing of a seminary dedicated to the education and training of men who were discerning the priesthood was a necessity for the continued growth of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America. Setting aside plans for a new cathedral, Bishop Daniel instead established the Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also installing a board of directors.

The Byzantine Catholic Seminary inaugurated its theological program on October 16, 1950 and formally dedicated the present structure which houses the institution one year later on October 18, 1951. The Seminary Chapel with design and artwork by the Rambusch Company of New York was completed and blessed on February 23, 1952, and with great festivity, the Library was dedicated on May 17, 1953.

The largest student body in the history of the Seminary was welcomed for the new academic year in September 1960, as 110 seminarians enrolled.

The Seminary’s academic faculty in these early years was composed of priests who had received their advanced degrees in Central Europe or Rome before the war. Newly-arrived immigrant priests, with impressive credentials, rounded out the faculty. These intellectual and spiritual links to renowned theological faculties in Rome, Budapest, Prague, and to institutions in Presov and Uzhorod forged a strong sense of solidarity with the mother churches of Europe. American-born seminarians were now offered the challenging models of European erudition.

In the 1970s, the Seminary chapel was completely refurbished with new iconography by Christina Dochwat, a Ukrainian emigre from Philadelphia. The Library was expanded and equipped with more areas for reading and work. Computers were introduced for student use.

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Aerial view of grounds, 1950

During the 80s and early 90s, the Seminary strengthened connections with the churches in Prešov and Užhorod by providing support for their seminarians as Communist rule was weakening.

Since 1998, the Seminary has hosted academic classes for a Deacon Formation Program that serves multiple Eastern Catholic jurisdictions, facilities for the Metropolitan Cantor Institute, and events sponsored by the Archeparchial Office of Religious Education. In 1999, the Seminary found among its seminarians the first not to be of a Byzantine-Ruthenian jurisdiction.  This student of the Romanian Byzantine Catholic jurisdiction opened the door to the Byzantine Catholic Seminary truly being a Center of Learning for various Eastern Christian particular churches.

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Dr. Scott Hahn gives the annual St. Cyril and Methodius Lecture, May 2015

In 2000, its 50th anniversary year, the Seminary received a generous endowment to underwrite an annual scholarly lecture. On May 8, 2001, Archimandrite Robert F. Taft of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, delivered the inaugural Ss. Cyril and Methodius Lecture. This lecture series furthers the purpose of the Seminary as a center of learning for Eastern Catholic Churches while providing a platform for scholarly and ecumenical discussion with a wider theological audience.

With a view to greater academic standing, the Seminary sought and, in 2003, was authorized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to grant graduate degrees.

In January 2008, the Association of Theological Schools (A.T.S.) granted accreditation to the Seminary, approving its Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology degrees. In the fall semester following, the Seminary welcomed its first seminarian from the Melkite Eparchy of Newton.

In 2009, an interim visit by ATS launched a process of strategic planning to carry the Seminary into the future. The Seminary Board of Directors was restructured with an eye to greater diversity, goal development, cooperative planning, and a system of evaluation. The financial status of the Seminary took greater priority which resulted in an increase in our donor base as well as a documented path of steady growth. Technology improvements included the installation of a Smart Classroom as well as enhancement of campus networking. A culture of assessment began to emerge.

In 2010, the Seminary graduated its first female M.A.T. student as well as launched Byzantine Online, the Seminary’s distance learning program.

Beginning in 2011, major physical improvements were made to the chapel as well as the library and student rooms. The iconic dome, bells, and tower were also refurbished. The Seminary also launched a program of priestly formation for married men. At the same time, academic requirements were reviewed and adjusted to remain in compliance with the expectations of the Catholic bishops in the United States, ATS, and the particular needs of Eastern Catholic Churches in America. Tuition rates were adjusted to a per-credit system applicable to all students.

In 2015, online classes began to be offered for credit. On the 16th of October, the day of its 65th anniversary, the Seminary observed this milestone occasion by welcoming 20 young men for the annual weekend of prayer and retreat. The “Come and See” weekend of discovery was one of the most successful ever – a positive experience in the life of the Seminary exhibiting its potential for allowing the Holy Spirit to enliven the call to ministerial service.

 

 

In 2016, a program of Ongoing Formation was established for priests, with a particular focus on the needs of priests seeking bi-ritual faculties, those on sabbatical, and those pursuing terminal academic degrees. The year saw a noticeable increase in students, bringing new dynamics to the community of learning, great camaraderie, and a stronger choral sound in chant.  Facilitating individual spiritual direction and a formation seminar for the wives of the seminarians was a clear indication that the seminary staff takes seriously the responsibility of including the wives of the seminarians in the formation process.  Expansive academic projects and rigorous programs gained respect for the Seminary in the greater academic environment.  The year was blessed by an increase in the generosity of benefactors and included the development of a plan for making the Seminary building more accessible to the physically challenged.

Seminarians sing at the St. Nicholas Banquet, December 2016

 

RECTORS

+Most Rev. Daniel Ivancho . 1950-1952
+Rev. Msgr. Nicholas T. Elko 1952-1954
+Rev. Msgr. George Michaylo 1954-1956
+Rev. George Bonchonsky (acting Rector) 1956
+Very Rev. John J. Kostival 1956-1958
+Most Rev. Stephen J. Kocisko 1958-1963
+Very Rev. Msgr. Basil Smochko 1963-1966
+Rev. Msgr. John Macko 1966-1969
+Rev. Msgr. Judson M. Procyk 1969-1973
+Very Rev. Andrew J. Pataki 1973-1979
+Most Rev. John M. Bilock 1979-1980
Rev. Msgr. Raymond Balta 1980-1990
Rev. Msgr. Russell A. Duker 1990-1995
Very Rev. Archpriest John G. Petro 1995-2012
Most Rev. Kurt Burnette 2012-2013
Most Rev. George D. Gallaro (acting Rector) 2013-2014
Very Rev. Robert M. Pipta 2014-

+ deceased