I have lived 17 of my 80 years at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, seven years as a student and 10 as rector of the seminary. Those were blest years that had a profound effect on my life and ministry.
As a student, I experienced the sharp changes that took place after the Second Vatican Council. Msgr. Malachy Foley was replaced by Bishop John Gorman as rector. The seminary opened up and the rule was relaxed. It was a time of great change–an exciting time. I remember vividly a gathering held in the auditorium involving presentations by some of the giants of the Second Vatican Council. There was a renewed sense of what it meant to be Church.
When I returned to Mundelein as rector, it was a very different place than when I was a student. The seminary community was becoming more and more diverse, welcoming students from many different dioceses around the United States as well as becoming a culturally diverse community. The faculty became more inclusive of priests, religious and laity. The seminary began to serve not only priesthood candidates but diaconate and lay students as well.
It was a great honor to accompany men considering the priesthood. I loved to experience their enthusiasm to serve and their eagerness to make a difference. I enjoyed being part of a faculty of teachers and formators who were so committed to their ministry.
Surely the hardest part of my time at Mundelein was deciding that a student could not continue in the seminary. Similarly, it was difficult to learn that a student admitted to ordination did not fare well in ministry or decided to leave the priesthood.
I imagine Cardinal Mundelein never realized all that would take place in the Church in these last 100 years. The seminary has experienced much of the changes for better or for worse.
Everyone admires the beauty and serenity of the seminary. One never grows tired of the seminary’s enchantment and charm. I loved running around the lake and seeing the epiphany of the deer grazing in the forest. The charm of Mundelein never leaves you.