Dedication of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary – May 25, 1924
The ceremony of today is of greater importance to this diocese and the metropolis which lies close by than any other church ceremony witnessed by us in many years. For it marks the formal initiation of the Theological Department of the University of St. Mary of the Lake. While it is true that three years ago the seminary was quietly opened for its work in our midst, yet not until today were the faithful of Chicago invited to witness an actual dedication of the seminary or any part thereof. But today when we lay the cornerstone of the great collegiate church; when the seminary has passed its experimental period; when both the philosophy and theology faculties are definitely established and have completed the first years of their curriculum; when we have more resident students even now than four-fifths of the seminarians of the country, we throw down the gates and ask our people to come from every part of the city and every portion of the diocese and see with their own eyes how we have carried out the commission they have given us and performed the task they have entrusted to our care.
Never since its beginning has the diocese engaged in a task more necessary for its well-being than the work now underway in this place. Useless would it be to build churches unless we provided the priests to man them. Faulty would be our training of these unless we did all in our power to make them the best that thought, experience and tradition could produce. In the future, even more than in the past, the priest will enter closely into the life of our people. They will look to him to be their guide in their religious and in their civic duties, and their leader past the pitfalls and temptations of the complex life of a great city like ours. The pastors and priests of today see that as well as do I. It is for this reason they are willing to bring the sacrifices necessary to make perfect as far as possible this our seminary for the work it must do. They realize that the young men who will pass under these portals to remain for six years here and go forth then as priests of Jesus Christ, these men are to be their successors, those who are to take up later and continue their work, to build on the foundations they have laid; and they want these men to be splendidly equipped, in body, in mind, in spirit, so that they may be a loyal priesthood, superb leaders of a splendid people, spreading and guarding and building up God’s Kingdom on earth. And they would have these to be even better prepared, better equipped than they; and for this they are ready to bring every sacrifice. And let me assure you they have brought sacrifices, more than you, their people, can know. Indeed the record they have made by their own generous gifts for this diocesan work has never been equaled, I believe by any clergy before. And in addition to this, they have encouraged you, their people; they have communicated to you their enthusiasm and they have roused in your souls a pride for this workshop of God.
Good reason have I to call it God’s workshop; for here under His guidance and with His help. Are we turning out those who are to be closest to Him, those who will carry on His own work, those who will exercise authority even over Him, when then will summon Him down upon your altars. After all, here we are but doing in six years, what He Himself did in three, teaching and preparing and strengthening the future apostles of the Church. And here we would carry out Christ’s dearest wish, what He taught the to be, and what at the end He prayed that they might be; we would unite them, make them one. Until now, let us confess it, without our seminary we were unable to accomplish this as much as we would; isolation, varied training, differences of custom due much to different seminary training left us less united than we cared to admit, and if continued, it would have left a widening breach in our armor, which the enemy could easily have found. But with the oneness of their preparation, the newer clergy of the diocese will be a much more united and harmonious whole, a much more formidable force to attack, a much more unified body of officers and leaders to safeguard the interests of the Church for your children’s eternal welfare.
That you yourselves, my people, have recognized this is shown not only by your presence here today; it is shown by the loyal and generous support you have from the very beginning given to every undertaking for the benefit of our seminary through the diocese, or in your own individual parishes; you have shown it by the large number of your boys who each years have presented themselves at the door of the preparatory seminary and have made it the largest in point of attendance in the world; you have shown it by the fervent manner in which you have seconded and encouraged all our efforts for this work of Religion particularly by your prayers, by your enthusiasm, by your gifts. May God bless you for it and make our efforts successful, so that your children may reap abundantly where you and I have sowed and make them a wonderful people led by a splendid priesthood.
And today we come here to bless the very heart of that institution. As we lay the cornerstone we bid the walls of this great church arise, this church which a good Catholic family erects as a memorial to their son who gave his life for his country. This church which will be the great centre of devotion for all the students, where generation after generation of Chicago priests will come to worship their Master, to offer up their lives in the service of Jesus Christ, to make their final vows which bind and pledge their lives for His cause. This church to which annually the priests of the diocese will come for their spiritual retreat, and where when the year’s roll is called the breaks in the ranks will be seen which death had made in the previous twelve months; but where the fresh youthful faces of the newest levites who but a little while before were but students here will fill the vacant places. May it be for all of them a source of consolation and strength; may it prove to be through them a powerhouse of grace and comfort for you, for your children and children’s children through many generations yet to come!