Agreement to Allow Seminarians of Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Jerusalem to Study at St. Joseph’s Seminary

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St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie has entered into an agreement with the Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Jerusalem (LPSJ) in which seminarians from LPSJ will be able to pursue theological studies at St. Joseph’s beginning in the fall.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two seminaries was signed last month by Cardinal Dolan, representing the Archdiocese of New York, and Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., representing the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The agreement states, “Two or three seminarians of the LPSJ, upon completion of two years of philosophy, will study at SJS (St. Joseph’s Seminary) following the courses of First Theology.”

The LPSJ seminarians would take one year of theology studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary, said Msgr. Peter Vaccari, the rector of St. Joseph’s.

In a letter to Cardinal Dolan dated March 19, Archbishop Pizzaballa, the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said that two candidates have been identified, and the Latin Patriarchate was “looking forward to this developing collaboration” with the Archdiocese of New York.

“I am certain this will be an enriching experience for our seminarians,” Archbishop Pizzaballa wrote. “Be assured of our prayers for you and the Archdiocese of New York and in gratitude for opening to us a great opportunity for the development of our seminarians in their journey to priesthood.”

Cardinal Dolan, in a letter written March 23, said that he was “delighted” to learn “that you are in agreement with the terms set forth in the mutual memorandum of understanding” regarding the seminarians of LPSJ who will be enrolled at St. Joseph’s Seminary.

“I personally look forward to welcoming your seminarians, as well as a visit to the seminary by your Beatitude,” the cardinal wrote.

The cardinal assured Archbishop Pizzaballa that Msgr. Vaccari, St. Joseph’s rector, would continue to handle the details of the agreement.

Msgr. Vaccari, in an interview with CNY May 4, said the MOU stemmed from “an initiative” begun by Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Pizzaballa. “This is their vision to do this,” Msgr. Vaccari said.

Msgr. Vaccari said that he was “very, very grateful” that the two prelates wanted to establish a link between LPSJ, located in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, and St. Joseph’s Seminary. He said the agreement is in keeping with Dunwoodie’s mission to serve the Universal Church as well as an immigrant population.

Msgr. Vaccari recalled that Archbishop Pizzaballa was the keynote speaker at an academic convocation at St. Joseph’s Seminary last May during his pastoral tour of the United States. The rector said the archbishop appreciated “the interaction between the seminarians, the candidates for the diaconate and lay people” at the convocation. In December, Archbishop Pizzaballa also met with St. Joseph’s Seminary’s third-year theologians during their tour of the Holy Land, said Msgr. Vaccari, who accompanied them.

The archbishop also “feels he would like an opportunity for seminarians in formation to experience a broader sense of the universality of the Church,” as well as to “expand” their level of formation, Msgr. Vaccari said.

The “human formation component” at St. Joseph’s offers a good way to achieve that goal, Msgr. Vaccari said. The program “cultivates the personal and emotional maturity of each candidate for the priesthood and develops the human qualities which are necessary for them to be balanced and capable of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities,” according to a description on the seminary’s website.

Msgr. Vaccari said he anticipated that the new seminarians would arrive by the middle of summer, in time for orientation and the house retreat. While the rector does not anticipate problems once the seminarians are in New York, there are “a couple of challenges” to be resolved.

The terms of the MOU also indicate that the Bishops of New York and Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem may wish to explore other related issues such as “exchange of faculty for a defined period of time” or “faculty sabbaticals at the respective seminaries.”

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