A Brief History of St. Joseph College Seminary
Since 1994, we have been part of the Loyola University of Chicago community, nurturing the God-given talents of young men who wish to become priests and community leaders in the Catholic Church. We are blessed to be where we are now, and have had a long, ever-changing journey. Here is a brief history of our seminary.
As the Church in the Archdiocese of Chicago grew during the 1800s, Bishop William Quarter had an idea to open a seminary. In 1844 he obtained a charter for the University of St. Mary of the Lake. Unfortunately, financial and administrative issues took their tolls and it closed in 1868 -- the students were transferred to St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, WI. For 35 years, there was no seminary in Chicago.
In 1905, the Cathedral College of Sacred Heart was founded. It was a minor seminary with a 5-year program. However, when Archbishop George Mundelein arrived in 1915, he thought it best to have both a minor AND major seminary with credentials recognized by the Vatican and the State of Illinois. Quigley Preparatory Seminary was opened in 1917 as a minor seminary (the equivalent of a 4-year high school education and 1 year of college); around the same time, St. Mary of the Lake opened in Mundelein, IL in 1921 as a 6-year major seminary. Six years later, George Mundelein’s vision was complete: seminarians would earn a BA in Philosophy recognized by the State of Illinois, while simultaneously earning pontifical theological degrees accredited by the Vatican -- the foundation of St. Joseph College Seminary was laid.
Sprouting into Our Modern Seminary
The prominence and growth of high school seminarians in 1961 prompted Quigley Preparatory to transition the 5-year curriculum to a 4-year high school model. Simultaneously, the St. Mary of the Lake Junior College opened in Niles, IL with a 2-year course of undergraduate study. Therefore, seminarians would spend 4 years at Quigley, 2 years at Niles, then 6 at Mundelein.
In 1968, St. Mary of the Lake Junior College became academically associated with Loyola University Chicago and was renamed Niles College Seminary of Loyola University.
Now seminarians would spend 4 years at Niles College for their college seminary studies, where they’d take philosophy and theology courses, with the ability to earn degrees from Loyola University Chicago. The college was in operation from 1968-1994.
In 1994, the college was renamed to St. Joseph College Seminary and relocated to Loyola University Chicago’s Lake Shore campus in Campion Hall. We remain on the beautiful Loyola Lake Shore campus, but in a new seminary building that was opened in August 2012, on Loyola Ave. We give seminarians the opportunity to discern their vocation, while allowing them to engage in a typical college experience at a major university in an urban setting. We continue to serve as a seminary community that believes in the call of God and in supporting and preparing those who are called to serve God’s people as ordained Roman Catholic priests.