morning prayer was made optional

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 17, 2006

Daily life for seminarians changed radically. Changes in discipline were among the most obvious. Students were allowed to dress however they wished. They were not restricted to the seminary grounds. Morning prayer was made optional. They could read newspapers and magazines more freely. In 1969 the traditional "major" and "minor" seminaries were divided into three new institutions: De Sales Preparatory High School, St. Francis de Sales College, and Saint Francis Seminary. In 1972 lay students, including women, were admitted for graduate study to work toward newly names degrees. In 1975 the first class of permanent deacons was ordained. Not all of the changes instituted at the seminary have lasted. Yet it is clear that the faculty and administration struggled sincerely to meet the challenges presented by the Church and society.

Until the last line, it reads like a conservative's indictment of the crack-up of seminary life. On the contrary, it's a page from the web-history of Milwaukee's St. Francis Seminary, and the march of progress is meant to make us smile. The details are telling. We're told, "A new curriculum provided students with training in behavioral sciences such as psychology and sociology with less emphasis on philosophy and theology." We're told, "[As of 1971] former seminarians could remain as lay students." We're shown a program for the Rite of Tonsure for the same year featuring a cover in the manner of a Jimi Hendrix dust-jacket. Heavy.

The chapter of the history covering the years 1965-1981 is given the title "Naming the Whirlwind," which by its self-regarding clumsiness captures the spirit of the time very well. There's little reason to think Milwaukee's seminary differed greatly from other houses of priestly formation in the same period, but the tone of naive congratulation in this history makes it interesting as a kind of cultural core sample. If you were born after 1970, and you wonder why your pastor knows the complete Simon & Garfunkle libretto by heart but can't name the Joyful Mysteries, this will help you understand.

(Tip to Terrence Berres)

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