On Thursday, November 15, 2018, four seminarians – Evan Ponton and Zachary Crowley of the Archdiocese of Baltimore; Thomas Lanza of the Diocese of Metuchen; and Thiago Da Silva of the Diocese of Worcester were admitted into Candidacy by the Most Reverend Mark Brennan, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Candidacy is a liturgical rite of admission requested by a seminarian of his own Ordinary, which formally acknowledges and enrolls him as a candidate for Sacred Orders. Congratulations!
St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute is pleased to welcome Brother John of Taizé in January 2019. We invite you to join us for one of several opportunities to learn about the hospitality and spirituality of the Taize community from Brother John.
Taizé Prayer Service | January 18, 7 pm
Free and open to the public
Taizé Workshop | January 19, 2:30 – 7:30 pm
Registration required ($35, includes light dinner)
Taizé: Community, Spirituality Theology | January 7-22
January Intensive Course
Led by professors Mark Gorman, ThD, Michael Gorman, PhD, & Brother John of Taizé.
For more information, contact Rebecca Hancock (410.864.4202).
Rev. Dr. Alvin Hathaway Sr., pastor of Union Baptist Church, was awarded the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award for Baltimore City on November 1, 2018. Dr. Hathaway is a graduate of St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute (MA in Church Ministries, 2001) and a member of the Executive Board for the EI. He is being recognized for his decades of civic leadership, for being a strong voice for social justice and civil rights, and for nourishing and strengthening the faith of his community.
Each year the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award is presented by the Comptroller to the individuals and organizations in each county and Baltimore City best exemplifying William Donald Schaefer’s lifelong commitment to helping people. The William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award was created to honor the legacy of public service exemplified by former Governor, Comptroller, and Baltimore City Mayor William Donald Schaefer. One winner is selected from each of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.
St. Mary’s Seminary & University
Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting
October 30, 2018
The St. Mary’s Seminary & University Community grieves the loss of life and injuries inflicted at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last Saturday. Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims. We weep with you and we share with you, as we are able, the pain of this loss and outrage over the kind of malicious violence this act represents. We decry every form of antisemitism and the kinds of violence, unkindness, and cruelty it inevitably leads to. Our faith and the people who we are compel us to express our grief and solidarity with those who are suffering because of this violent act.
On Saturday, October 27 a morally deranged, anti-Semitic killer entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and murdered eleven innocent and vulnerable congregants attending a baby-naming service, and seriously wounded six others. The assailant was eventually taken down by law enforcement officers, though not killed, and will be brought justice.
Our thoughts and prayers go out first and foremost to all the victims of the murders and their families and loved ones. We would be at a loss for words in the face of so great a tragedy, of such a heinous crime, if we were not people of the Word whose faith, we believe, is grounded in the very Word of God. And so, as people of the book of the Gospels we hold those who lost their lives and their loved ones in Pittsburgh and all People of the Book, all members of the Jewish community in our hearts at this time and grieve for them and with them.
We are deeply conscious of the historic injustices and cruelty that Jews have suffered, often enough at the hands of adherents of our own religious faith, a fact which causes us undying shame. To the extent that the toxic thought processes that fueled the cruelty of the Tree of Life murderer may have been influenced in any way by distorted attitudes toward members of the Jewish community in our own faith traditions, we accept responsibility for such horrific acts and beg forgiveness of the Jewish community and of Almighty God. There is no place in our faiths, as indeed there never should have been, for antisemitism. There is no place in civilized society for antisemitism. There should be no place in humanity for antisemitism. We of St. Mary’s Seminary & University denounce every form of antisemitism and those who adopt such attitudes and the ideas and rhetoric that proceed from them. Indeed, we denounce every form of unkind, cruel, provocative, inciteful and hateful attitudes and rhetoric, which by their nature fuel derangement and the kind of passions which eventually lead to such acts of violence and criminal behavior.
As people of the Word we know, as all People of the Book do, that words matter. The words we use matter. The way we speak matters. No one who speaks unkind, cruel, hateful or inciteful words can deny responsibility when acts of violence break out fueled by impassioned, unkind, cruel and hateful speech. As Americans, our Constitution may prohibit criminal prosecution of people for the words they use or other ways they express themselves, but our culture should not tolerate unkind, cruel, hateful and inciteful speech, ideas, and non-verbal forms of expression. We should denounce such speech and forms of expression at every turn, and our common values and commitment to the dignity of every person, as well as our reverence for life itself, should cause us to shun all who propagate hateful ideation though their words and other forms of expression. Our Constitution may require government officials to tolerate many abuses of language and expression that are at the core of cruel and hateful acts, but our culture ought to condemn them and shun those who engage in reckless and dangerous forms of expression that often enough intentionally incite others to acts of violence and cruelty, as well as when unkindness and cruelty are unintentional and things are said or otherwise expressed out of ignorance or simple boorishness.
The Tree of Life shooting raises many important issues our society seems unable to address effectively: the proliferation of dangerous weapons and gun violence; our society’s inability and even unwillingness to take effective measures to protect the most vulnerable among us; proposals to turn places of worship and schools into armed camps in the name of protecting the vulnerable, rather than protecting the vulnerable by addressing the root causes of the many acts of violence which have occurred in such places; an increasingly toxic culture that we have allowed to spring up and flourish in the name of a right of freedom of expression, a culture seemingly heedless of the right of all people to live in a society and a culture that is safe; the failure of our culture to sufficiently nurture the very best in us, especially the capacity for kindness and regard and care for others; whether or not state-sponsored killing is the only response we can offer to hold those who kill unlawfully accountable. It is our hope that in time the Tree of Life slayings will, with other recent and not so recent horrific acts of violence, impel all responsible citizens to engage effective means to address these pressing social issues and needs in ways that will make our society safe and our culture kinder and more caring. We encourage all responsible citizens to recognize that we are governed by more than our Constitution, that we are accountable to One who is far greater and far more important than our civil government or our Constitution; we are governed, or ought to be governed, more importantly and more effectively by common moral and social values that seek to protect the vulnerable and provide for a culture and a society in which all can live in peace and safety as brothers and sisters of a common humanity.
St. Mary’s Seminary & University, as our Catholic faith teaches and compels us to do, has for fifty years reached out in an extraordinarily committed way to all Christians in view of our common faith, and to all people of faith through our Ecumenical Institute. We have been especially devoted to healing, to making amends, and to nurturing a warm, cooperative, respectful, and indeed loving relationship with the Jewish community in Baltimore, Maryland. As such, we feel the loss of those gunned down in Pittsburgh very deeply. We are praying for those who lost their lives and for their families and loved ones, and we reach out to console them in whatever ways we can.
We are deeply conscious that religious institutions are creators of culture. We remain committed to teaching, to training, to forming our seminarians and Ecumenical Institute students in values that will make them formators of a culture that engenders respect for the dignity of all persons; a society in which all will feel safe because all are safe; a culture that rejects every form of hatred or disrespect, especially any based on religion, race or any other invidious distinction among persons. We take our culture as it is, which does not seem to be in a good place right now, but we are committed to making it better and to moving it towards those worthy goals through the work we do and the ministry we offer. We invite all people of good will to join in that endeavor so that unkind, hateful and inciteful rhetoric will all disappear from our political discourse and social culture, and so that acts of violence and hatred will cease in our society. We pray for these outcomes as we pray for those who died in the Tree of Life massacre and for their families and loved ones. And we invite all people of good will to reach out to the victims of the Tree of Life massacre and their families and loved ones in prayer and in acts of loving kindness.
On behalf of the entire St. Mary’s Seminary & University and Ecumenical Institute community,
Rev. Phillip J. Brown, P.S.S.
President-Rector St. Mary’s Seminary & University
Rev. Thomas Burke, O.S.S.T.
Dean of the School of Theology
St. Mary’s Seminary & University
Dr. Brent Laytham
Dean of St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute
St. Mary’s Seminary & University
Over 100 alumni returned to St. Mary’s to celebrated Alumni Days October 17th and 18th. Fr. Phillip Brown gave the homily at Evening Prayer on October 17th (click here to read), and Fr. Robert Leavitt, celebrating his 50th anniversary of ordination, was the celebrant and homilist. Fr. Leavitt’s homily emphasized the theme of “The Courage of Reform in the Joy of the Gospel.” (click here to read).
Fr. Brown announced a new award in Fr. Leavitt’s honor – the Robert F. Leavitt Award for Pastoral Excellence given in recognition of Fr. Leavitt’s commitment to excellence in pastoral leadership as President Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary & University. Fr. Leavitt was named the inaugural recipient.
This year’s Dunning Lecture, “Saving Christianity from the Racial State” will be given by Dr. Willie James Jennings on Thursday, November 8, 7:30 pm in Laubacher Hall.
Dr. Willie James Jennings is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale University Divinity School. Dr. Jennings is a systematic theologian who teaches in the areas of theology, black church and Africana studies, as well as post-colonial and race theory. Dr. Jennings is the author of The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, one of the most important books in theology written in the last 25 years and a standard text read in colleges, seminaries, and universities. Dr. Jennings is also the recipient of the 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his groundbreaking work on race and Christianity. Dr. Jennings recently authored a commentary on the Book of Acts, which won the Reference Book of the Year Award from The Academy of Parish Clergy.
This event is free and open to the public. Registration is requested.
Dean Brent Laytham is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Rebecca Hancock as Director of MDiv Partnerships for St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute. Dr. Hancock will add this responsibility to her current portfolio as Coordinator of Communications, Operations, and Student Services. Students in the Ecumenical Institute have long known Dr. Hancock as an engaging professor of Old Testament. After she took on student services, students have also found her to be a wise and compassionate advisor. She will bring all of her academic experience and relational gifts to bear on the work of advising all MDiv bound students, and administering partner relationships. “I’ve experienced firsthand how transformative a strong MDiv program can be,” Dr. Hancock wrote, “and welcome the opportunity to support students seeking an accessible path to an MDiv.”
New seminarians pose for photo on the steps of the Historic Seminary Chapel in Baltimore (the original site of America’s first Catholic seminary).
Fr. Phillip Brown, P.S.S., President-Rector, the Faculty and St. Mary’s Seminary & University Seminarians welcomed 20 men to formation at America’s first Roman Catholic Seminary on August 21st. This year’s incoming class includes men from the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the dioceses of Albany, Erie, Harrisburg, Paterson, Scranton, Wilmington, Worcester, Zhaoxian, China as well as two priests from the dioceses of Manfe and Kumbo, Cameroon, who are studying for their S.T.L. degrees. The Introduction to Seminary Life program concluded with a retreat for the entire community and Mass of the Holy Spirit, which was celebrated by Most Rev. William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore. Classes begin on August 30th.
St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the 2018-2019 academic year. The EI will begin its jubilee with an academic convocation on Wednesday, September 12, at 7 pm in our chapel. The convocation speaker is Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years. Taylor Branch is especially well-positioned to remind us of the situation in 1968 when Cardinal Shehan and Episcopal Bishop Harry Lee Doll announced a new experiment in ecumenical theological education in founding the EI. Students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the EI are invited to join us as together we commemorate a bold beginning, celebrate a faithful history, and anticipate an engaging future.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Rebecca Hancock at email@example.com or 410.864.4202.
Office of the President-Rector
Statement from Father Phillip J. Brown, P.S.S.
August 21, 2018
Recent revelations about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report convince me that I should address these matters as President-Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary & University. Pope Francis released a very powerful letter today on this critical matter which I urge you to read.
Some suggest that the Church is being treated unfairly, perhaps even persecuted. The Catholic Church is not the victim here anymore than Penn State or Michigan State University have been victims through revelation of criminal misconduct by their faculty or staff members. The thousands of children and vulnerable young people who have been sexually abused and harassed by priests and members of the Catholic hierarchy are the victims. And the People of God, who have not deserved this, are victims also.
This is a very sad time for the Catholic Church. But it is not a time to try to deflect responsibility. It is time to acknowledge responsibility, do penance and most importantly to reform: to reform not only words spoken, but reform the culture that made these horrible events possible.
St. Mary’s is committed to learning from what came before, and enacting policies and practices to assure no blind eye will ever be turned to wrongful behavior; that it will be confronted and addressed as soon as discovered, and those responsible dismissed from St. Mary’s. We are also committed to forming priests who will support a culture where the vulnerable are protected fully by the Church, where not just abusers but anyone who covers for them are held accountable.
Here is my attitude: I have no tolerance for sexual abuse or sexual harassment, or any other kind of abuse or harassment on the part of anyone I supervise, work with or am responsible for. I am committed to investigating any and every allegation thoroughly and fairly. Any suggestion of child abuse is reported to civil authorities. As a Christian I believe in forgiveness, but forgiveness does not dispense with the need for accountability. I cannot change what happened in the past, but I have been and am committed to preventing improper behavior as long as I am in charge of St. Mary’s, and to make amends for past wrongs when that can be done. I cannot share confidential information, but if I could I believe you would be convinced that I mean what I say. I am also responsible to insure that every faculty member at St. Mary’s today understands and enforces the same policy.
My predecessors started strengthening admissions standards, human formation resources and faculty screening over 30 years ago, something that continues on an ongoing basis. We want to be an important part of the solution, not to perpetuate the problem. We are profoundly aware that words and policies are not enough: actions must prove that our words are sincere. Those who know St. Mary’s today know of results that reveal themselves in outstanding seminarians and priests. I ask for your prayers and support so St. Mary’s can continue to provide the People of God with the kind of priests you deserve.
Please see Archbishop Lori’s statement on recent revelations to show our solidarity and commitment to confront and resolve these serious problems, in particular in the way we strengthen and grow St. Mary’s program of priestly formation. For the harm that has been done, I want to express my sorrow and beg forgiveness on behalf of the Church. I also want to pledge to you our undying efforts to do all we can to reform so that such horrors never happen again.
Sincerely yours, praying for the assistance of Jesus and Mary,
Rev. Phillip J. Brown, P.S.S.