Shake-up may see students leave historic home
Radical plans that would see Maynooth seminary leaving the college’s neogothic buildings in favour of a new purpose-built home on the same campus are being considered by the hierarchy, Primate of All-Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin has told The Irish Catholic.
The proposal is part of a radical shake-up that would seek to empower Ireland’s laity and see the future of seminary formation transformed to help future priests be better trained for life in contemporary Ireland.
It comes amidst questions about Maynooth’s fitness for the task of forming men for the priesthood with Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin recently questioning the college’s suitability as a Catholic university given that it currently has effectively only one fully active faculty.
However, Archbishop Eamon – Chancellor of the Pontifical University at Maynooth – insisted that there are ambitious plans to ensure that Maynooth continues to play a valuable role in the life of the Church in Ireland.
“Over the last two years anyway, we have been reflecting and discerning really about the future of seminary formation for Ireland, and also more widely than that about the future of first-class provision of philosophical, theological and pastoral formation for the whole Irish Church,” Archbishop Eamon said.
Noting how in Maynooth there are three institutions “cheek by jowl” – the pontifical university, the secular university, and the seminary – Archbishop Eamon pointed out that the seminary is currently quite small, and that “for the future the trustees are aware that we need to be planning for something smaller from the point of view of seminary education”.
“In our recent reflection we also believed that we need to be looking at the possibility of perhaps even a new building in Maynooth, which would be more in tune with the demands for the future,” he says. “In terms of seminary education we’re talking about a smaller number of Irish seminarians”.
He also said that Rome “is calling on us to provide a centre for the ongoing formation of clergy. In other words could we have a place to bring our clergy to give them a year sabbatical, to avail of top-class philosophical theological and pastoral formation”.
Maintaining that Maynooth is a going concern because of its location, its built heritage, and potential property development with Maynooth University, Archbishop Eamon told The Irish Catholic that significant discussions are ongoing around this.
“We’re currently in very high-level discussions with Maynooth University about the possibilities that we have to exploit the resources we have there in order to generate sufficient income to be able to do the exciting plans that I’ve been speaking to you about,” he said, adding that he is not sure that the future of the seminary lies in the existing buildings.
“I’m not so certain whether the current old buildings in Maynooth are what we’re dreaming of in terms of the future housing of, say, seminary formation, but they’re part of our tradition and we are very blessed that Maynooth University is our anchor tenant for a lot of the older buildings that we’re no longer using,” he said.
The challenge, according to Archbishop Eamon, is how Ireland can maintain a first-class centre for theological, philosophical and pastoral formation.
“Because if you look at what Pope Francis was saying and his dream of a missionary impulse to transform the Church at this time in the West, and to channel everything for evangelisation, then what we need to be doing in the Church in Ireland is looking to have a very top class internationally-renowned centre of theological, philosophical and pastoral education,” he said.
There has been tension for some time at the level of the hierarchy around Maynooth. It came to the fore in 2016 when the Dublin diocese announced it would no longer send seminarians to the college. At the time, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin complained of “strange goings-on” at the seminary.
See Maynooth: Looking to a renewed future