Ireland’s last diocesan seminary is to close. From September students at St Malachy’s seminary on Cliftonville Road, Belfast, which serves the diocese of Down and Connor and other northern dioceses, will be relocated to other seminaries to continue their studies for the priesthood. Currently there are three men in the seminary.
“The closure of the diocesan seminary is a sad moment for all, not least for all those who have worked closely alongside the formation team and who have contributed immensely to the formation of the seminarians,” said the statement announcing the closure. “However, in arriving at this difficult decision, the diocese and the seminary formation team have focused on what is in the best interests of the seminarians who are currently in formation.”
In 1909 Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) opened a Department of Scholastic Philosophy and seminarians from St Malachy’s began to study for their degrees there.
The statement said the closure of the Department of Scholastic Philosophy at Queen’s University and, more recently, the progressive discontinuation of modules in scholastic philosophy on offer within QUB “placed a great strain on the required philosophical training of clerical students in Belfast as a prerequisite for theological studies”.
Consequently, it continued, “after a period of consultation and discernment, it has been decided that St Malachy’s Seminary will cease forming students for the priesthood”.
“This decision has been taken with a certain sadness yet with trust in the providence of God, and with much satisfaction over what has been achieved through the diocesan seminary over the years.”
Two seminaries will continue to train diocesan priests for the Church in Ireland – the national seminary at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, which has 35 students in formation, and the Irish College in Rome with 13. Meanwhile the Cliftonville premises will be used for various diocesan purposes and services.