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Unique Stritch-SHSST partnership has produced priests for 25 years

The May 4 graduation at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology (SHSST) marked the 25th anniversary of a unique partnership with Cardinal Strict University: a program that makes it possible for a man without a bachelor’s degree to engage with a graduate theologate program. 

Pictured are (l-r): Christine Glynn, Stritch registrar; Fr. Thomas Knoebel, SHSST president-rector; Michelle Gilgannon, chair of the Stritch Religious Studies and Philosophy Department; Chris Head, Stritch executive coordinator of prior learning assessment & domestic & international articulation; and Julie O-Connor, SHSST registrar and academic planning officer.

The quarter century mark was commemorated with a special acknowledgement during the graduation, with Stritch officials on hand to publically receive the seminary’s gratitude.

Through this combined bachelor of arts-master of divinity program, a man who has no college credit can earn a bachelor’s degree and a master of divinity degree, and be prepared for ordination, in just six years. Men in this program live at Sacred Heart and participate in human, spiritual and pastoral formation while taking classes at Cardinal Stritch for up to two years. After that time they continue with the master of divinity academic curriculum at Sacred Heart. 

“Through countless hours of planning, diligent curriculum review, refinements, and semester upon semester of high-quality classroom academics, this program has served the Church extremely well,” said the Very Rev. Thomas Knoebel, president-rector of SHSST. 

“It has been of value for Sacred Heart, and for bishops and religious superiors who have had otherwise strong older candidates for seminary formation, lacking only the bachelor’s degree normally required before entering into a major seminary.

“It has also benefitted dozens of sincere, faithful, hard-working men who are past traditional college age, and whose primary desire is to serve the people of God through priesthood.

“Ultimately, Sacred Heart’s collaboration with Cardinal Stritch University has benefited the Universal Church. Through the priestly ministry of this program’s graduates, untold thousands of the faithful have been brought closer to God,” Knoebel said.

One of the program’s alumni, Fr. John Brosmer, who was ordained in 2005 for the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., said of the program, “I could have not asked for a better place to learn and discern my vocation [than Cardinal Stritch]. The faculty and staff were so supportive toward us.”

Fr. Duane Wachoviak, a priest in the diocese of Gaylord, Mich., who was ordained in 1998, commented, “As an older vocation, the Stritch program allowed me to complete my undergraduate degree by taking classes at Stritch while easing into the program at SHSST. It truly allows bishops to send a man lacking an undergrad degree to seminary and be able to have him back in the diocese in a short time to minister to the people of his diocese.”

Friday’s graduation included two men who received their bachelor’s degrees from Stritch as part of their Sacred Heart formation – Pila Tulua-Alverez, who will be ordained for the Diocese of Honolulu, and John Gonzales, who will be ordained for Tucson, Ariz. 

Stritch representatives on hand to receive seminary’s gratitude, and a plaque marking the event, were Professor Michelle Gilgannon, chair of the Religious Studies and Philosophy Department; Christine Glynn, registrar; and Chris Head, executive coordinator of prior learning assessment & domestic & international articulation.

Sacred Heart, in Franklin, an apostolate of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, provides priestly formation for men from across the United States and Canada, a Master’s Degree Program for lay students and seminarians like, and an English-as-a-Second-Language Program for clergy and others.

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