We were going to hold this story a little longer to give you all of the historical context first, but feel like it is urgent to get this one out for you all. It concerns how Boston College is squeezing the property of St. John Seminary at the same point when the seminary is prospering and needs more space.
We hear that tensions are increasing, with BC taking back space the seminary was previously using. Several reports–now confirmed–indicate that BC has recently pushed St. Johns out of their music room, and is booting St. Johns faculty from their dining room as well. Normally we would wait to verify this from multiple sources, but it aligns with a pattern we have been seeing already. So, this blog feels compelled to come out and say it appears no one at the top of the archdiocesan food-chain is pushing the seminary needs over BC’s encroachment. That is why we are calling this a “Seminary Squeezola.”
As most people know, back in 2007 the Archdiocese sold off the huge majority of the land and buildings owned by St. John Seminary to Boston College when the archdiocese needed to raise cash. We will go into the details of the transaction at another time. The archdiocese took the cash and according to St. John’s Annual report, the archdiocese owes St. Johns $4.8 million (plus interest) as of January 2011 from the 2004 sale of seminary land, and another $36 million in 2017.
How the cash-poor archdiocese will pay back those debts from the land they forced the seminary to sell is a story for another time. So is the question of why Chancellor Jim McDonough is on the board of the seminary, when his main business is consuming money for the archdiocese–which presents a humongous conflict of interest vs advancing the formation of seminarians. More on that another time…
So, the great news about St. Johns is that it is prospering and needs more space! We heard glimpses of the good news back in 2008 when the Boston Globe reported on the “Stunning Turnaround for St Johns Seminary.”
Today there are about 100 students studying at St. Johns. We get numbers from different sources, but this breaks down to about 80-84 residents, and 17 day students. 27-30 of those are from Boston, maybe around 10 are Neo-Catechumenates, and the rest come from other dioceses. We hear great things about rector, Bishop Kennedy, the overall program, and quality of seminarians and staff at the seminary. The seminary has run out of residential space in St. Johns Hall. They are out of classroom space, because Bishop Peterson Hall was sold to BC, and may need to bus seminarians to the Masters of Arts in Ministry (MAM) building in Brighton for classes.
To help solve the residential space problem, the seminary has been negotiating with BC to purchase back about 62 rooms over the refrectory (dining hall). These were leased to BC in an arrangement which was a 99-year lease for $1, which is effectively a sale for legal purposes. Now BC wants somewhere north of $1.5M to sell the rooms back to St. Johns and is apparently driving a hard bargain. BC fired a shot across the bow letting them know “who is in charge” by trying to use the St. Johns chapel and pipe organ without asking permission back in September. Now we hear they are taking back the small music room and faculty dining room they had legally acquired but were letting St. John’s use.
We wonder which side of all this Jack Connors is on? Where is he when you need him to push for the seminary and archdiocesan needs for a change and tell his alma mater they should back off? Cardinal O’Malley has stated his unequivocal support for the seminary in the past (“My commitment to St. John’s Seminary and its work of preparing men for the priesthood remains as strong as it has always been.”) Where is he in this picture? Besides Bishop Kennedy, who above him is standing up for the needs of the seminary and our future priests?
Apologies for the incomplete information today and tone of anger and frustration. We are miffed.
If anyone from the seminary would like to comment, please feel free to in comments or via email (bostoncatholicinsider(at)gmail.com).