Yesterday I attended a celebration in Loretto, Pennsylvania, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Province of the Third Order Regular of the Franciscan Friars. This particular Province was established in 1910, and yesterday's celebration, led by Father Nicholas Polichnowski, the Minister Provincial, was a recognition of their Provincial Ministries. One of those ministries was the establishment of Saint Francis Seminary in 1912 - 100 years ago. Originally called Our Lady of Loretto Seminary, Saint Francis was one of the major educational ministries established in Loretto by the Friars - the seminary, the college/university and a prep school. Originally located on the main campus, the seminary was moved to the former Charles Scwaub estate in Loretto following a disastrous fire that destroyed the entire old main of the college in late 1942. That estate had been purchased by the friends of the friars on October 3rd of that year, and the fire on campus happened in late October. The estate became the Mt. Assisi Friary. The Seminary moved to a new location and building just outside of the small town of Loretto in 1962, in time for my arrival in 1968. I finished college there and completed by four years of theological studies at Saint Francis. It closed its doors in 1979. The building is now, as I have mentioned before, a Federal prison.
Yesterday's gathering centered around a Eucharistic Liturgy at Immaculate Conception Chapel on the main campus at 4:00 pm. Our presider and celebrant was Bishop Mark Barchak, the bishop of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in which Loretto is located. The homilist was Father Peter Lyons, T.O.R, the last rector of the seminary. Many friars and priest alumni concelebrated, including Bishop John Kudrick of the Byzantine Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, from the class of 1975 (I believe). Except for the sweltering heat in the unairconditioned chapel, it was a great celebration.
Prior to the Mass, there was a panel discussion and time of remembering led by former members of the faculty and two former rectors. It brought back memories (mostly good ones) and prompted the continued nostalgia that happens at reunions. Father Joe Mele from Pittsburgh represented the diocesan seminarians in his reflection and the expression of gratitude to those who formed us. In addition to the T.O.R.'s, there were guys there from many places - a number of us from Pittsburgh, Greensburg and Altoona-Johnstown, but also a classmate, Joe Santesieri from Richmond and Dennis Hrubiak, a Byzantine priest from near Cleveland. It was good to see so many.
Following Mass there was a reception followed by a great dinner for all. The Franciscan hospitality was clearly in evidence. The diocesan guys posed for a picture of the group following dinner. I am looking forward to receiving a copy. One final note ... they had each of the ordination class photo rosters enlarged and displayed. How young we looked then ... and for many of those years, mine included, how long the hair styles!