Although students have prepared for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth since 1795, the seminary shares a sprawling campus with the National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM) and dozens of administrativeoffices, including the headquarters of the Irish bishops’ conference.
But under a reform of training structures for priests in Ireland, instigated by the Apostolic Visitation, the college’s 70 seminarians will be now completely cut off from the wider university community.
Separation doors have been installed on the main cloister to partition the seminarians’ living quarters from the rest of the campus, to which only members of the seminary community have access.
In further moves to create a distinctive environment for those preparing for the priesthood, a distinctive entrance to the seminary has also been constructed at the back of the building.
And college chiefs said they are seeking funding for a separate dining room, so that seminarians will no longer have to eat in the company of lay students and visitors to the college.
Msgr Hugh Connolly, president of St Patrick’s College, said he is “trying to get the balance right between the need for the seminary to be a distinctive, prayerful community and ensure that the seminarians have all the benefits that the Maynooth campus has to offer”.
“It is all about striking that balance,” said Msgr Connolly. “Seminarians are training to be diocesan priests living in the world, not members of a monastic community.”
He also confirmed that he is bringing forward proposals to the trustees of the college to create a separate dining room for the seminary community.
In an interview with this week’s Irish Catholic, one unnamed seminarian described the moves as welcome, reasoning: “There are obvious benefits to living on such a large campus with all the facilities and opportunities for recreation and involvement with clubs and societies.”
But he said that it was important for him to be able to train “in a prayerful, reflective environment”.
Last year there was speculation that the St. Patrick’s College might be closed, after reported recommendations that the Apostolic Visitation, led by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, wanted all Irish seminarians moved to the pontifical Irish college in Rome. However, this was later dismissed by Msgr Connolly, who dismissed the reports as being “without foundations”.