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​‘The right name for the right place!’

September 17, 2021 | posted by Father Jim Schellenberg

Topics: Vocations

‘The right name for the right place!’

This past August the Church celebrated the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (body and soul) into heaven. While the archdiocese does not have a parish dedicated to the Assumption, it does have Assumption Seminary located at 2600 West Woodlawn Avenue in San Antonio, Texas.

For many years the archdiocese sponsored workshops for young guys who were thinking about becoming a priest. These were held at the former St. John’s Seminary on Mitchell Street on the Southside of San Antonio. I and a fellow seventh grader came to San Antonio to experience the life of seminarians. During our week stay we had classes, studied Latin, went to Mass, had chores attended baseball games across the street and went to a basketball game of college level seminarians at the new “Assumption Seminary.”

According to Robert Ellwood, the 1950’s was a “fine time to go to church … and to build.” It was a decade when many Catholics were seeking a sense of normalcy. Due to good economic times, the baby boom, and focus on family many churches experienced great growth and a need for individual’s with a religious vocation to take their places as nuns and clergy. It was a time of “unshakeable solidarity and overwhelming confidence “in the Catholic Church. (Leslie Tentler) At this time the United States was still considered a missionary country. Many Irish nuns and priests as well as others came to the archdiocese. This was the golden age of vocations to religious life.

The late Archbishop Robert E. Lucey, knowing well the need for more space for its vocations, bought the former Trinity University on Woodlawn Avenue. The “major seminary” was dedicated on April 4, 1952. It was given the name “Assumption Seminary.” It appears this name appealed to Archbishop Lucey because only 18 months earlier Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption (Munificentissimus Deus) on Nov. 1, 1950. According to one of the two books I reviewed at Today’s Catholic it referred to Assumption Seminary as a “permanent memorial of the training of the future clergy of the Southwest.” (History of St. John’s -- Assumption Seminary.)

However, understanding the history of the date of this feast of the Assumption is a different matter. It is a day of devotion which some historians say began at the Council of Ephesus in AD 461. Other recordings state the Byzantine church celebrated what they called the feast of the “Dormition of Mary.” It was the “Byzantine Emperor Mauritius (582-602) who established the Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15.” (Catholic Education Resource Center /Saunders) This same date was later adapted to the Western Liturgical calendars as a day of observation of the Assumption of Mary. As mentioned earlier, Pope Pius Xll confirmed August 15 the official date when he proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary. Thus it became a holy day of obligation.

While digging up some history on the date of the Feast of the Assumption, I came to discover there are some other theories about the connection between the Assumption and the month of August. Since the 16th century “historically” over time certain devotions were assigned to various months of the year. For example, August became associated with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. According to various sources Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1944 to be celebrated on August 22. This then coincided with the traditional octave day of the Assumption. However, Pope Paul VI in 1969 moved the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the Saturday, immediately after the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Catholic Insight). These two feast days are now associated with the month of June. With this change Pope Paul VI moved the celebration of the Queenship of Mary from May 31 to 22 August 22, bringing it into association with the feast of her Assumption. Interesting!

Moving back to the naming of Assumption Seminary and history of the feast day, it appears this name was a good choice. It was a good choice because these seminarians, like Mary, are called to a vocation of service, reflection, and prayer. According to the Scriptures, Mary was a woman who pondered things in her heart. It is not uncommon for seminarians when speaking with their spiritual directors to talk about things in their hearts. Mary was also a woman of faith who said “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to his word.” It is in the rite of ordination deacons, presbyters and bishops are called to be servants of the Lord.” They too, like Mary say “yes” in the reception of the sacrament of holy orders.

Today, Assumption Seminary continues a tradition of preparing men for service to the People of God. Father Hy Nguyen, PSS, rector of Assumption Seminary, describes the seminary as a “hidden treasure.” (Today’s Catholic, 25 March 2021). Indeed it is! It has been home to many seminarians who have been given the charge of announcing the Gospel of Jesus through ministry of Word, Sacrament and Service, The seminary has been home to individuals from all parts of Texas, the United States, and the world. It is a community where a staff of men and women, together with the students, interact in conversations of faith, life, and ministry.

In conclusion, by the time this article is published, we will have celebrated the feast of the Assumption. It will soon be time for students and staff to come back together for another year of studies and formation. Just as these seminarians and staff renew their “yes” to be servants of the Lord, let’s each one of us do the same. We all have a part of the Blessed Mother in our lives! Viva Assumption!