DUNWOODIE, N.Y. — In the midst of a year-long celebration of St. Joseph, hundreds turned out Thursday, Sept. 16 to honor his patronage of a renowned Catholic seminary now in its 125th year — St. Joseph’s Seminary & College.
Festivities began with an opening Mass celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. The granite campus opened on Sept. 21, 1896, on Valentine Hill in the Dunwoodie neighborhood of Yonkers. It is a historic site, having also served as an encampment of Gen. George Washington’s army during the Revolution.
Bishops, including Diocese of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, priests, seminarians, and their families, alumni, and faculty filled the seminary’s chapel for Mass.
In his homily, Cardinal Dolan on how a predecessor in the 1890s, Archbishop Michael Corrigan, championed the development of the Dunwoodie campus to serve the Archdiocese of New York.
He said the noblest task of the archbishop was to select the seminary’s patron saint.
“Here on Valentine Hill, the project we this afternoon salute, has to be in his choice of the patron, the patron for the seminary,” Cardinal Dolan said. “The foster father of the Redeemer was chosen as our patron saint. And the logic is so enlightening, isn’t it? Especially to be savored during this year.”
Pope Francis called for the year-long celebration of St. Joseph on Dec. 8, 2020, the 150th anniversary of the carpenter saint being proclaimed Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX. The pope called for a year-long celebration of the saint through Dec. 8 of this year.
“St. Joseph, of course, had two driving passions,” the cardinal said. “One, to obey God’s designs, and two, to love Jesus and Mary, as the passion of his life.”
Today, Saint Joseph’s Seminary and College is the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York. Its previous seminaries were regional campuses in Nyack (1833-1834), Lafargeville (1838-1840), Fordham University (1840-1862), and Troy (1864-1896).
But Archbishop Corrigan wanted a seminary closer to New York City, which was providing a lot of the seminarians at that time, said Kate Feighery, archivist for the archdiocese. In 1891 he laid the cornerstone for the hilltop seminary in Dunwoodie, an event that famously drew an estimated 100,000 people, Feighery said.
The first academic year began on Sept. 21, 1896, with 96 seminarians; 65 are enrolled today, said Cynthia Harrison, the seminary’s director of communications.
Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, the seminary’s rector since 2020, called the seminary a house built on wisdom — “the eternal wisdom of God.” He added that the campus is “merely the extension of what our Lord had done 2,000 years ago when he called the first disciples [together] and formed them in the new way of life.”
“The three years spent at the feet of their teacher, by the lakes and on the mountainsides of Galilee, was their seminary life,” Bishop Massa said. “So every seminary worthy of the people whom its graduates will serve as merely a branch campus of the one that the great teacher founded back in Galilee, two millennia ago.”
Cardinal Dolan compared the seminarians of the 1890s to those of today. Unchanged is a common devotion through the generations of the future priests.
“Like St. Joseph, these men discover that whatever God’s intentions might be, an abiding love of Jesus and his mother Mary is all that really counts in the end,” Cardinal Dolan said. “And then all else falls into place, right? All other distractions then fade.
“Valentine Hill, then, gives us two hearts. The Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Immaculate Heart of his mother. Those two hearts beat at the very core of all reality, those two hearts beat in loving rhythm here at this 125-year-old seminary.”
The celebration continues at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 with a lecture “St. Joseph and the Eucharist,” by author Dr. Scott Hahn, in the SJS Prayer Hall. Next is the Annual Advent and Christmas Concert, at 4 p.m. on Dec. 4, and another lecture, at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 by Msgr. John Meier, on “The Historical Jesus: An Overview,” also in the prayer hall.
For more information, visit dunwoodie.edu/125thanniversary.