WTU Announces Closing

Rebecca Doel In the Headlines

WASHINGTON — The Washington Theological Union announced this week that it will conclude its mission at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.

The Roman Catholic graduate school of theology does not have the financial resources to be able to continue offering its academic services to the Church and the community beyond that time, according to a June 27 press release.

“In recent years, WTU, like many other seminaries and religious schools, has been navigating multiple financial challenges with the recent economic downturn, decline in the number of religious vocations and a national decrease in private funding for religious initiatives,” according to the release. “Earlier this month, the Board of Trustees, in consideration of these challenges and a declining endowment, decided to close enrollment to new students after September 2011.”

Current students will be given the opportunity to complete their degrees in the time remaining before the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.

“This was a difficult decision for us, not least because of the excellence of the education and formation our students are receiving,” said board of trustees chair Fr. James Greenfield, OSFS. “We remain proud of all we’ve accomplished as a community and of the many successes and contributions our students, faculty, staff and alumni are making to the Church.”

As a longtime host to nationally recognized conferences and workshops, WTU will continue to operate its conference center and offer lectures and programs for the Church community during this transitional period.

Fr. John Welch, O.Carm., said, “Let this be a time to celebrate the union’s contribution to the Church. … We will enter this final phase with dignity, a sense of accomplishment, and gratitude to God.” Fr. John is provincial minister of the Chicago Carmelite Province and a board of trustees member.

In its 43-year history, WTU has educated more than 1,400 religious and lay people from archdioceses and parishes across the nation and worldwide, including members of Holy Name Province.

“This is a sad and difficult moment in the history of this great institution,” said Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, in a letter to HNP friars. “The WTU has served our Province well these past 40 years, providing a first-class education and solid foundation in pastoral training for so many of us.”

Michael Blastic, OFM, a WTU faculty member, said: “I believe that one of the major reasons Holy Name Province is what it is today is because of how our friars were shaped by the pastoral theology and the vision of Church that the WTU provided. HNP was a key contributor not only financially but especially intellectually with the presence of friar-professors over the years. That will be very difficult to reproduce anywhere else.”

Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, who was a student when the WTU was established, said: “I agree with Michael 100 percent. The WTU provided excellent theology and pastoral training for our friars for more than 40 years and helped shape the reality of Holy Name Province. Its loss will be keenly felt.”

Dominic added that the Formation and Studies Directorate, of which he is chair, will be forming a committee to study long-term alternatives for post-novitiate formation. For the time being, however, the Province’s house of studies will remain in Silver Spring, Md.

Michael, Dominic, and more than 20 other HNP friars have taught and served in administrative positions at WTU. They include: Richard Biasiotto, OFM, Cassian Corcoran, OFM, Alcuin Coyle, OFM, Vincent Cushing, OFM,Alexander Di Lella, OFM, Regis Duffy, OFM, Daniel Grigassy, OFM, Kenneth Himes, OFM, Louis Iasiello, OFM,Christopher Keenan, OFM, Joseph Kiernan, OFM, William McConville, OFM, Myron McCormick, OFM, Daniel McLellan, OFM, Emeric Meier, OFM, Russel Murray, OFM, James Scullion, OFM, Xavier Seubert, OFM.

In addition, former friars Damian McElrath, the late Robert Monahan and John Wagenhofer served at WTU.

— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.