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NEW ST. FRANCIS SERAPHIC SEMINARY



A Retrospect


The dedication of the new seminary marks an event of far-reaching importance in the history of our beloved Alma Mater. It means, of course, the moving of our school from the noisy, congested district of a big city to the quiet, invigorating atmosphere of a country home. But it also means much more.

According to the mind of Mother Church, a preparatory seminary is different from the ordinary college or high school. By constant residence and the consequent mode of living, the youthful aspirant to the sacred priesthood should be trained in those habits and ideals that best prepare for a fruitful ministry. All the more do these requirements hold in a seminary that prepares at the same time for the religious life. Therefore, we now rejoice in the possibilities that are opened to us as we move into our new home.

If we have waited long to realize these ideals, the reasons must be sought in the countless circumstance that surrounded the seminary in its original location. A brief survey of its beginnings and its gradual development will best explain the trend of events which have finally given us the New St. Francis Seminary.

The fact that the beginning of our seminary was made as early as 1858, testifies to the prudent foresight of those sturdy pioneer Fathers who laid the foundations for Franciscan activity in the central states.

Fr. William Unterthiener may be called the pathfinder. He it was who, in answer to Archbishop Purcell’s appeal, was sent from his native province in Tyrol in 1844. The newly erected St. John church at Green and Bremen (now Republic) streets was promptly entrusted to his care, and here stands the cradle of the Cincinnati Franciscan Province. Several other Fathers soon came to his assistance, so that in the year 1855 there were ten Franciscan Fathers, together with several lay-brothers, laboring in the following parishes: St. John Cincinnati (1845); St. Stephen, Hamilton (1848); St. Boniface Louisville (1849); St. Clement, St. Bernard (1850).

The field of labor, however, extended far beyond these four parishes in which the Fathers resided. As an example of their zealous activity, it may be noted that St. Joseph church, at Linn and Laurel streets, owes its origin to Fr. William, who erected the first structure—a three-story combination church and school. In fact, the demand for the Services of these first Friars was so ostensive that the future presented a serious problem. The labors of the Fathers had to be stabilized and some provision was necessary to secure recruits who would perpetuate the endeavors of the pioneers.

In this work of organization there stands foremost the figure of the Very Rev. Fr. Otto Jair. He had come from Tyrol in 1848, and had soon become the intimate friend and confidant of Archbishop Purcell, who recognized his administrative ability. Due largely to the kindly offices of the zealous Archbishop, the Custody (now Province) of St. John the Baptist was established in 1859. Fr. Otto was appointed First Custos, or Superior.

Even in anticipation of this event, Fr. Otto, at the special request of the Archbishop, had made the beginning of the school that was to become our St. Francis Seminary. In answer to his urgent appeal, two more of his brethren came from Tyrol in 1858 with the express purpose of undertaking the educational work. These were Fr. Archangelus Gstir who became the first rector, and Fr. Francis de Paul Kolb who succeeded the former in 1861. Both were men of pro-nounced scholarship for whom teaching was no experiment.

It is interesting to note the enthusiasm with which the Wahrheitsfreund in its issue of September 9, 1858, made the announcement that the Franciscan Fathers would open a new school, to be known as St. Francis Gymnasium, for the educa-tion of young men aspiring to the priesthood. The European term "Gymnasium" was in those days generally understood to designate a classical course of higher learning. Later the American term "College" was substituted and about five years ago our school assumed the name "Seminary" in order to emphasize its true character as a training school for the priesthood.

On the Feast of St. Francis, 1858, the new Seminary began its career with a solemn High Mass in St. John Church. Thirty young men from various parishes of the city were enrolled as students.

The beginning, of course, was humble. No special building had been provided, and classes were conducted in a dwelling on Vine Street, opposite the spot where the present St. Francis Church was then being erected.

Upon the completion of the church, in 1859, Fr. Otto at once undertook to build an adjoining monastery. When this monastery was dedicated on October 4, 1860, the Fathers were ready to receive their first novices; and on the same day five graduates of St. Francis Seminary received the habit of St. Francis at the hands of Fr. Otto. One of these first graduates was Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, from whose memoirs the early data of this sketch are largely gathered.

September 2, 1861, the new St. Francis Parish School was dedicated, and in this building several classrooms had been reserved for the Seminary. It was an economic arrangement that served well for a few years. However, the parish school soon required the use of the entire building, and the Seminary classes were then transferred for a time to St. Francis Monastery.

Finally, during the summer of 1867, a special building for the Seminary was erected on Bremen Street, just opposite the monastery. Archbishop Purcell dedicated it, Sunday, September 1, amid much enthusiasm of the laity. The celebrated Jesuit missionary, Rev. F. X. Wenninger, who was an intimate friend of the Fathers, delivered the festive sermon.

This building was a simple three-story structure containing six large rooms. One room became a chapel, three were used for classes, and for several years the lower floor was given to tenants. The few boarding students were housed with some families who lived in the vicinity. Thus, for the time, all requirements were met in the simplest possible manner.

In 1866 the Fathers also established a branch of the Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in connection with St. Boniface Monastery, but this arrangement lasted only till 1871.

If we bear in mind the troublesome character of those times and the small number of priests, we need not be surprised at the apparent uncertainties that surrounded the Seminary in the first years of its existence. On the contrary, we must admire the dauntless courage and perseverance with which these pioneer Fathers sought to accomplish what was almost impossible. It is, indeed, hard to understand how, amid the abundance of parish work, they still found time to conduct their classes They doubled their energies wherever possible, and called to their assistance the clerical students of the monastery, who divided their time between studying and teaching.

In 1874 the addition of a fourth class established a well-graded curriculum.

When, on October 4, 1883, the Seminary celebrated its silver jubilee, Fr. Otto, the venerable founder, now Vicar General of the Archdiocese delivered the sermon. In the course of his remarks he pointed out that already 69 alumni had become priests, and 57 of them are Franciscans.

The numerical growth was indeed gratifying. On March 25, 1886, the Custody of St. John the Baptist was raised to the dignity of a Province. Fr. Jerome Kilgenstein became the first Provincial. This was an official acknowledgment from the ecclesiastical authorities in Rome that the Franciscan establishment in Cincinnati had passed the experimental stage. The same year a fifth class was added to the course of study, so that the entire curriculum might conform to the general legislation of the Church.

By this time the activity of the Fathers had further extended to the states of Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, and to the Canadian Province of Ontario. One alumnus, who has since become internationally known, carried the name of the Cincinnati Franciscans even to the missions of Palestine and Egypt, where he labored for a number of years until he was assigned to promote the interests of the Holy Land in America. Mt. St. Sepulchre, known in Washington, D. C., as "The Monastery", will ever stand a monument to the untiring zeal of Fr. Godfrey Schilling.

In proportion as the field of activity spread, there came also students from more remote localities, and the thoroughness of the classical course soon found wider recognition. We may mention here the hitherto unrecorded fact, that in 1885, when the renowned Father Jessing laid the foundations for the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, he arranged to have his first students take their classical course at St. Francis Seminary.

Under the administration of the scholarly Fr. Ambrose San-ning (1888-1893), several optional branches were added to the course of studies. Fr. Bede Oldegeering, whose enthusiastic educational efforts are still favorably remembered, organized a Reading Circle, or Literary Society, which to this day announces as its object, —"to cultivate the literary tastes of its members, and to create and perfect in them the rhetorical embellishments of the priestly character." Fr. Mark Kreke, who began teaching in 1877 and has continued in the faculty to the present day, labored fervently to broaden the course in the Natural Sciences. All in all, the curriculum became such as would appeal to any ecclesiastical student.

But now every available space in that six-room building was in demand and each succeeding year emphasized the necessity of supplying more spacious accommodations. To meet these needs, the first Seminary building gave place to another structure of more ample proportions, which was dedicated by Archbishop Elder on Pentecost, Monday, May 14, 1894. The much-beloved Fr. Ubald Webersinke, one of the pioneers and a former rector of the Seminary, delivered the sermon for the occasion.

Fr. Peter Englert, who was Provincial at the time, made the plans for this building. It provided five classrooms, chapel, study hall, music room, laboratory, museum, students’ lunchroom, cloakroom, and faculty office. It was often admired for the practical manner in which it met the difficulties of the congestion that surrounded it. The completion of this building opened the way for new possibilities that were quickly and enthusiastically grasped by the very efficient Rector, Fr. Bernard Nurre.

A history of our Seminary would be incomplete without a special tribute to Fr. Bernard. He was a man of truest piety and deepest learning, whose entire priestly life of 22 years was given to the education of ecclesiastical students. For a number of years he was equally active in the preparatory and the philosophical departments. Himself an indefatigable student, he knew also how to inspire his pupils with a thirst for learning and an appreciation for high ideals. In 1900 he was called to the chair of Moral Theology at Oldenburg, Ind., but three years later he returned to the rectorship. After three more years of excellent service, he was called almost suddenly to his eternal reward. While conducting a retreat for the clergy in St. Cloud, Minn., during the latter part of August 1906, he became seriously ill, and after a few days of suffering he answered the final call of the Master. The students, returning for the new scholastic year, September 4, were shocked to learn that the following morning they would not attend the customary joyous opening mass, but the solemn funeral of their beloved Rector. Of Fr. Bernard it is true in the best sense that his work lives after him.

During these difficult years, Father Bernard was fortunate in having with him the services and inspiration of two professors, Father Vincent Troat and Father John Welling-hoff, both of whom distinguished themselves by their priestly zeal and keen interest in the progress of the Seminary. Father John brought to his work a rare acquaintance with the classics and a self-sacrificing energy that endeared him to faculty and students alike. Father Vincent, after a successful career at the Seminary, shed enviable glory on the Franciscan Order by his wide and fruit-ful missionary activities.

Fr. Bernard was immediately succeeded by Fr. Urban Freundt, who was vice-rector at the time and who, with one year interrupting, has presided ever since. His guiding ambition from the start has been to continue and perfect, if possible, the high standards set by his illustrious predecessor.

In 1908 the golden jubilee gave occasion for much rejoicing and also for gratifying reflection on the things that had been accomplished. On Monday, October 5, Fr. Eugene Butter-mann celebrated the solemn jubilee mass in St. Francis Church. The speaker for the occasion was Fr. Chrysoatom Theobald, the Father Provincial. No one could speak with better first-hand knowledge than he, and the inspiration of the hour added to his usual eloquence. He reviewed the Semi-nary’s steady progress from its humble beginning to this joyful day, when 241 alumni, now engaged in every sphere of priestly activity, were perpetuating even in distant climes the ideals of the Cincinnati Franciscan Province.

Following the inspiring jubilee days came years of con-sistent progress. The war period found faculty and students entering wholeheartedly upon every suggestion of the Govern-ment. Our students, though exempt from military service, figured prominently in many civic and patriotic endeavors. In particular, it was our honor to number five alumni among the Army Chaplains.


The "Flu" epidemic of 1918-1919 created a year of uncertainties which was twice interrupted by enforced vaca-tions: but, while the Province mourned the loss of nine priests during those few months, our Seminary had no capacities to record. "Returning to normalcy" meant for us a renewed concentration on scholastic efforts, which have given encouraging results.

If the jubilee reminiscences revealed a remarkable broad-ening of the Seminary’s scope, this development has now become even more apparent. Today our Seminary counts nearly 400 alumni priests, many of whom have already gone to their eternal reward. Serving in the Cincinnati Franciscan Province, there are 184 priests whose activity in this country extends over the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Where the Fathers have charge of flourishing parishes, they also attend outlying missions, or stations, which would otherwise be deprived of priestly ministration, and they bring the consolations of religion to the inmates of various public institutions. In some of the larger cities they minister to the spiritual needs of foreign nationalists. In recent years the restoration of several churches for the colored population has been assumed. Furthermore, there is now a constant demand from all parts of the country for the Fathers to conduct missions and retreats in parishes and communities. These blessed activities are the inspiration of many a vocation among our students.

Missions among the pagans claim particular attention today, and it is interesting now to recall the first steps of certain great undertakings. Indeed, a tribute is due to the heroism that in its day went almost unheralded.

Those who were students in 1898 will not easily forget that memorable autumn day, when Fr. Anselm Weber and Fr. Juvenal Schnorbus came to say farewell because they were going to the Far West to establish a Franciscan Mission among the Navajo Indians. Both Fathers had endeared them-selves to the students by years of very successful teaching, and everyone felt assured that they would likewise succeed in this pioneer missionary undertaking. Even then, the picture of extensive missionary fields among the roaming Indians arose in the minds of future priests. The articles written by Fr. Anselm and Fr. Leopold in the Sendbote and the St. Anthony Messenger were read and discussed with an interest that betokened the awakening of many a vocation to these missions. The Provincial, Fr. Raphael Hesse, who in the spirit of St. Francis had anonymously urged also a whole-hearted enlargement of the project and from the original Navajo Mission the Fathers soon extended their care also to other Indian tribes and to the Mexicans and Spanish-Americans of that Southwest territory. The remark-able growth of this mission field is impressive, and we can only remark here that the undertaking has visibly brought God’s special blessing upon the entire Province. Unmistakable recognition of these missionary labors came from the Holy City itself when in February, 1919 one of the missionary Friars, Fr. Albert Danger, was appointed Archbishop of Santa Fe. Since then the far west no longer seems so far, and every visit of Archbishop Danger to his Alma Mater fills the students with enthusiasm for the Franciscan Missions of the Southwest.

Another event, the full significance of which was hardly recognized by many at the time, occurred in September 1905 when Pr. Sylvester Espelage was permitted to follow his ardent longing-for the missions of China. As Fr. Sylvester said good-by to his brethren, he made no secret of his inten-tion to pave the way for other American Friars who would surely follow in the course of time. His prediction was emphatically verified when recently the Holy See entrusted the Prefecture Apostolic of Wuchang to the American Fran-ciscans. About a year ago Fr. Ulric Kreutzen and Fr. Austin Partt went to join Fr. Sylvester. Other volunteers are ready to go in the near future, and each succeeding year will see additional forces from the Cincinnati Province laboring in those distant mission fields which were first dedicated by the blood of Franciscan martyrs about 700 years ago. Many students of today are enthusiastic over the prospects of devoting their lives to the flourishing missions of the Celestial Empire.

While our Seminary has thus become a real missionary school, the ideals of Franciscan scholarship have not been overlooked. Much credit is here due to one who, even with his retiring disposition, has exercised an encouraging influence for more than half a century, Fr. Louis Haverbeck, now in the 60th year of his priesthood. Fr. Louis was twice Rector of the Seminary in the early days and he served one term as Provin-cial, but his chosen work has ever been in the department of Theology where his authority is widely recognized. He has been the teacher of every priest in the Province today and he has followed with keenest interest every scholastic effort of his former pupils. His prudent advice and helpful suggestions gave stability to many an undertaking with which His name was not associated. He has now retired from the Theological faculty at Oldenburg, but his enthusiasm is un-diminished and. if there is one thing that brings joy to His heart, it is the realization of his early ideals in the scholarship of the Province.

For the past 25 years the younger Friars have had oppor-tunities of pursuing advanced studies in universities at home and abroad. As a result, the Cincinnati Franciscans are today represented in the faculties of St. Anthony International College, Rome, and of the Catholic University. Washington, and on the editorial staff of the Franciscan Press at Quaracchi, Italy. In recent years, the Fathers have actively par-ticipated in the Seminary Department of the Catholic Educa-tional Association. The Franciscan Educational Conference, in its meeting of 1922, paid the following tribute to our present Rector: "The success of the Franciscan Educational Confer-ence, its organization and remarkable development, are largely due to the wholehearted zeal, the self-sacrificing devotion, and the indefatigable energy of Father Urban." Needless to say, these scholastic endeavors have reflected favorably on the entire curriculum, and every student realizes that he must measure up to a standard of Franciscan scholarship.

With such an array of ideals to attract and inspire a student, we must expect a large enrollment. True, we must limit the privilege of our school to such as aspire to the Fran-ciscan priesthood; but even 60 applicants have been refused because there was no room. With much crowding 110 students were enrolled in the present term.

Our readers will understand that we speak not of our clerical students in the departments of Philosophy and Theology. These advanced students (at present 56) pursue their studies in our monasteries because they already wear the habit of St. Francis. But in the Preparatory Department one difficulty has confronted us for some years

In the early days, as previously stated, the few boarding students were housed with some families nearby. This method gradually resulted in a system of boarding houses that served the Seminary exclusively. In these homes the "mother of the student family" would devote herself un-selfishly to the cause of priestly education by caring for all the domestic needs of "her boys".

The system was an emergency measure which underwent timely modifications as the number of boarders increased. When the present St. Francis Monastery was completed in 1907, the former "Brothers’ House" became the Junior Annex, and three years later the building adjoining on the south was purchased and remodeled into the Senior Dormitory. In the course of time additional rooms were rented to relieve the growing congestion. Thus the Seminary gradually became a quest boarding school situated in the most densely populated quarter of the city. The difficulties attending this situation need no comment.

Still, as we look back, we must humbly thank God for His providential guidance of affairs amid these difficulties. We desire to record also a most grateful acknowledgment to those good women who during all this time served our cause so faithfully in the domestic departments of school and boarding houses. They rendered services that only the Lord can adequately reward.

The necessity of a new Seminary in a suburban location became constantly more apparent, and finally, under the Provincial administration of Fr. Rudolph Bonner, the property for the purpose was bought January 18, 1921.

The triennial Chapter of 1921 elected Fr. Edmund Klein Provincial and appointed the following building committee: Fr. Chrysostom Theobald, Fr. Odoric Lehmkuhle, Fr. Urban Freundt, and Fr. Timothy Brockmann. Fr. Provincial at once entered upon the building enterprise, guiding its progress with personal attention. Fr. Timothy prepared a plan for the proposed structure, and in December 1921, the architect’s tentative plans were submitted. The final revised plans were approved in the Chapter of July 1922.

On the Feast of the Assumption, 1922, Fr. Provincial, assisted by a number of Fathers, blessed the premises and broke ground for the new building.

On Washington’s Birthday, 1923, an enthusiastic gathering of Fathers, clerics, students, and laity made their way to the new grounds for the solemn laying of the cornerstone. Fr. Provincial performed the ceremony. By a happy coinci-dence, Archbishop Danger, of Santa Fe, was able to attend. He and his gracious assistance emphasized the missionary char-acter of the undertaking.

Since that auspicious day the work has progressed steadily amid a growing interest on the part of Catholics generally; and as we proceed to the solemn dedication, we are inspired with utmost confidence and highest anticipations for the future. The building is not quite ready for occupancy now, but with God’s blessing and under the particular protection of St. Anthony, we hope to open the 67th scholastic year in

THE NEW ST. FRANCIS SEMINARY.

Vivat, Floreat, Crescat.


Rectors of St. Francis Seminary
1858 – ‘61 Fr. Archangelus Gstir
1861 – ‘62 Fr. Francis de Paul Kolb
1862 – ‘68 Fr. Anthony Becker
1868 – ‘69 Fr. Ubald Webersinke
1869 – ‘71 Fr. Stephen Sailer
1871 – ‘73 Fr. Ubald Weberainke
1873 – ‘82 Fr. Joseph Roesl
1882 – ‘84 Fr. Louis Haverbeck
1884 – ‘87 Fr. Engelbert Peter
1887 – ‘88 Fr. Louis Haverbeck
1888 – ‘93 Fr. Ambrose Sanning
1893 – ‘00 Fr. Bernard Nurre
1900 – ‘01 Fr. Pius Nichaus
1901 – ‘03 Fr. Dennis Engelhardt
1903 – ‘06 Fr. Bernard Nurre
1906 – ‘15 Fr. Urban Freundt
1915 – ‘16 Fr. Fulgence Meyer
1916 - Fr. Urban Freundt


The new St. Francis Seraphic Seminary is ideally situated on the east side of Mill Road, between Miles and Springdale Roads, one of the highest points in Hamilton County, approximately midway between the cities of Cincin-nati and Hamilton, not far from Mt. Healthy. Crowning a gentle elevation at a short distance from the main highway, the graceful structure looms into clear view long before the premises are actually reached. Stretching for miles to the north and west are wide areas of open country, while to the southeast richly wooded hills roll smoothly away towards the west fork of the Mill Creek in the rocky valley below. A few miles to the east, an almost unbroken line of flourishing villages and suburbs mark the main course of the Mill Creek, and heighten the restful prospect that unfolds itself on every side. All about there is an atmosphere of romantic and peace-ful seclusion.

The Seminary grounds comprise about one hundred and twenty-eight acres, a substantial portion of which is farm and woodland. The approach to the Seminary and the immediate surroundings is beautified in keeping with carefully drawn landscape gardening plans. These provide for a spacious and well-drained campus, a charming variety of trees and shrubbery, terraced plots variegated with parterres, shady walks and lanes, etc. Well-paved highways border the grounds, and the city is accessible within a short time by direct interurban and bus lines. Because of its proximity to the city, the Seminary enjoys the conveniences of electric light, abundant water supply, and adequate transportation facilities.

The Seminary building, simple yet dignified in structure and design, exemplifies the Spanish Mission style of architecture and looks out upon the highway in a southwestern direction. It is constructed of rough texture buff brick, with Bedford stone trimmings, and is fireproof throughout. In form, it stands like a capital letter E, the two end wings being made to spread away from the center or chapel wing in order to give more light and air. The west wing and the entire front section are three stories and basement in height, while the rear portion of the east wing carries one story less. On another page is described the chapel, which, though joined to the main building, forms a complete unit.

The interior arrangement, complete and modern throughout, is appointed more with a view to practical convenience than elegance, yet the marked simplicity is altogether pleasing and impressive. Spacious corridors, conveniently placed stair-ways, and elevator service on all floors give easy access to all departments. Ventilation and sanitary requirements are amply provided for throughout the building. The institution is strictly a boarding school, and has accommodations for the members of the faculty and one hundred and fifty students.

A notable feature is the cloister arrangement or enclosure, which provides exclusive apartments for the members of the community. In the cloister are included individual rooms for the faculty, several guestrooms, infirmary, library and reading room, community room, and refectory. By a practical and eco-nomic disposition of space, the students’ quarters are uniquely organized—the respective departments being centered in one portion of the building. The Junior and Senior dormitories, infirmary, dining hall, kitchen, and laundry are located in the west wing. In the east wing, which serves all requirements of study and recreation, are the auditorium, study hall, library and reading room, stores and offices, museum, music rooms, Junior and Senior recreation rooms, gymnasium bowling alleys, wardrobe, showers and lockers. Extending between these two wings, in the third floor, are the class rooms, physical and chemical laboratories, and special recitation rooms. Every appointment in this section of the building makes for convenient and orderly arrangement.

The domestic department is in charge of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, whose headquarters are at Reading, Pennsylvania. A separate building with private chapel is provided for the Sisters. The kitchen and laundry departments, to which there is direct approach from the Sisters’ home, are thoroughly equipped with all modern appliances.

The new postal address will be

ST. FRANCIS SERAPHIC SEMINARY, Mt. Healthy P. O.,

Cincinnati, Ohio

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