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  • Minor Setback or Major Disaster? The Rise and Demise of Minor Seminaries in the United States, 1958–1983 by Robert L. Anello
  • Robert Wister
Minor Setback or Major Disaster? The Rise and Demise of Minor Seminaries in the United States, 1958–1983. By Robert L. Anello, M.S.A. (St. Louis: En Route Books and Media. 2018. Pp. xxiv, 591. $35.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-9998814-2-2.)

This great tome of almost 600 pages fills an important gap in the institutional story of Catholicism in the United States. Reworking his doctoral dissertation, Anello admits the difficulty of creating a coherent narrative since there is no one [End Page 559] accepted definition of a minor seminary. There are four-year high schools and four-year colleges. There are six-year programs encompassing high school and junior college. Finally, one might include the first two years of a philosophical-theological program. Minor seminaries were sponsored by dioceses and religious communities. Some served seminarians exclusively and some included lay students. Many were residential programs, while others were day programs or a combination of the two.

The lengthy bibliography and the copious footnotes testify that Anello mastered the pertinent literature. Not only does he frequently cite various articles found in seminary and educational journals, but also the publications of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (later the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), the National Catholic Educational Association, and subsidiary minor seminary organizations. Further, he has mastered the seemingly endless data on seminaries produced by these organizations and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. This gathering and analysis of data alone is a great service. Anello goes even further. He addresses and astutely analyzes the mass of information and data on vocations over a fifty-year period. In this, he offers a significant corrective. He resurrects the concern over a drop in vocations proportionate to the growth of the Catholic population that was heralded in the 1950s. This allows him to contextualize the vocations issue within the culture and to separate it from the effects of the Second Vatican Council. He shows the impact of the Second Vatican Council on the decline in vocations but allows us to reflect without any preconceived biases on the great power of the culture on vocations.

After introducing us to the world of seminaries of the mid-twentieth century, Anello divides his narrative into four sections, each accompanied by two case studies. In each section, the external context of the minor seminary is well documented. The first is "'Future Shock': The Beginning of the Demise." In this chapter, covering the years 1960–1966, the pedagogical and administrative issues of the period are addressed as seminaries begin to absorb Optatam totius. The case studies are of St. Charles College (Catonsville, Maryland) and Queen of Apostles Seminary (Madison, Wisconsin). The influence on vocations of St. Paul VI's encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus is analyzed.

The second chapter comes as a bit of a surprise. It is still the mid-sixties but several new minor seminaries are being established. Anello does not miss this and gives us "Newer Minor Seminaries as 'Short-lived Phenomena.'" The case studies are Bishop's Latin School (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and Mount St. Paul College (Waukesha, Wisconsin). Again, Anello does not forget Rome and explains how the impact on clergy, especially younger clergy, of St. Paul VI's encyclical Humanae vitae, negatively affected vocations. The evidence leads Anello to conclude that college seminaries are in transition, while high school seminaries are in freefall.

Moving into the seventies, we come to "Minor Seminaries as 'Endangered Species.'" In this period, the first edition of the Program of Priestly Formation neglects minor seminaries in comparison to its attention to the theologate, a sign of [End Page 560] growing ambivalence toward these institutions. The stories of Quigley North and Quigley South Preparatory Seminaries (Chicago, Illinois), and Holy Apostles College and Seminary (Cromwell, Connecticut) provide the case studies for this period, which Anello describes as a time of decline and disorder.

Anello's final historical chapter, "The Survivors," reviews the 1980s. The survivors chronicled are St. Lawrence Seminary High School (Mount Calvary, Wisconsin) and Cathedral Preparatory Seminary (Queens...


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