U.S. seminary in Belgium to close in June

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The American College of the Immaculate Conception in Leuven, Belgium, will close at the end of this academic year because of the small number of seminarians and difficulties in obtaining qualified priests for its faculty.

The decision to close it in June 2011 was announced to the public Nov. 22 by Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., who chairs the board of bishops of the American College. The seminary community had been informed shortly after a Nov. 17 confirmation of the board’s decision by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Baltimore.

“The seminary has served the church in the United States and other parts of the world faithfully, steadfastly and zealously throughout its 154-year existence, and so this is a sad moment for many of us,” Bishop Ricken said in a news release.

Founded in 1857 by the U.S. bishops and associated with the Catholic University of Louvain, the college originally had a dual purpose — to train young European men to become missionaries in the United States, especially for the immigrant population, and to offer U.S. seminarians “the philosophical and theological riches available at Europe’s oldest Catholic university,” according to the seminary’s website.

Belgium was chosen as the site for the first U.S. seminary in Europe because the original plan for such a college in Rome could not be carried out because of political upheaval in Italy in the mid-19th century.

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