Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Rector reports progress in seminary construction

the Inland Register

(From the Oct. 2, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Darrin Connall is rector of Bishop White Seminary, Director of Seminarians, and Vocations Director for the Diocese of Spokane. (IR file photo)

What is the status of the seminary construction project?

We are now four months into the construction process and I am happy to report that we are on budget and little ahead of schedule. The framing for residence portion, administration and chapel are about 95 percent complete. These days we have a full team of plumbers, electricians, framers, HVAC installers, roofers and masons all on site. It is quite a task to coordinate all of these trades at once, but it is going quite smoothly.

Where are the seminarians living during this year of construction?

The seminary is spread out over four houses located in the Logan Neighborhood. The offices and two priest apartments are located in what is known as the Astor House which is owned by the diocese and immediately adjacent to the construction site. We have also rented three houses owned by Gonzaga University to house our seminarians and one additional priest. We squeeze into one of the larger houses for meals and we use the third floor Gonzaga Student Chapel for prayer and Mass.

How many seminarians are currently at Bishop White?

We have 14 seminarians enrolled at Bishop White Seminary this semester from several dioceses including our own. Two additional seminarians are currently in application for the Diocese of Spokane, which will bring our total enrollment to 16 seminarians.

Construction continues on the new Bishop White Seminary – pictured, framing for the seminary’s chapel. (IR photo courtesy of Bishop White Seminary)

When will the construction project be finished?

We are hoping to have the project completely finished – landscaping, paving, garage, and so forth – by June 1, 2009. The main portion of the seminary, however, should be completed a little earlier. This early completion (late April of 2009) will allow us to vacate the Astor House which contains our temporary office and priest residence. Once the Astor House is empty, it will be demolished to make room for parking, drainage swales and a garage.

How many seminarians will the new building accommodate?

The seminary was designed to have the maximum amount of flexibility. The reality of college seminary formation is that enrollments can fluctuate from one year to the next. As a result, the residence portion of the seminary has a mix of ordinary student dorm rooms, guest rooms with private baths, and apartments for priests. Without doubling up any rooms, we could take 20 seminarians. However, the seminary dorm rooms are slightly larger than a typical college dorm with the idea that they could easily be doubled. This means we could accept as many as 40 seminarians at any one time.

How many priests will live at the seminary?

Each of the three residence floors contains an apartment for a priest faculty member. In addition to the rector and house spiritual director, there is an additional residence for a senior priest of the diocese. We wanted to make the apartments attractive to priests nearing retirement who could live at the seminary, serve as a priestly model and mentor for the seminarians, and offer services by celebrating Mass and hearing confessions. When I first arrived at Bishop White Seminary, we invited Father Gene Glatt to be senior priest in residence. Father Glatt’s presence was a wonderful gift to the seminarians. He was a model of humble service and was held in high regard by the entire seminary community. His brief illness and death gave the seminarians an opportunity to serve Father Glatt with the same compassion and sensitivity he had shown to our community. Currently, Msgr. Robert Pearson holds the title of senior priest in residence. Msgr. Pearson’s love of the priesthood and history of priestly formation and support of vocations is an inspiration to seminarians. In my opinion, the presence of priests such as Father Glatt and Msgr. Pearson are essential to the Bishop White Seminary program.

What are other features of the seminary?

In addition to the three story residence portion, the new seminary will offer a dining and conference room, offices and chapel. We hope to once again make these public areas available to Catholic organizations such as the Serra Club and to have space available for diocesan meetings, such as the Priest Personnel Board, Priestly Formation Council, and the Deacon Formation Program.

What happened to the residence section of the old seminary – the “mansion”?

One of the initial challenges of this building project concerned the status of the three story red brick Huetter Mansion which has served as the signature building of Bishop White Seminary for over 50 years. Historic preservationists, residents of the Logan Neighborhood, and members of the Huetter Family joined others in voicing their concern about the potential demolition of this house. Thankfully, Gonzaga University came to the rescue and agreed to accept the challenge of saving the mansion by moving it across the street. The mansion is now situated on the southeast corner of Addison and Sharp and will be used by Gonzaga for offices, university relations, and so forth. This action by Gonzaga is typical of the kind of strong support Bishop White Seminary has received from the university’s president, Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, and the entire university community.

Who are the architect and general contractor?

The architectural firm for the project is Architects West of Coeur d’Alene. Architects West has been involved in the design of a number of Catholic projects such as Immaculate Conception in Colville and Our Lady of Fatima in Spokane. Bouten Construction is the General Contractor. Bouten is perhaps best known for their longstanding work for Sacred Heart and Holy Family Hospitals in Spokane. We have a good team in place and I am confident they will see this project to a successful completion.

Will there be some kind of dedication ceremony when the project is complete?

Several different celebrations are being planned. Given the significant diocesan interest in this project, we plan to spread out the ceremonies and celebrations over a period of several months. The summer of 2009 will include celebrations for the Gonzaga University community, diocesan priests and seminarians, permanent deacons and their wives. In early September there will be an opportunity for all the people of the diocese to tour the facility during an Open House and reception. Announcements of these events will be published in parish bulletins and the Inland Register prior well in advance of the dates.

Finally, I want to thank all those faithful women and men who have been so generous and supportive of this construction project. This new Bishop White Seminary building is a great gift to the Diocese of Spokane and a strong sign of support for priestly formation. I am truly humbled and grateful.

The seminarians of the diocese gathered with Bishop Skylstad for Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes to begin the new school year. (IR photo courtesy of Bishop White Seminary)

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