By S.L. Hansen
SEWARD (SNR) - Saint Gregory the Great
Seminary in Seward has been awarded accreditation from the North
Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS), a regional
"It’s kind of a seal of approval,"
explained Msgr. John Folda, rector of the seminary.
He added, "It’s a recognition that the
program meets all the necessary standards for a college
The seminary has always been a
legitimate institution of higher education. When Saint Gregory
the Great Seminary opened in 1998, the State of Nebraska granted
the institution the ability to confer college-level degrees on
the men who graduated.
The NCACS accreditation, according to
Msgr. Folda, "allows these degrees to be recognized beyond our
own program and beyond the state."
Pursuing the regional accreditation
and the national status and recognition that it carries was
always part of the plan. Indeed, the Church requires that all
seminaries earn this type of legitimacy.
In the first few years, however, the
seminary staff was still developing the academic standards,
institutional policies and other necessities that the
accrediting agency looks for.
Msgr. Folda noted that in the
beginning, Saint Gregory the Great Seminary had a cooperative
arrangement with Concordia University, where the seminarians
took a number of their courses.
"Four or five years after we opened,
we had a full in-house faculty and curriculum," he said.
Some of the priests who were teaching
at the seminary in those early years were simultaneously working
on doctorate degrees, another factor evaluated by the NCACS.
The facility itself has also developed
over the years. Additions were made to the original structure.
The library – which literally started out with no books at all,
slowly grew to somewhere around 41,000 catalogued volumes and is
still a work in progress.
"We’ve developed a very good library,"
said Msgr. Folda. "The [NCACS] team acknowledged that the
library is very impressive."
Another issue that had to be addressed
was the ongoing financial solvency of the seminary. Securing
revenue and establishing endowment funds to provide for the long
term are signs of the seminary’s stability.
In 2008, Saint Gregory the Great
Seminary became a candidate for accreditation with the NCACS.
Various documents were filed, and in April of last year, the
NCACS sent a team to visit the seminary and review the
institution’s ability to meet the commission’s criteria for
Last November, Msgr. Folda was
notified that Saint Gregory the Great had earned a five-year
accreditation, the normal duration for a first-time institution.
"In a few years, we’ll begin another
self-study and prepare for another team’s evaluation," Msgr.
Subsequent teams from the NCACS will
be able to award the seminary up to 10 years accreditation. With
many positive comments and a few suggestions related to the
strategic planning and academic assessment processes from the
NCACS visitors, the seminary staff already has goals in mind.
Meanwhile, the men attending Saint
Gregory the Great Seminary and those who have graduated can
enjoy the confidence of knowing that their education holds value
on a national basis.
Men who are considering entering the
seminary and bishops from other dioceses who are considering
college-level programs can trust Saint Gregory the Great
Seminary as a reliable, legitimized institution of priestly
formation, offering credits that would generally be accepted in
any other college in the nation.
Msgr. Folda acknowledged that the
NCACS accreditation could help with recruitment, should he ever
be in a position to hire another lay professor. It could also
enable the seminary to grow, if bishops from outside the diocese
decide to use the program for their own seminarians.
"A larger student body makes it more
economical to run the program," he added pragmatically, "but
ultimately, we’re not doing this to make money."
Currently there are 44 men studying
for the priesthood at Saint Gregory the Great. Most are from the
Diocese of Lincoln, but some hail from other dioceses as well.
Msgr. Folda expressed his gratitude to
the people of the diocese who have offered so much support and
so many prayers on behalf of the seminary and its students.
"We are very blessed," he said. "We
always need prayers. Most importantly, we want people to
encourage vocations and pray for our seminaries. "
Material support is also welcome, as the seminary continues
to develop the library, increase the endowment fund, improve the
facility and maintain the grounds. Contact Msgr. Folda for more
information at 402-643-4052 or email@example.com.