The following comes from an October 25 Catholic San Francisco article by By Valerie Schmalz:
After 118 years, the society of diocesan priests who have administered and taught at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University will withdraw completely from the seminary at the end of this academic year.
The abrupt Oct. 21 announcement by the U.S. provincial of the Sulpicians Father John C. Kemper to Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone will sever a relationship with the Society of Priests of St. Sulpice that began with the seminary’s founding in 1898.
Archbishop Cordileone expressed sadness in an Oct. 23 statement to priests of the archdiocese. He wrote that Father Kemper, a seminary trustee, “informed me of this decision Friday afternoon, about two hours before the commencement of the meeting of the board of trustees. He then stayed for the board meeting and responded to questions and entreaties by board members. The decision, however, remains final.”
The decision by the Sulpicians came as the seminary board of trustees was seeking to negotiate a change in the governance structure to a more “collaborative” model similar to Assumption Seminary in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said seminary spokesman Spokane Bishop Thomas Daly, a trustee and graduate of St. Patrick’s. Sulpicians are on the formation staff at Assumption Seminary but the rector is not a Sulpician.
The Oct. 22 statement by the Sulpicians said that the Sulpicians were informed they were no longer to provide “administrative leadership” at St. Patrick’s.
However, Bishop Daly said the Sulpicians made the call to leave. “They made the decision. There was no discussion with the board of trustees. They had made up their mind” the day before and had voted to withdraw. “So there was no collaboration in the decision,” Bishop Daly said.
In the Oct 22 announcement, the Sulpicians stated: “We have recently been informed that we are no longer invited to provide Sulpician administrative leadership to St. Patrick’s. As a consequence, we will not be able to serve the seminary according to the Sulpician tradition. After consultation, discussion, and prayerful discernment, the Provincial Council has decided to withdraw totally from St. Patrick’s as of June 30, 2017. We extend our best wishes to St. Patrick’s Seminary & University as it moves forward.”
The relationship with the Sulpicians has had some rocky moments in the last few years, with Sulpician Father James McKearney, the predecessor of the current rector-president, asked to resign in 2013. Bishop Daly, then an auxiliary bishop of San Jose, served as interim rector until current rector-president, and former vice-rector and theology professor, Sulpician Father Gladstone Stevens was chosen.
The board of trustees was concerned about some aspects of the seminary administration in academic and spiritual areas and was interested in discussing a new collaborative relationship with the Sulpicians. Those issues were raised in an executive committee conference call with Father Kemper and another Sulpician the previous Sunday, Bishop Daly said.
That discussion apparently led to the province’s decision four days later to withdraw from the seminary.