by PETER GRACE
Horse care was once considered an important part of training for deacons — at least by some.
At the Founders’ Mass for Holy Cross Seminary on May 4, celebrant Bishop Patrick Dunn summarised the pre-history and history of the seminary.
Holy Cross Seminary opened in Mosgiel in 1900. Bishop Dunn told about 50 priests, including Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona and Bishop Emeritus Stuart O’Connell, seminarians and seminary staff
that in the early days, before deacons were ordained, they had to sit a one-hour oral exam. “And one examiner said he felt the course was deficient because there was no training on the care of horses.”
Seminary rector Fr Brendan Ward commented later that he hadn’t known until Bishop Dunn mentioned it, that Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier opened New Zealand’s first seminary, in 1850, in Auckland.
Bishop Dunn told the congregation that that seminary continued for 19 years, leading to 20 priests ordained.
The appointment in 1896 of the second bishop of Dunedin, Bishop Michael Verdon, changed the scene again.
Bishop Verdon had had a history of involvement with seminaries, Bishop Dunn explained. In 1899, he asked New Zealand’s other bishops if they would agree to a seminary, if he arranged everything.
The agreement was forthcoming.
Bishop Verdon travelled overseas and returned with several artefacts and four priests to help start the seminary. By May 1900 it was open.
In the 1980s Holy Cross Seminary at Mosgiel was closed and the present seminary opened in 1989.
During the Founders’ Day Mass, Bishop Dunn installed two seminarians, Anthony Trenwith and Tony Archer-King, as acolytes. This order is the second-to-last step before ordination as a priest.
After Mass, most in the congregation repaired to the nearby seminary for socialising and dinner.
Between the main course and dessert, Fr Ward spoke briefly. He pointed out that, as of last year, there had been 1137 All Blacks selected in that team’s history.
“According to our records of seminarians since 1900,” he said, “without taking into account the ones Bishop Pat mentioned, there have been 1413 at Holy Cross College, and the seminarians
here say we are doing better than the All Blacks.”
Fr Ward also mentioned a few names from the early years of Holy Cross — like Daly, Scanlan, Hanrahan, Lynch, Skinner, Collins, Connolly — all Anglo-style names.
“The names have now changed markedly, indicative of the ethnic and cultural mix of the men we have applying.”
In those days, too, men were ordained at an average age of 25.
The latest figures were an average age of 31, with an age range of 23 to 45. The 29 seminarians now at Holy Cross were of nine different ethnicities, with only nine Kiwis — and two of those had
Maori roots, Fr Ward said.
Archbishop Nona, from Sydney, attended Founders’ Day while on a visit to Chaldean Catholic communities in New Zealand. One of those Chaldeans is a seminarian at Holy Cross.