St. Mary's Seminary is the first Roman Catholic seminary in the nation: rich in tradition while focused on priestly preparation for the 21st-century.
These pages provide information on the history, personnel, environment, and formation (in the Sulpician tradition) at St. Mary's.
The three pages in this section of our site touch on the very basics of the formation process.
A major part of priestly formation is intellectual formation, accomplished through the pursuit of academic degrees.
Desiring to assist in the strengthening of Hispanic ministry and recognizing the need for well-prepared priests dedicated in-part or in-full to this ministry, St. Mary’s Seminary and University has established a specialized track in Hispanic ministry.
St. Mary’s Propaedeutic Stage implements the vision of the Program for Priestly Formation (6th edition). It takes place in a revitalized and expanded structure on the historic grounds of the original St. Mary’s Seminary in downtown Baltimore.
The McGivney House welcomes candidates from all dioceses and is not limited to candidates destined to enter St. Mary’s Seminary & University, but is the recommended program for those who will come to St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute (EI) was founded in 1968 by St. Mary’s Seminary & University, America’s oldest Roman Catholic seminary, in cooperation with ecumenical leaders. St. Mary’s is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The Ecumenical Institute encourages people of all denominations to explore theological studies in a serious, open-minded, and supportive environment.
All EI programs are available wherever you are - on campus in Baltimore, and on-line.
The Ecumenical Institute invites people of all denominations into theological study that pursues excellence and promotes ecumenical understanding and respect.
All EI programs are available wherever you are - on campus in Baltimore, and on-line.
St. Mary's Ecumenical Institute has a rolling admissions policy. Students may apply at any time for admission by submitting the appropriate materials.
The Ecumenical Institute offers accredited graduate theological programs for two master’s degrees, several graduate certificates, and introductory explorations.
The post-master’s Certificate of Advanced Studies in Theology (CAS) is designed for individuals who possess a master’s degree in theology (e.g., MAT.), ministry (e.g., MACM), divinity (e.g., MDiv), or a related field and who desire to continue their theological education with a general or focused program of study.
The Doctor of Ministry program roots ministry in the mission of God, the ways God is working in your context, in your ministry, and in you.
Students have a host of resources available to support their theological education, from free parking and a great library to writing assistance and advising.
St. Mary's Ecumenical Institute offers accredited graduate theological education that is intellectually rigorous, personally enriching, and professionally empowering.
More than 750 alums of St. Mary's Ecumenical Institute are making a difference in Baltimore, in Maryland and D.C., West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and around the world.
General communication and individual contacts
It is the mission of the Center for Continuing Formation to encourage bishops, priests, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers to engage in human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral growth and to enable processes of growth that are ongoing, complete, systemic, and personalized.
Conference space rentals include a large room that will seat as many as 58 and smaller rooms that will seat from 4 to 30.
St. Mary's Center for Continuing Formation offers and hosts a variety of continuing formation programs for priests in the spirit of the Bishops' new Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests.
St. Mary’s Seminary & University’s Pinkard Scholars is the cornerstone of Youth Theological Studies at SMSU.
For more information about any of our conference facilities or space rentals, please contact our offices directly.
The Marion Burk Knott Library of St. Mary’s Seminary and University is the largest specialized theological library in the Baltimore area, with additional materials in the areas of philosophy, psychology, pastoral counseling and church history, among others. The library receives over 390 periodicals and maintains a collection of 20,000 volumes of bound periodicals. Other holdings include newspapers, microfilm, and audio-visual materials.
The Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary & University opened in the spring of 2002. Located on the campus of the nation’s first Roman Catholic seminary, this program brings together the archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (est. 1789), St. Mary’s Seminary & University (est. 1791), and the Associated Sulpicians of the United States (U.S. Province est. 1903), making it one of the most significant repositories for records relating to the early history of the Catholic Church in the United States.
Click here for more information about hours and visitor policies.
This section was created to provide researchers with a brief description of the open collections in the archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, St. Mary's Seminary & University, and the Associated Sulpicians of the United States.
The Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary & University has developed a genealogical policy responsive to individuals researching their Catholic roots.
We facilitate personal integration of the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions necessary for authentic priestly witness and service in the image of Jesus Christ.
Portrait of Cardinal James Gibbons taken around 1920
Coat of Arms of Cardinal James Gibbons. This is the second coat of arms used by Cardinal Gibbons. It was commissioned in 1910 and designed by Pierre de Chaignon La Rose. It displays the coats of arms of the Archdiocese of Baltimore on the left and the Gibbons family of Ireland on the right with the addition of the escallop shell to symbolize St. James the Apostle, the Cardinal’s baptismal patron. His motto, Emitte Spiritum Tuum (Send forth Thy Spirit; Ps. 103:30), reflected his devotion to the Holy Spirit.
The 100th anniversary of the death of Cardinal James Gibbons, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s ninth and longest serving archbishop, was observed on March 24, 2021. On such an occasion, it is only appropriate to look back on the career of this extraordinary churchman and leader of Maryland’s Catholic community, whose priestly ministry began at the start of the U.S. Civil War and ended 60 years later in the aftermath of the First World War and a global pandemic.
The items included in this exhibit are found in the archives represented in two of our holdings: the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Associated Sulpicians of the United States.
James Gibbons was the fourth surviving child born to Irish immigrants Thomas Gibbons and Bridget Walsh in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 23, 1834. He was baptized at the Cathedral (now Basilica) of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where some forty years later he returned to assume his duties as the ninth archbishop of Baltimore. The decision of his parents to move back to Ireland when James was still a child placed the family in the country on the eve of the Great Hunger. Little is known of the difficulties the Gibbons family endured, but the father was able to provide for his family through the grocery he operated in Ballinrobe, County Mayo. His premature death led to the family’s return to the United States in 1853, this time settling in New Orleans. There the young James was employed as a clerk until he discerned his vocation to the priesthood. He received his training under the Sulpician Fathers at St. Charles’ College and High School (1848-1969) and St. Mary’s Seminary & University (est. 1791) and was ordained for the Archdiocese of Baltimore on June 30, 1861.
Depiction of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, c. 1820, at the time it was dedicated. It was the first cathedral constructed for the Archdiocese of Baltimore (est. 1789) and served as the seat of Cardinal Gibbons during his nearly 44 years as archbishop. It was also the church from which Cardinal Gibbons was baptized, ordained to the priesthood, and buried.
His first assignment was to St. Patrick’s Church (est. 1792) in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, at that time a predominately Irish parish located near the harbor from which so many earned their living. He was soon moved to nearby St. Brigid’s Church (1854-2019) in Canton, which included visiting the families of St. Lawrence O’Toole Church (now Our Lady of Good Counsel; est. 1859) in Locust Point. He also volunteered to be a chaplain at Fort Marshall and Fort McHenry, both in Baltimore, where he ministered to the Union and Confederate soldiers who were either stationed or imprisoned at the forts during the Civil War. In 1865 he became secretary to Abp. Martin J. Spalding (1810-1872) where, among his other duties, he helped prepare for the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (1866). He was nominated for the newly-created vicariate apostolic of North Carolina at the Council and was installed in 1868, making him the youngest bishop in the world. Four years later he was appointed the fourth bishop of Richmond, while still remaining Vicar Apostolic of North Carolina. In May 1877 he was named coadjutor to Abp. James R. Bayley (1814-1877) and succeeded him as the ninth Archbishop of Baltimore on October 3, 1877, an office he held for the next forty-three years until his death in 1921.
Cardinal Gibbons outside of the Archbishop’s Residence on North Charles Street. The block on which the residence stands had become a favorite spot for rollerskating among children of the neighborhood. Many had memories of seeing “our cardinal” out on his daily walk around the city. One of these children later wrote as an adult: “I shall never forget my first impression … as he came down the street with long, graceful strides, swinging his Irish walking stick. He was erect and trim in his clerical black with the rim of his scarlet zuchetto visible under his soft black hat.” [Ruth W. Dodson, “Memories of Old Baltimore: Skaters Meet Their Cardinal,” Baltimore Sun, April 1, 1966.] Others recalled going over to speak with him, while a few were even allowed to hold onto the hem of his coat so that they could be pulled along.
Highlights of his career include attending the First Vatican Council (1869-1970), presiding over the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884), elevation to the College of Cardinals (1886), the founding of The Catholic University of America (1889), participation in the papal conclave of 1903 that elected Pope Pius X, and the organization of the National Catholic Welfare Council (1919) (today known as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). He was the recognized leader of the U.S. Catholic Church during the years he served as Archbishop of Baltimore and is credited with doing much to improve relations between the Catholic community and larger society through his involvement in civic affairs and associations with leaders of other religious denominations. One historian noted that Cardinal Gibbons’ greatest skill was not as an orator or writer, but as a diplomat. Time and again over the course of his career, Church and political leaders, which included Popes and U.S. Presidents, turned to him for counsel and help with intermediating matters that required his discretion and deft touch. The esteem in which he was held was reflected in the civic demonstration that was held in honor of his golden jubilee to the priesthood and silver jubilee as a cardinal in 1911. Religious leaders and representatives from across federal, state, and local governments, including the sitting U.S. President, William Howard Taft, and former President Theodore Roosevelt, were counted among the over 20,000 people who had gathered in Baltimore to celebrate the occasion.
Civic demonstration held in Baltimore in honor of Cardinal Gibbons’ golden jubilee to the priesthood and silver jubilee as a cardinal, June 6, 1911.
Cardinal Gibbons on the steps of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary viewing one of the impromptu parades held in Baltimore to celebrate Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.
Cardinal Gibbons was also the author of five books, including The Faith of Our Fathers (1876), a Catholic apologetical that enjoyed widespread success among Catholic and non-Catholic audiences. It is acknowledged to be one of the most successful works of this genre written in the English language and remains in print today. His most famous work, however, was a memorial written in defense of the Knights of Labor (1887) which prevented condemnation of the country most popular labor union by the pope and upheld for the first time the right of U.S. Catholics to organize and join labor unions. The letter helped to inspire Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891), a papal encyclical that addressed how the forces of urbanization and industrialization had impacted Western Society. It is recognized as one of the most significant papal encyclicals of the past two centuries and as a foundational document of modern Catholic social teaching.
Cover page from the 100th edition of The Faith of Our Fathers by Cardinal James Gibbons published in 1917.
First page of the memorial written on behalf of the Knights of Labor, 1887. [English translation published in the Moniteur de Rome and included in Allen S. Will’s Life of James Cardinal Gibbons (Baltimore: John Murphy Company, 1911), pp. 151-61.]
Cardinal Gibbons died peacefully in his 87th year on Holy Thursday of 1921. Tributes poured in from around the world and dignitaries representing nearly every nation assembled in Baltimore to join Church leaders, representatives of federal, state, and local governments, and the faithful of the Archdiocese to attend the funeral Mass held on March 31 at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The pomp and ceremony of the service was unlike anything seen before in this country for a Catholic bishop. It was reported that over 125,000 people viewed his body while it lay in state and thousands lined the streets near the Basilica to watch the procession for his funeral. At the request of the Governor of Maryland and the Mayor of Baltimore, all activity was to stop for one minute when the funeral Mass began at 10AM as a sign of respect.
Crucifix held by Cardinal James Gibbons while he lay in state.
Funeral Mass of Cardinal James Gibbons at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, March 31, 1921.
Ticket to the funeral Mass of Cardinal James Gibbons with a mourning badge.
A tribute from Pope Benedict XV best summarized his significance to the U.S. Catholic community: “Cardinal Gibbons, excellent priest, learned master, vigilant pastor, was an exemplary citizen…. His memory, therefore, must be cherished with profound veneration not only by every Catholic, but also every citizen of the United States of America.”
John Tracy Ellis. Life of James Cardinal Gibbons, 2 vols. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1952.
Thomas W. Spalding. The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789-1989. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.