The Archivist’s Nook: Theological College – First 100 Years

Two Postcards of Theological College. (L) The original Gothic plan for the College, ca. 1920s. (R) The completed College, ca. 1970s

Heading south from the Catholic University campus, right across Michigan Avenue and facing the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, sits Theological College (TC). TC serves as the official seminary of the Catholic University of America, and has stood as a fixture of the Brookland neighborhood for the past century.

Founded in 1917 as an annex of St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, from its foundation, the seminary has been associated with the Society of Saint Sulpice, also known as the Sulpicians. Known until 1940 as the Sulpician Seminary, the motivation behind it was to serve as a seminary at the heart of the nation’s capital and as partnership between the Sulpicians and the Catholic University of America. This official partnership, however, would take several decades to solidify, as it was not until 1937 that an agreement was made between the two institutions to associate. This partnership has been reviewed and renewed ever since, throughout the changes in theological programs and American and Church culture.

Sulpician Seminary, ca. 1920s.

Renamed Theological College in 1940, the building that houses the seminary is a landmark bordering the south of the CUA campus. With groundbreaking occurring in 1917, the Sulpician seminarians resided on the Catholic University campus until the site was completed in 1919. Seminarians and theologians moved in on September 20, 1919.

Originally envisioned as a collegiate Gothic structure with larger wings for student housing, funding was unavailable to complete the original vision. By the early 1960s, a boom in seminarians led to overcrowding at the College. To address these issues, construction on a new wing and the tower began in 1963 until 1965. This construction added a larger library, kitchen and refectory, gym, and an enclosed courtyard. These features thrilled the student population, as well as the Sisters of the Divine Providence of Kentucky. The Sisters, having a small convent close by, provided domestic care for the College from 1918-1986.

Construction on the TC tower, ca. 1964

As TC enters its second century, alumni and current students are reflecting on its storied history and connection with the Catholic University community. Among its storied alumni are CUA Sociology professor Msgr. Paul Furfey, Archbishop Phil Hannan of New Orleans, CUA Philosophy professor Msgr. John Wippel, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington. While the TC community has provided a rich experience to campus life – participating in classes and even papal visits – the personal and social connections are ones that many alumni share. For example, among the many favorite memories from TC alumni are the tales of their legendary intramural basketball and football teams. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the seminarians dominated the court against the CUA fraternities. As the March 15, 1968 Tower reports: “The fraternity league team was different this year, but the result was the same as last year, as the Theological College again won the intramural basketball tournament.” From theological classrooms to basketball courts, TC students and the building they call home has been an integral part of the CUA story the past 100 years.

Theological College vs. Alpha Delta Gamma, 1968.

More information can be found in Michael Russo’s Ecce Quam Bonum: A History of Theological College. Mr. Russo is a current student at Theological College.

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