The founding of the seminary was very nearly coincident with the founding of the Diocese of Cleveland. Bishop Amadeus Rappe was consecrated the first Bishop of Cleveland on October 10, 1847. After living for a short time in a rented house near the old Haymarket, the Bishop purchased a property on East 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue. The brick house on this property became his residence, and in 1848 the adjacent frame buildings were made into classrooms and became Cleveland’s first diocesan Seminary. By July of that year, there were eight students enrolled, all of whom lived with the bishop in the episcopal residence.
In the second year of its existence, the Seminary had 18 students and needed larger quarters. In September 1850, Bishop Rappe purchased a new site for his Seminary, a three-story frame building on a site 225 feet square, with frontage on Lake and Hamilton Streets. In 1853 a two-story brick structure was added to the west end of the building, and in 1856 another two-story brick structure was added to the west end to serve as quarters for a classics department.
In 1859 Bishop Rappe began building a new Seminary on the same site. A brick building with the main part three stories high and with two flanking wings of two stories, the new Seminary was occupied in September 1860 by the Philosophy and Theology Departments while the older buildings became the site of the Classics Department, Saint Mary College. The Ordinary, Bishop Joseph Schrembs, broke ground for a new Seminary building on Ansel Road on March 19, 1924; the cornerstone was laid in May.
In the new building, Bishop Schrembs intended to include the Philosophy Program, which prior to that time had been in Cincinnati. In 1929, the Philosophy and Theology Departments were returned to the new Saint Mary, which then became Cleveland’s major Seminary with both a Philosophy Department and a Theologate. In 1954, Archbishop Edward F. Hoban transferred the Philosophy Program from Saint Mary to the newly established Borromeo Seminary of Ohio in Wickliffe, Ohio; since then, Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology has been exclusively a graduate theologate.
On February 24, 1962, the Seminary became an affiliate of Washington, D.C.’s Catholic University of America, and students were eligible to receive the ecclesiastical degree of Bachelors of Sacred Theology (S.T.B). This arrangement continued to 1970.
On August 16, 1968, Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology was incorporated by the State of Ohio. On September 13, 1968, the school was granted a “Certificate of Authorization received from the Ohio Board of Regents” to grant degrees in theological studies (Resolution 1969 –13). The members of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) voted associate membership status to Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology on January 15, 1969, and full accreditation was granted on January 14, 1971. On April 24, 1981, the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accredited the Seminary.
In 1989, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, inaugurated a thorough and lengthy consultative process to determine the future direction of priestly formation within the Diocese of Cleveland. After examining all the available options, the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese, the consultative body of priests for the bishop, recommended the establishment of a ministry training center to prepare not only priesthood candidates but permanent deacons and pastoral ministers as well. The bishop accepted this recommendation, and he appointed a Transition Committee to oversee the establishment of what is now known as the “Center for Pastoral Leadership, Diocese of Cleveland.”
On September 5, 1991, Saint Mary Seminary moved to the site of Borromeo Seminary of Ohio in Wickliffe, Ohio, to join this new center. The Center for Pastoral Leadership houses Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology; Borromeo Seminary, which is now a formation program for college students; the Permanent Diaconate program; the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Office; and the Office of Continuing Education Clergy. The five entities at the Center for Pastoral Leadership network and support each other while maintaining their distinct programs.
Significant milestones in the last decade include the retirement of Bishop Anthony Pilla in May 2006 and the appointment of Bishop Richard G. Lennon as the 10th Bishop of Cleveland. Bishop Lennon’s installation on May 15, 2006 marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Diocese of Cleveland.
With the sudden death of the President-Rector, Rev. Thomas Tifft on July 9, 2012, a search process was conducted by the Board of Trustees to recommend candidates to the Members of the Corporation for the position. On May 31, 2013, Rev. Mark A. Latcovich was named President-Rector.
In December 2016 Bishop Lennon resigned due to health reasons. Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, Bishop of Toledo, was named apostolic administrator during the 6-month interim.
On July 11, 2017, Bishop Nelson Perez was appointed Bishop of Cleveland. Bishop Perez was installed as the 11th Bishop of Cleveland on September 5, 2017, and served as Chancellor of Saint Mary Seminary until January 23, 2020 when Pope Francis named Bishop Perez the Archbishop of Philadelphia, PA. His installation in Philadelphia took place on February 18, 2020. Father Donald Oleksiak, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, served as Administrator in the interim.
On July 16, 2020, Bishop Edward C. Malesic, JCL, of the Greensburg, PA Diocese was appointed 12th bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland. The Mass of Installation was held on September 14, 2020. In his role as Bishop, Bishop Malesic serves as the Chancellor of Saint Mary Seminary. The diocese, and especially Saint Mary Seminary and Borromeo Seminary, have been blessed with Bishop Malesic’s leadership, support, and pastoral care. Overseeing the “Heart of the Shepherd” Campaign for the renovation of the second floor residence areas and other improvements, Bishop Malesic not only knocked down the first door to begin the renovation, but cut the ribbon to signal the completion of the 3-year project.
The seminary continued to strengthen its academic program by adding the terminal Doctor of Ministry Degree program. In 2000 the Doctor of Ministry Degree program was approved by both the Association of Theological Schools and the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In 2020, a Master of Arts in Diaconal Ministry was approved specifically for the men accepted in the formation program for the Permanent Diaconate. Lay men and women in parish ministries also find the graduate theology programs at Saint Mary Seminary invaluable in their ecclesial service.
On February 4, 2023, Father Mark Latcovich, President-Rector, was named pastor of St. Ladislas Parish, Westlake after serving on the seminary faculty since 1992 and as President-Rector since 2012. Succeeding Father Latcovich as President-Rector is Rev. Andrew Turner, effective July 1, 2023.
For more information about the Bishops of the Diocese of Cleveland, please visit the Diocese of Cleveland website