The verdant grounds and stately buildings that comprise the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary property in Wynnewood has been sold to Main Line Health, according to information released Friday morning, May 24.
While the price and other details of the recently completed transaction were not made public in a letter to archdiocesan priests by Bishop Timothy Senior, rector of St. Charles, the sale represents a landmark in the nearly seven-year process to consider selling some or all of the seminary’s property.
With 19 buildings comprising 630,000 square feet on approximately 75 acres, the tract is one of the largest in Lower Merion Township untouched by commercial or residential development.
Main Line Health owns Lankenau Medical Center located on 93 acres directly across Lancaster Avenue from the seminary. The health system operates six hospitals and health centers in the Philadelphia region.
In his letter Bishop Senior said the seminary will continue to operate on the property for up to five years.
“During this time Main Line Health and St. Charles Seminary will continue to work with the township and other community partners to assess the optimal future of the property, while considering both the historical significance of the buildings as well as the needs of our growing and vibrant community,” he wrote.
At the same time, the seminary continues to plan its relocation near the campus of Neumann University in Aston, Delaware County.
In 2017 the two institutions began negotiating a partnership, and agreement on a formal affiliation is nearing completion, Bishop Senior wrote.
During this time, “seminary officials and the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia are exploring the purchase of property owned by the sisters near the university to construct new seminary buildings,” he said.
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary will continue to exist as the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s seminary for priestly formation as it has since 1832, even in the new Aston location.
The area itself echoes back to the seminary’s earliest days. The seminary began with five seminarians studying and living in the center city Philadelphia home of Bishop Francis P. Kenrick. By 1859 under Bishop (now Saint) John Neumann, the College Division of St. Charles Seminary opened in a new building in Glen Riddle, Delaware County, close by Aston.
Theology Division seminarians remained in cramped quarters in center city until 1871, when St. Charles Seminary relocated all the college and theology seminarians on a 124-acre property in Overbrook, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, in what is today Wynnewood, Montgomery County.
The Glen Riddle property was sold at that time to the Sisters of St. Francis, who would go on to found Our Lady of Angels College, which was renamed Neumann University.
Now it prepares to welcome, again, seminarians studying for the priesthood under the banner of St. Charles Seminary.
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