St. Charles Borromeo Seminary’s relocation from its longtime Wynnewood, Montgomery County campus to Gwynedd Mercy University took another step as the seminary announced an agreement of sale April 19 for a 15-acre parcel of the university’s property.
The seminary purchased the tract that includes two existing buildings on the northern part of the GMU campus for $10 million, and the Maguire Foundation contributed another $3 million. The sale will not be closed until after a period of due diligence and approval by the seminary and university, according to a statement.
Once the transaction is completed, development of the property will begin with the construction of a new chapel and student life center that will include a dining hall, classrooms, library, offices, fitness center and housing for seminarians and resident faculty.
The new campus is expected to be open for the 2024-25 academic year.
Services offered at the two current Gwynedd Mercy buildings on the property to be sold, which include residential housing and campus ministry, will be transitioned to other areas of the campus. One of those buildings, Alexandria Hall, is a student residence that will be converted to a residential facility for the seminary.
Bishop Timothy C. Senior, seminary rector, said the community “is thrilled to have found such a wonderful new home, and grateful for the generous support of the Maguire Foundation in making this transaction possible.”
St. Charles has relocated several times in its 189-year history from Philadelphia to Delaware County and in 1871 to what was then the Overbrook section of the city, today’s Wynnewood. It had become a cornerstone institution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, forming generations of priests and deacons as well as religious and lay persons for ministry.
The latest setting for the seminary will place it some 14 miles distant from the southern corner of Montgomery County to Upper Gwynedd Township at its northern edge.
“While there are mixed emotions involved with departing from Overbrook after many years, Gwynedd Mercy University’s campus offers a beautiful setting and the perfect location for us,” Bishop Senior said.
The sale marks the evolution of a process begun in 2016 when now-retired Archbishop Charles Chaput approved a plan to sell the seminary’s 75-acre property and partner with a local Catholic college to continue seminary formation.
That process settled upon the $43.5 million sale of the Wynnewood campus to Main Line Health in 2019 and beginning of the partnership with Gwynedd Mercy that year, which resulted in an agreement in December 2020.
Gwynedd Mercy President Deanne H. D’Emilio said when the two institutions began exploring the partnership, the university was “excited about the possibilities” of bringing the two together in one location.
“We also are honored and grateful that the Maguire Foundation wants to support this exciting initiative,” she said. “The Maguires are faithful supporters of Catholic higher education and have been steadfast and generous friends to Gwynedd Mercy University. I am so grateful for their continued support.”
The co-ed university was founded in 1948 by the Sisters of Mercy on 314 acres. It offers a range of degree programs from associate’s to doctoral levels to approximately 2,600 full- and part-time students.
When the transaction closes, Gwynedd Mercy and St. Charles will remain two separate and distinct institutions, according to the statement. Each will continue to maintain its own governance structure, academic freedom and program offerings.
In an interview with CatholicPhilly.com Bishop Senior said that in the future, some seminarians might take secular classes at the university, and some university students could take theology classes in the School of Theological Studies at the seminary.
That program for religious and lay students will remain a division of the seminary at its new location, along with both the College Division and Theology Division in the program for priestly formation — in which 154 seminarians are enrolled — as well as the School for Diaconal Formation, Bishop Senior said.
Both institutions will operate and grant degrees separately, he added.
The leadership of the seminary and Gwynedd Mercy estimate the campus transition process will take two to three years to complete.
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