On Oct. 15, interim president Dr. Mary Meehan sent an email to the University explaining her “office has been informed of several instances of foul language and incivility being aimed at members of our Immaculate Conception Seminary.”
She wrote in an email to The Setonian that since learning about the incident through the Division of Student Affairs, “we will continue to encourage people to become more engaged and building the kind of community we all want at Seton Hall.”
Msgr. Joseph Reilly, who is the dean and rector of the seminary, said he learned of the incidents just recently.
“No one reported it directly to me, but as the father of the house and as dean of the School of Theology, I was made aware of each of the incidents by another priest member of the formation faculty,” Reilly wrote in an email.
Other members of the faculty also informed Msgr. Reilly about the occurrence.
“Shortly after each of the incidents, it was brought to my attention by a member of the formation faculty of the seminary,” Reilly said. “These are the priests assigned by the Cardinal to serve as mentors and spiritual directors to assist the men in accepting and appropriating the call to the priesthood.”
Reilly expressed his wish for Seton Hall to retain its roots.
“As a Catholic institution of higher education, it is my hope that Seton Hall University would strive to have all of the members of the community both nurture and sustain an appreciation for our roots and of our continuing identity,” Reilly said. “From the very first days, Seton Hall has been a Catholic University with the vibrant presence of both priests and students. I have been shocked, angered and disappointed by some individuals who have acted in a manner that does not reflect in any manner who we are as a Catholic university.”
He emphasized the importance of respecting the seminarians and all people for that matter.
“Their actions have been hurtful, insensitive and ignorant. As I mentioned in my homily at the Mass of the Holy Spirit a little over a month ago, the Holy Spirit is the ‘primary principle of inclusion,’ he continued. “We are all children of one God who deserve to be respected and uplifted in our particular vocations. The first university community in 1856 was made up of five students and several Catholic priests. I trust that the University community of 2018, while much more numerous and diverse, will make every effort to maintain the vital and constitutive elements of her Catholic identity, which is reflected in a demonstrable way in the priest community and in the seminarians studying to be priests.”
Several students shared their feelings about the incidents involving the seminarians.
“I am really surprised,” Olivia Neiman, a senior elementary and special education major, wrote in an email. “I think that as a campus we need to treat each other with kindness and compassion. I haven’t witnessed or experienced something like this on campus, but I am so sorry to hear that this happened.”
Catherine Saint Jacques, a senior physical therapy major, had similar sentiments, saying via email, “I’m not sure why people would say mean things to others who they may or may not even know just because they are part of a specific group. I haven’t witnessed anything like this incident on campus.”
Claudia Valverde, a junior secondary chemistry education major, explained via email why people may have targeted the seminarians, mentioning “I actually hadn’t heard about the incident but I think in this political climate people’s feelings towards religion have been agitated. I know that opinion is not too great towards the church due to the scandal related to the Archdiocese and Seton Hall.”
Junior biochemistry major Adah Beck, though, explained people should still respect those studying to be priests.
“I am personally friends with some of the seminarians, brothers, sisters, and fathers here and so I was horrified to hear that people are slandering their very good names,” she wrote in an email. “I know that there has been a lot going around in the media right now, including allegations related to the Seminary at Seton Hall, but I assumed that the student body would respect the Christian values as are taught here.
“Even if people think negatively about the seminarians in light of the news, I never thought people would physically voice those thoughts and act against anyone from that group when it is likely that only a few (if any) individuals were involved,” she said. “I have never witnessed or experienced anything like this on campus and I hope that it never happens again.”
Sabrina Huresky, who is a senior elementary and special education and environmental studies major as well as a sacristan on campus, was horrified to learn about the incidents.
“I was shocked and greatly saddened when I received the email about the ‘instances of foul language and incivility being aimed at members of our Immaculate Conception Seminary,’ she explained. “For a university who has implemented such a push to promote diversity, inclusivity, and acceptance of all who enter this campus such behavior is surprising and certainly unacceptable. Diversity and acceptance is not just reserved for races other than our own, but to all people of varying backgrounds, positions, and beliefs as Dr. Meehan mentioned in her email to the school.”
Huresky has not seen an incident like this one occur before.
“I have not personally seen this activity at my time here at Seton Hall, including being directed at the seminarians, and I hope I never will,” she said. “We all deserve respect from one another in that all of us have been made in the image and likeness of God. I pray the members of Seton Hall, being a part of a Catholic university, will put this negativity behind us and instead be a light to the nations – treating others with love and compassion as Jesus taught us to do.”
Meehan also drew attention to the University’s efforts to promote and encourage inclusion, explaining, “We are offering many workshops and programs on inclusion.”
She referred to the incident as “very sad.”
Kaitlyn Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.