The campaign, which was conducted in all diocesan parishes in 2014 and 2015, was designed to support critical areas of need across the Diocese of Lincoln: Catholic schools, priests’ retirement, parish projects, the new evangelization, and seminary education.
The new addition at SGGS includes 14 dorm rooms, allowing the seminary to increase its capacity from 58 to 80 seminarians this year.
Joe Allen, a College 4 seminarian, has in own room in the new wing, which he greatly enjoys.
“The new rooms are great,” he said. “The ceilings are higher, and the rooms are bigger than the old ones. The new addition allows everyone to be more spread out. There were 61 guys in a cramped area in the old part of the building, but now we have some breathing room.”
When the school year started last year, the seminary was over capacity with 61 students, which also put a strain on classroom space.
Father Jeffrey Eickhoff, the rector at SGGS, said, “We were using any room we could find. We were using other rooms not meant to be used as classrooms.”
With the new addition, SGGS was able to add two classrooms as well as a science lab. Having the new lab means that students will no longer have to drive to Concordia University, where they previously used labs.
“Now, all of our classes are taught here on the campus of St. Gregory,” Father Eickhoff said.
In the future, Father Eickhoff said that there is even potential to add a chemistry class to the seminary’s curriculum, a goal made more feasible with the new lab in place.
The new wing includes two new suites for priests who work at the seminary, a barbershop, laundry room, television room and study lounge. SGGS was also able to expand their parking lot with the funds from the campaign.
“Joy of the Gospel funds have been able to pay for the whole wing being finished,” Father Eickhoff said.
According to Father Eickhoff, the addition to SGGS was an original “mortar and brick” aspect of the Joy of the Gospel campaign, but the seminary still has a few more improvements to make, including more classrooms and a new gymnasium.
Initially, the building that is now SGGS was a children’s psychiatric hospital. Because it was built for adolescents, the gym is too small for the seminarians.
“The gym is way too small, and it gets really cramped,” Allen said. “It’s comical to see all these college-aged guys in such a small space.”
Allen said that when playing basketball games, they usually have to create teams of three or four, as opposed to the usual five, just to make sure that there is enough room for everyone to play and that no one gets hurt.
With its newly increased capacity, SGGS could also become more attractive to seminarians beyond the Lincoln Diocese. Twenty-one of the current students are from the Diocese of Lincoln; the other 40 hail from seven other dioceses and one religious order.
“Our first goal was to have enough space for our seminarians, and to be able to accept seminarians who come from other dioceses,” Father Eickhoff said.
The benefit of increased attendance means that costs will be lower for the seminarians, as well as the diocese since they will be able to share the fixed costs of running the seminary.
Allen noted that the increased attendance and need for more space isn’t a problem that other seminaries in the United States are experiencing.
“In most places in the country, seminaries are closing their doors, but vocations are flourishing here,” Allen said. “Great things are happening here, and great guys are being formed with the love of Jesus Christ. I am always so impressed with my brother seminarians.”
Father Eickhoff said that thanks to the generosity of donors to the Joy of the Gospel campaign, the diocese will continue to benefit from improvements to the seminary and diocesan schools.
Father Eickhoff said, “The whole idea of the Joy of the Gospel campaign is that it allows the diocese to continue and even increase service to the Church and bring the Gospel message to the people of our time.”
Anyone interested in touring the new wing of the seminary is invited to attend “Visitor Sunday” at St. Gregory Sunday, Oct. 22 or Nov. 19. Guests may tour the seminary from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.