Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary
MOUNT ST. MARY'S COLLEGE AND SEMINARY
Founded in 1808 by Father John Dubois, Mount Saint Mary's comprises the second-oldest Catholic college and the second-oldest Catholic seminary in the United States [preceded, respectively, by Georgetown University (1789) and St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore (1791)]. It is located near Emmitsburg, Maryland, about 70 miles north of Washington, D. C. Dubois, a refugee from revolutionary France, bought a tract of land on the side of a mountain already known as Saint Mary's Mountain. He built a church there in 1806, and in 1808 established a college as a preparatory seminary for Saint Mary's in Baltimore. Later in 1808, he became associated with the Society of St. Sulpice, who operated St. Mary's, and in 1811 control of the Mount was formally transferred to the Sulpicians. In 1812 Dubois was joined by Father Simon Gabriel Bruté de Remur, who came to be known as the Mount's "second founding father." Except for 1815–18, Bruté remained at the Mount, teaching theology and philosophy and exercising a strong hand in institutional governance, until 1834, when he was made bishop of Vincennes, Indiana.
In 1809, St. Elizabeth Anne Seton came to Mount St. Mary's. Dubois lent her his cabin while she awaited the completion of her own settlement in St. Joseph Valley, two miles away. He served as her religious superior and was instrumental in her community's adoption of a modified version of the rule of the Daughters of Charity, with whom he had been familiar in France. Bruté later served as her spiritual director. One of Mother Seton's sons, William, is buried in the cemetery on the Mount campus.
Though founded as a preparatory seminary, the college needed the income provided by young men who did not intend to study for priesthood, and was a "mixed" institution at least from 1811. Also for reasons of economy, Dubois initiated a system in which older students taught younger ones (a system which persisted into the twentieth century). This required some students to remain at the Mount beyond the point at which they could have entered Saint Mary's. Eventually, in 1820, Dubois obtained permission to introduce a full program in theology for study toward priesthood. Thus, by 1820 the institution included something like the college and seminary as they now exist, though what was then the college later divided into a high school or "preparatory school," which closed in 1936, and a college in the modern sense.
By 1826, financial difficulties and competition between St. Mary's and the Mount as major seminaries had led to a formal separation of the Mount—and of Dubois and Bruté personally—from the Sulpicians, who ceded control of the Mount back to Dubois. Upon his appointment that year as bishop of New York, Dubois sought unsuccessfully to give Mount Saint Mary's to the Jesuits at Georgetown but eventually deeded it to two diocesan priests. Together with Bruté, they formed the nucleus of the College Council, which became the institution's official owner and governing body when it was chartered in 1830 by the state of Maryland. With this charter, the institution's official name became Mount Saint Mary's College, whereas previously it had been called Mount Saint Mary's Seminary.
The College Council, composed of diocesan priests, was self-perpetuating and elected from its own members the president and other officers of the college. In 1930, a separate administration, headed by a rector, was established for the seminary, under the president and the council. Previously, the president of the college had served as seminary rector. In 1967 the council dissolved itself and the college was re-incorporated under a Board of Trustees. In 1971 Dr. John J. Dillon became the Mount's first lay president. While in 1967 priests comprised nearly half the faculty, by 2001 most remaining priest faculty were in the seminary and only one taught full-time in the college.
The Civil War threatened the college's survival, as enrollment dropped substantially and afterward many southern families were unable to pay their debts to the college. The resulting financial difficulties led to the college's being placed in receivership in 1881, but it was rescued in 1882 after a fund-raising effort led by James Cardinal Gibbons. Over the next several decades, it expanded its enrollment and physical plant. World War II shrank the student population once again, but the college remained open to train naval officers. After the closing of nearby St. Joseph's College, operated by the Daughters of Charity, at the end of the 1971–72 school year, Mount Saint Mary's became co-educational (1972). Today a slight majority of its undergraduate students are women.
The college offers degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in 24 fields. An integrated and sequenced liberal arts core curriculum, established by the faculty in 1988, is the centerpiece of Mount undergraduate education. The seminary offers the degrees of Master of Divinity and Master of Arts. A graduate program in business, leading to a degree of Master of Business Administration, and a Master of Education program were established in the college in 1975 and 1992 respectively. In 2001, the full-time equivalent enrollment, graduate and undergraduate, in the college was more than 1500, while the seminary enrolled approximately 150. The campus includes the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. The mountainside site dates from the time of Dubois and Mother Seton as a place of private meditation. In 1879, a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France was added. After 1958, the centenary of the Lourdes apparitions, the grotto was expanded and opened to the wider public. As many as 100,000 people visit it each year.
In the nineteenth century Mount Saint Mary's came to be known as the "Cradle of Bishops," having given the church 29 bishops, including John J. Hughes (first archbishop of New York), John McCloskey (first American cardinal), and John B. Purcell (first archbishop of Cincinnati). Twentieth-century alumni have included Bishop James E. Walsh of Maryknoll (imprisoned for 12 years by the Chinese Communists), Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Monsignor Geno Baroni (civil rights activist and Undersecretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Carter), and Father Stanley Rother, assassinated in Guatemala in 1984 as a result of his work on behalf of the rural poor. Lay alumni have included the nineteenth-century artist John LaFarge and poet George Henry Miles.
Bibliography: m. m. meline and e. f. mcsweeney, The Story of the Mountain (Emmitsburg, Md. 1911). d. c. nusbaum, "The Lengthened Shadow: The Beginnings of Mount Saint Mary's," Celebrational Works: Essays Honoring the One Hundred Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of Mount Saint Mary's, ed. m. j. nusbaum (Emmitsburg, Md. 1984), 13–45. a. h. ledoux, "Mount Saint Mary's College and Seminary," Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, 983–4. j. m. white, The Diocesan Seminary in the United States: A History from the 1780s to the Present (South Bend, Ind. 1989).
[w. j. collinge]