August 28, 2009

Full house: Renovations are under way to expand housing at Bishop Bruté College Seminary

Archdiocesan seminarian Daniel Bedel, a senior at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, unloads his car on Aug. 13 at the seminary. Many of the 23 seminarians at Bishop Bruté moved in that day while construction workers made renovations to add 10 additional bedrooms to the seminary. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archdiocesan seminarian Daniel Bedel, a senior at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, unloads his car on Aug. 13 at the seminary. Many of the 23 seminarians at Bishop Bruté moved in that day while construction workers made renovations to add 10 additional bedrooms to the seminary. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Seminarian Benjamin Syberg is used to Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis being a tranquil place that nurtures a life where he can prayerfully discern if God is calling him to the priesthood.

But as he and the other 22 seminarians enrolled there for the 2009-10 academic year moved in on Aug. 13, they were met with the sounds of pounding hammers and roaring power tools echoing through their normally silent arched hallways.

Construction workers were busy transforming into bedrooms a series of rooms that Carmelite nuns had previously used to bake Communion hosts and work at other tasks because the seminary’s enrollment now exceeds its 21 bedrooms. (Related story: Seminary’s presence in archdiocese encourages vocations)

When renovations are complete in October, there will be 32 bedrooms.

Syberg is used to such changes at the seminary that he has called home since enrolling as a freshman in 2006.

For his first two years, he lived with his fellow seminarians on the campus of Marian University.

Last year, the seminary moved to the building that had been the home for 75 years of the Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of the Resurrection.

Now, that building is being renovated to house an increasing number of seminarians.

“As the seminary has grown, so has my love for the priesthood,” Syberg said. “As more guys have come, so has my understanding of human formation. The building becoming more and more a seminary is like me becoming more and more the priest that I want to be some day.”

Syberg also noted how the near-constant flux of the young, growing seminary, far from impeding his formation, has actually contributed to it in a positive way.

“Our life as seminarians and, hopefully, as future priests, is one of complete transition,” he said. “I’ve just come to realize that I need to get used to that now. And I do. All of the transition is great.”

Archdiocesan seminarian Tim Wyciskalla, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, first arrived at Bishop Bruté with Syberg three years ago. He likes the fact that the seminary is crowded now.

“We’re in such a neat place, with plenty of room to spread out,” he said. “I would rather be full and tight than have all sorts of room, but have only 10 or 15 guys.”

Father Robert Robeson has been the seminary’s rector since it was established in 2004.

“There’s a certain amount of inconvenience due to the construction,” Father Robeson said. “However, there’s also an awful lot of excitement generated by it.

“And really, this is far and away the most exciting and the most fun year I’ve had since [the seminary started]. Starting a seminary is not easy. But this is fun work because it’s all about growth.”

The renovation work also includes converting a computer lab into an apartment for a priest seminary staff member, turning a section of a wing into a new computer lab and constructing a parking lot.

Through it all, Father Robeson said the prayer-nurturing architecture of the seminary is being maintained.

“We’re not touching the [arched] hallways or the doors that contribute to the aesthetic beauty of the building,” he said.

It was, in part, the prayerful atmosphere of the seminary’s new home that persuaded Father Kyle Schnipple, the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, to send four college seminarians to Bishop Bruté this year after visiting it during the last academic year.

“As they moved to the new location, it just had a very prayerful feel to it,” Father Schnipple said. “That was an important aspect of it that I wanted to check out and just sort of experience. That house will help foster that prayer life of the seminarians.”

In addition to welcoming new seminarians from the Cincinnati Archdiocese and the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., the seminary also has a new vice rector, Father Patrick Beidelman, who will be in residence there.

“I was humbled and honored by the opportunity to come here to the seminary and to this work because it seems like it has God’s Providence all over it,” Father Beidelman said. “In the short time since the archbishop [Daniel M. Buechlein] entrusted Father Bob to this new work [in 2004], it seems as though it was ordained for success.”

Part of that success is seen in its steady increase in enrollment in each of its first five years, growing from six college seminarians in 2004 to its current number of 23 seminarians. (See related story, page 9.)

The seminary’s success can also be measured through the growth in the number of dioceses that enroll seminarians here. In 2004, the archdiocese was the only diocese represented at Bishop Bruté. Now, there are seminarians from five dioceses enrolled.

But, for Father Robeson, such numbers don’t tell the real story of the seminary’s early achievements.

“Success is really measured by the growth in holiness, and the growth in human and spiritual formation, among the young men who are involved in the program,” he said. “That’s the area that inspires the most confidence in what we’re doing because we’ve seen substantial growth in the guys.”

According to Father Robeson, the current renovations at Bishop Bruté may be the beginning of more changes.

“Future capital improvements are going to be necessary because we anticipate that we’ll continue to grow,” he said. “We’re at 23 [seminarians] right now, but I’d say that, within three or four years, we could be up around 40.”

That number of seminarians would exceed the capacity of Bishop Bruté, so it is hoped that an additional dormitory will eventually be constructed on the grounds that could house 60 to 70 seminarians and include dining facilities.

“It reminds me of [the movie] Field of Dreams,” Father Beidelman said. “ ‘If you build it, they will come.’

“That’s what’s happened with this seminary. And I think that’s happened because of God’s Providence, and because the archbishop and the archdiocese have taken a leap of faith to believe that this is what God needs and wants from us at this time.” †

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