The earliest Catholic universities made no distinction between higher education and preparation for the priesthood. In the same tradition, Holy Apostles College and Seminary offers lay men and women the opportunity to study philosophy and authentic Catholic theology together with seminarians and religious sisters, all of them studying, dining, and praying together daily.
The Seminary was founded in Cromwell, Connecticut, in 1956 by the Very Rev. Eusebe Menard, O.F.M., and entrusted to the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles to provide a college-level program education and formation for men discerning a vocation to the priesthood. Today it serves a large number of dioceses from the Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, Canada, and Vietnam, as well as several small religious orders.
In 1972 Holy Apostles expanded to offer undergraduate degrees for lay men and women, and it has since added an associate’s degree, undergraduate and graduate online learning, and non-degree programs. Enrollment continues to grow, with an increase in applications over the past several years, to 19 undergraduates, 327 graduate students, and 78 seminarians.
“The lay students appreciate praying with seminarians, studying with seminarians and having lunch with them,” said Father Douglas Mosey, C.S.B., the president-rector, but it is also “hugely beneficial” for the seminarians as well. “When you’re a totally homogenous group you tend not to think as broadly as perhaps you should. Students at Holy Apostles share the lived experience of communion.”
Holy Apostles prides itself on its orthodoxy and is committed to cultivating Catholic leaders for evangelization. “There will be plenty of opportunity for our students to defend the faith and be on the front lines of secular culture when they graduate,” said Fr. Mosey.
The College is mostly a commuter school but works collaboratively with local realtors to establish small student nuclei in the surrounding community. It also constructed a convent on campus that is home to several nuns from Vietnam who are pursuing undergraduate degrees. The College is considering expanding residence halls for students in the future.
The core curriculum at Holy Apostles is strong and covers 60 credits or half of the graduation requirement. Students have the option to take all of their courses online.
Not surprisingly, there is heavy emphasis on theology and philosophy. Students can major in philosophy, theology, English in the humanities, or history in the social sciences. They can also study bioethics through the College’s Bioethics Center and in partnership with the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.
Holy Apostles entices students with a modest but picturesque and peaceful campus. It is also historic; the oldest building was erected in 1751. The campus is heavily wooded, and students and visitors enjoy a guided trail tour known as the Tree Walk.
Holy Apostles is an independent institution, and its seminary is not controlled by any single diocese. The ex officio
chairman and chancellor is the Bishop of Norwich, and the board of directors includes the Archbishop of Hartford, the Bishop of Bridgeport, up to five members of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles, lay representatives, and the president-rector.
All presidents of Holy Apostles have been priests. Father Mosey, who holds a Ph.D., has been president-rector since 1996.
An education at Holy Apostles is quite affordable. Undergraduate tuition, not including room and board, is $10,400 in 2014-2015, which is considerably less than the average tuition for private institutions in Connecticut. Financial aid is available if needed, including federal loans.
Holy Apostles received approval in 2014 from the State of Connecticut to give students the option to take up to 100 percent of their classes online. However, the College anticipates that it will always have a residential student body.
The college curriculum emphasizes philosophy and the Catholic liberal arts tradition. The College's objective is "to prepare college seminarians for the study of theology and to prepare lay students for graduate study and most especially for life."
The 60-credit core includes six Catholic theology courses, which include Catechism, Theology of the Body, Apologetics, Scripture, Moral Theology and Liturgy. There also are six philosophy courses, including Philosophy of God, only four courses short of a major. Other required courses include two in Latin and several in the traditional liberal arts disciplines, especially in literature and history.
Some of the courses are taught in an interdisciplinary manner, such as the team-taught course on the development of the social sciences. Interdisciplinary electives include religion and law, Catholic approaches to counseling, and bioethics.
Faculty members teaching philosophy and theology make a profession of faith and also promise obedience to the bishop and the Magisterium. Theology professors must have the mandatum
to teach. All members of the academic and formational faculty of the Seminary are approved by the bishop on the recommendation of the rector of the Seminary.
In the fall of 2011, Holy Apostles added an Online Writing Lab to assist both on campus and distance learning students with specific questions regarding research and composition. The lab is staffed by two degreed professionals who work competently with students who have learning disabilities and students who encounter English as a Second Language.
Holy Apostles has attracted a wide range of students, from traditional recent high school graduates to senior citizens. Some come for two years for personal formation and then move on. Some opt to take the two-year associate of arts degree and return later to Holy Apostles or elsewhere to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Lay students may consider vocations and eventually become seminarians, but many students have gone on to graduate studies or to get married and raise a family.
The Bioethics Center was founded in 1982 to articulate authentic Catholic teaching with respect to bioethical issues, from technological reproduction to end-of-life decisions. In addition to other things, the Center offers information to students, scholars, and the general public online, linking to bioethics resources within the Church, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, various bioethics organizations, universities, publications, journals, medical associations, and more, providing a broad-based and solid Catholic foundation for research and study.
Holy Apostles has a working agreement with the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) in Philadelphia allowing a student, while earning credits towards a Masters in Theology at Holy Apostles, to also earn a certificate in bioethics from the NCBC.
In the fall of 2012, Holy Apostles added Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) to its offerings and allows anyone with an interest in the material to register into them for free via its MOOC registration site.
Holy Apostles has two daily Masses at Our Lady Queen of the Apostles chapel. The 7:15 a.m. Mass is primarily attended by the seminarians. The 9:30 a.m. Mass is mainly for staff and students. The 10 a.m. Sunday Mass is mostly for seminarians and local students. Mass in the Extraordinary Form is available twice during the week and on Saturday mornings.
The Sacrament of Confession is available before each 7:15 a.m. Mass and two afternoons a week. There is a daily Holy Hour with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as 24-hour adoration on the first Friday of every month.
Students also have the option of participating in Mass and other spiritual activities, including perpetual adoration, at nearby St. John Church in Cromwell. The parish is staffed by Coventual Franciscan Friars.
Residential facilities for lay students on campus are very limited, but more residential opportunities may arise in the future. Some students share local apartments, but most commute from their homes. To help students with local housing, the admissions director works with local realtors and homeowners. The college has developed a database of “host families” from local parishes.
Health services are available at Middlesex Hospital and Connecticut Valley Hospital, each located five minutes away in Middletown.
Cromwell is a town of 13,500 people that is 15 minutes from the state capital of Hartford and about 30 minutes from New Haven. The quiet town also is safe, with minimal violent crime and a crime rate only about 40 percent of the national crime index.
Hartford, a long-time center of the insurance industry, has a population of 125,000. It has a number of attractions, including the Mark Twain House and the Hartford Civic Center, which hosts cultural and sports events.
Cromwell can be reached by the north-south Interstate 91. Amtrak serves Hartford, and the city’s Bradley International Airport provides non-stop service to several major cities.
As primarily a commuter college, Holy Apostles does not offer a large number of student activities, but it does make an effort to help students join together in fellowship and evangelization activities.
“The social life is very different here than most traditional colleges,” said Fr. Mosey. “The social life here is adoration, study, and pro-life work.”
The student-run Holy Apostles Life League, which coordinates pro-life activities, is quite active. Its activities include a prayer vigil on Saturday mornings at one of the abortion mills in Hartford during the academic year, followed by the Mass of Mercy in the Seminary chapel. In addition, a Holy Hour for Life and Mercy is held at the chapel every Saturday and includes the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The Life League also coordinates the annual bus trip for students, faculty, and staff in January to the Right to Life March in Washington, D.C., and there is a tomb on campus marking the grave of an unborn victim of abortion where a flame continually burns.
The majority of undergraduate students are involved in campus liturgical life and spiritual activities. Social events are often informal, spontaneous, and student-initiated, and include cookouts, going to movies, playing several sports, as well as several off-campus activities. With the ability to study and worship alongside seminarians and consecrated religious, lay undergraduates readily substitute expanded social activities and residential facilities for the College’s commitment to fidelity and evangelization.
The Bottom Line
Holy Apostles College and Seminary, long dedicated to preparing priests, has slowly expanded its lay enrollment since the 1970s. The College’s small size and heavy emphasis on philosophy and authentic Catholic theology attract students who seek a quiet, prayerful atmosphere to prepare for evangelization, graduate study, and careers.
Since many courses are relevant both to lay students and to the seminary curriculum, most classes are open to everyone. That creates a unique interaction among students preparing to serve God in every way. As explained by Fr. Mosey, “Lay graduates often express their gratitude for studying side by side with seminarians and consecrated men and women, as together we form the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Mystical Body of Christ.”
Add to that the relatively low cost of education at Holy Apostles, and this is an option well worth considering for anyone who won’t miss the trappings of the typical American college campus.