Our Lady of Guadalupe FSSP Seminary in Nebraska (Seminarium B.M.V. de Guadalupe)

The front facade of the seminary chapel.
Front facade of the chapel exterior.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) was originally founded in 1993 with the help of Fr. Arnaud Devillers, FSSP and Fr. William Ashley of Canada.  It was established as an international seminary for English-speaking candidates for the priesthood.  The seminary was named after Our Lady of Guadalupe in honor of Mary as Patroness of the Americas.  The front facade of the chapel has these words carved in Latin, spoken by Christ in Mark 1:17: VENITE POST ME ET FACIAM VOS FIERI PISCATORES HOMINUM ("Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men").  

Original architectural drawing.

The first location of the fledgling seminary was at the North American District headquarters of the FSSP, located in an old retreat center in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania in the diocese of Scranton.  The building was offered through the good graces of the local bishop, Most. Rev. James Timlin.  Classes began in the autumn of 1994.  Gradually the seminary outgrew this property.      

Seminary courtyard with fountain and covered cloister walk.

The Scranton seminary was the FSSP's second international seminary.  The first was the Seminary of St. Peter located in the quiet Bavarian hamlet of Wigratzbad in Germany.  This rural house for priestly formation, located next to a modern-looking pilgrimage shrine, was founded in 1988 in the historic farm fields on the frontier of Bavaria and Swabia.   This was built mainly for German and French speaking seminarians.  The construction of this seminary was completed in the Holy Year 2000.    

Seminary outside cornerstone.

With vocations booming, it became clear the FSSP seminary needed a new and permanent North American location.  This resulted in the invitation of a friendly bishop, the Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz, the bishop of Lincoln, who extended his hand for the seminary to relocate to his diocese of Lincoln. 

Seminary exterior tower.

A suitable and affordable quarter section (about 140 acre) rural site was found and purchased within the territorial boundaries of the Diocese of Lincoln.  A famous classical architect was chosen for the project, Thomas Gordon Smith.  He was formerly the dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame and was the push behind a national effort for a contemporary rebirth of classical architecture. The FSSP liaison was Fr. Charles Van Vliet, FSSP, the Vice-Rector of the seminary.  

Entrance to seminary cemetery.

The multi-colored architectural prints can be seen here in the Romanesque style, reflecting the harmony and classical vision of beautiful architecture.  An outside bell tower was in the original plan, but was decided against due to strong prairie winds and the added cost factor.  A small outside belfry contains three bells.  Meanwhile the interior beauty and grandeur of the chapel includes a 31-foot white marble canopy or baldachino taken from a closed church in Quebec, Canada.  The chapel boasts seven side altars and oak choir stalls for ninety-two seminarians.    

Interior courtyard and covered cloister walk.

In October of 1998 ground was broken by Bishop Bruskewitz for the construction of the new seminary.  On October 16, 1999, the bishop blessed the new cornerstone of the seminary.  Previously Pope John Paul II had blessed at Castel Gandolfo a small black slab of marble with a golden cross and the year 1999 carved on it along with the words Tu Es Petrus that was presented to him for his blessing by Fr. Josef Bisig, FSSP.    

Clergy parking, seen below, on the side of the property.  

Parking for the rector.

The first of three phases of construction were completed in time for classes to begin in the autumn of the Holy Year 2000.  A second dormitory wing was completed in 2005.  Finally, the seminary chapel of Sts. Peter and Paul, the crown jewel of seminary life and architecture, was built in Roman basilica style and completed in 2010.  In 2014 a gym called St. Peter's Athletic Center was completed, located behind the seminary building.  There is also a small cemetery with two tombstones for deceased members of the FSSP.   

Exterior gardens.

The charm and beauty of the multi-colored buildings are evident on the outside by all who see the edifying structures.  On the inside is an equally beautiful structure that is not always seen by all those who traverse the country roads outside.  The greatness of the property is reflected equally in the architectural language of the outside buildings and the intense and serious community inside of zealous young men who live and study there, dedicated to being tomorrow's priests.    

Chapel interior.

The new chapel of Sts. Peter and Paul was consecrated in a five hour ceremony by Bishop Bruskewitz on live TV, an EWTN special presentation on March 3, 2010 with three other bishops in attendance along with an abbot and a visiting Prefect from the Vatican, William Cardinal Levada.  The Cardinal preached the sermon and read a letter from Pope Benedict XVI  that was signed by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone.  The annual celebration of the consecration of the chapel is celebrated each year on January 18th.        

Chapel choir stalls.

The seminary is located in Denton, Nebraska, about seven miles from Lincoln and about sixty-five miles from Omaha.  Visitors who fly arrive and depart from Lincoln Municipal Airport (LNK).  The tiny farm hamlet of of Denton was established in 1871 with the arrival of the railroad and incorporated in 1913.  It was named after the original owner of the land, Daniel Denton.  The population is about 190. 

Seminary student library.

Today the seminary is full to capacity with nearly one-hundred seminarians.  Before the tonsure ceremony that takes place after the beginning of the second year, seminarians wear a dark business suit and necktie.  Those seminarians who are tonsured wear as their uniform the house cassock with Roman collar and fascia sash.    

Seminary lounge room.

The seminary campus includes the main chapel, dorms, library, classroom space, meeting rooms, a refectory, offices, recreation rooms, a gym, an outdoor soccer field, hiking trails, some wooded acreage and ponds.  The seminary is closed during the summer months.  The public are welcome during the academic year to attend Sunday Mass at 9:00 am on Sunday mornings with Sunday Vespers at 5:00 pm in the main chapel.  If you plan to visit, be sure to check these times to make sure they are current.  There is ample parking in the parking lot on the side.  Seminarians are permitted to have a car.  

Seminary refectory with lectern.

There are about fifteen professors on faculty, all with advanced degrees from pontifical universities and elsewhere, about half of whom are laymen with doctorates.  The rector is Fr. Josef Bisig, FSSP, a founder of the FSSP who earned his licentiate from the faculty of theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy.  

Seminary refectory.  

Despite the fact that some seminarians enter already having studied some philosophy and theology elsewhere, they are still required to submit to the same course of studies.  The seminary program is seven years long.  It is solely for men in priestly formation.  The formation is much broader than just academics.  It includes pastoral, spiritual, intellectual, and human formation.  The goal of the education of a seminarian is the acquisition of all the knowledge necessary to make the best possible priest.  

Chapel center aisle floor.

Men with outstanding student loans and debt are not accepted.  Also, students with persistent poor grades may be dismissed from the formation program.  Candidates with obvious mental or physical impediments that would impair the fulfillment of seminary studies or priestly duties are not permitted to enter.  Students must have sufficient intellectual and moral virtue.  First year seminarians are not permitted email or cell phones.

Chapel main altar.

Days are busy. A normal day begins around 6:00 am and ends before 10:30 pm.  Prayer and study are key components of the day.  Students gather to pray together in the chapel for various hours of the Divine Office in choir.  They gather a total of five times a day in the chapel, while making shorter visits throughout the hours of the day for private devotions. Grand silence is observed in the seminary from after Compline at about 8:00 pm until the end of breakfast the following morning at about 8:25 am.  

Chapel chair with painted arms.

The singing of Gregorian chant is a big part of seminary life.  Numerous are the benefits and testimonies of this great musical art.  Pope St. Pius X in his motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini (Italian for "among the concerns") instruction on sacred music of 1903 referred to chant as "the supreme model" of church music.  The seminarians apply themselves to this sublime art so as to enhance the sacred liturgy and their preparation for priesthood.  The opus 48 organ was installed in the chapel in 2018, built by the Juget-Sinclair Organ Builders.  

Side view of the exterior seminary.

The Gregorian chant and Latin hymns the seminarians learn to proficiently sing constitute an art that is both divine and human - divine because of its supernatural inspiration; it has a sweet and lovely odor of sanctity that breathes in its melodies.  And it is profoundly human by its musical structure and composition.  Those who sing it provide simple and uplifting music striving to give glory to God.  

Interior courtyard with cloister walk.

On a typical weekday there are seven class periods, each lasting forty-five minutes.  First year seminarians have classes that include intro subjects such as sacred liturgy and spiritual theology.  Second and third year seminarians study philosophy while the others more advanced study theology.

The interior cornerstone in the chapel. 

Meals are taken in the refectory, one of the largest and most beautiful rooms in the seminary, with large Roman columns and massive windows that allow generous sunlight.  Here there is a lectern built into the wall where typically lectors in minor orders read in the monastic tradition during the main meal taken at the noon hour.  This is not just a function, but a part of the vocation of the seminarians.  

Front elevation of the seminary chapel.

The cost of living is going up and the education of priests is an expensive endeavor.  The actual cost of priestly formation for each seminarian is about $30,000 per year.  Some of this cost is offset by generous seminary benefactors.  In addition, seminarians are ordinarily expected to pay some of the cost, an annual fee of $7,000 per seminarian.  Additional expenses may vary.   

Exterior main entrance of chapel.

Seminarians in the FSSP do not take a vow of poverty.  The FSSP is a society of apostolic life, which means its members do not take religious vows while they pursue the apostolic purpose of their order while leading a life in common as brothers according to their proper manner of life while striving for the perfection of charity through the observance of constitutions (Canon 731).  

Main altar, detail of tabernacle.

Throughout the work day each seminarian is assigned certain chores.  These work tasks include cleaning, preparing and serving meals twice a day, clean up, kitchen duties, sacristy duties, garden and lawn work and more.  Informal clothing is for work, manual labor and sports/athletic activities.  Once a week there is a thorough cleaning of the seminary in which all the men participate.

Main altar. 

Recreation and physical activity are a necessary part of a balanced seminary life and education.  Therefore each day there is a period of mandatory recreation following lunch.  This may include playing basketball or soccer.  There is also an exercise room and recreation room with a pool table, ping pong and foosball.  On Saturday afternoon there is always a big soccer match in the field where many of the men compete in sport.

View of organ and choir loft.

Sundays and feast days are always special and entail a little extra rest and leisure.  The life of a seminarian is formed around the liturgical calendar.  On penitential days this means some fasting and extra penance.  On feast days this means celebration and rejoicing.  Seminarians strive to honor God and the memory of the saints.     

Interior view of the chapel pews.

Below is a view of the chevet, where side altars are located that are dedicated to the holy Mexican martyrs.  This is where priests on the faculty celebrate their daily morning Masses.  

Exterior apse of chapel sanctuary.

Other opportunities for leisure and relaxation include the customary FSSP ausflug, a tip taken each year by the seminary community to a nearby FSSP apostolate.  These trips help strengthen the fraternal bonds within the community and allow the seminarians a chance to see the different parishes and connect with other FSSP priests and interact with lay faithful.  

Bells ringing area in chapel transept.

While the seminary is closed for three months every summer, seminarians are generally required to work for four weeks at a summer assignment.  This is normally at a parish or summer camp such as the St. John Bosco Camp.  The summer work varies, depending upon the apostolate's needs.  Sometimes it includes volunteering with parish youth, or training altar servers or making house or sick calls or working in the parish office, etc.  Seminarians are also free to visit their families during vacation periods. 

Surplices outside entrance to chapel.

Young men who are actively discerning a possible call to the priesthood with the FSSP are welcome to visit the seminary for an informal discernment visit.  They must be English-speaking men, ordinarily between the ages of 18-35.  A short first visit is encouraged during the academic year, allowing the visitor to experience the charism of the FSSP and the life of a seminarian.  Visits are scheduled generally for a 3-4 day time period.  All those interested may see here.  

Interior seminary hallway.

When a student does apply to the seminary, in addition to completing and submitting the lengthily application documents, must also attend a retreat to be held at the seminary at the end of the month of May.  Making application is a serious effort that generally takes several weeks to finalize the application documents.

Seminary reading room.

Because the seminary is an international house that draws English-speaking students from various countries, the community has an global presence within its walls.    

Seminary library.

The FSSP does a lot to help promote vocations.  Their apostolate in Guadalajara, Mexico has put together an annual vocations retreat and monthly discernment night.  They also offer the opportunity for extended stays at the FSSP Casa Cristo Rey house in Guadalajara for a period of discernment.  

Grand room in the tower, once the temporary chapel.

Some non-FSSP seminarians also study at the seminary, men in formation from various other traditional orders such as the Redemptorists of Scotland or the Carmelites of Wyoming.  These outside men greatly add to the rich fabric of the community by all they bring to the seminary life.   

Interior hallway.

FSSP ordinations are generally held at the nearby Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, Nebraska or another large enough parish to accommodate the crowds.  After ordination, the newly ordained priests are sent anywhere.  During the rite of ordination the new priests make a promise to the ordaining prelate to obey their legitimate superiors.  Although priests may be consulted about some assignments, they are sent the assignment that is deemed to be for their best good and for the good of the Church.  

Peaceful tranquility of inner courtyard.

FSSP priests, thorough the solemn promises at ordination, are further obliged to obey their superior in matters regarding the internal life and discipline of the FSSP as well as the diocesan bishop in other pertinent matters in regard to the apostolate where they are assigned.  

Walkway around seminary exterior grounds.

The salary of ordained priests is quite modest and although FSSP priests do not take a vow of poverty, they strive to practice the spirit of poverty according to the Constitutions of the Order.  The FSSP priest therefore strives to live simply, detached from worldly comforts and possessions. 

View from the main seminary entrance.

Currently in the FSSP there are some 145 seminarians and 320 priests; after only 32 years and counting.  Astounding since its founding in 1988, making the FSSP one of the fastest growing religious orders in the Church today.  The FSSP also have the claim to be the only religious order in the history of the Church named for the Blessed Apostle Peter.  May God continue to bless their work.  They make an immense contribution to the life of the Church.    

The altar rail in the chapel.

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