The University of St. Thomas

Our History

History

Over 100 years ago, The Saint Paul Seminary was built and endowed by Minnesota Methodist millionaire, James J. Hill, who presented it to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis as a gift in honor of his Catholic wife, Mary Mehegan Hill. He financed and supervised the construction of six buildings, but it was the vision of Archbishop John Ireland and his strong leadership that defined the noble traditions and set the high educational standards for the seminary. “Nothing short of the best and the highest is worthy of the priesthood and the other causes which the priesthood represents,” he wrote.

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity and the University of St. Thomas sprouted from common roots. In 1885, Archbishop John Ireland founded the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, begun as a high school, college and seminary. Its initial purpose was to educate American clergy for the American Catholic Church. In 1894, a separate six-year seminary that was named The Saint Paul Seminary opened its doors.

In 1987, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the College of St. Thomas and The Saint Paul Seminary established the School of Divinity. Here the seminary’s expertise for priesthood formation was joined with the college’s success in lay ministry education. Today the school continues the legacy of intensive ministerial formation and educational excellence in service to the mission of the church.

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity is a graduate school of the University of St. Thomas. It is a major component of the university’s commitment to develop competent, dedicated and effective ordained and lay leadership for the Church.

The Saint Paul Seminary continues to have responsibility for the preparation of priests, while the School of Divinity division educates lay men and women for service in the Church and for the work of evangelization. The two programs find their common ground in the worship of God and in their commitment to be disciples of Jesus Christ. The students have access to the impressive resources of the University of St. Thomas and thus the possibility of a world-class education.