During the Oct. 22 Mass for the Dedication of the Archdiocese of Washington’s new Blessed John Paul II Seminary, Cardinal Wuerl incenses the altar. The seminary chapel’s altar is the one used by Pope Benedict XVI at his 2008 Papal Mass at Nationals Park.
During the Oct. 22 Mass for the Dedication of the Archdiocese of Washington’s new Blessed John Paul II Seminary, Cardinal Wuerl incenses the altar. The seminary chapel’s altar is the one used by Pope Benedict XVI at his 2008 Papal Mass at Nationals Park.
At a moving dedication Mass in the seminary's chapel, Cardinal Wuerl prayed that God will "bless this house and all who study here so that the vision, the dream and the legacy of Blessed John Paul II will long continue at the service of God's holy Church."

Cardinal Wuerl encouraged the seminarians to look to their patron for guidance and inspiration as they study for the priesthood. The first group of 20 seminarians now call Blessed John Paul II Seminary home, and many assisted at the Mass, serving at the altar, singing in the choir, and afterward giving tours of the seminary. Currently, 72 men are studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington, including the Blessed John Paul II seminarians taking classes at the nearby Catholic University of America. Msgr. Robert Panke, the new seminary's rector, was among the concelebrants at the dedication Mass.

Recalling Pope John Paul II's installation Mass on that very day 33 years earlier, Cardinal Wuerl, who was present that day, said the new pope's words still echo today in the hearts of the world's Catholics: "Open wide your hearts to Christ. Do not be afraid. Christ is with us. He is risen. He is with us."

The cardinal noted "how appropriate it is that this seminary would bear his name," the name of a pope who presided over the Catholic Church for 26 years, offering an example of charity and a body of teaching that has inspired generations of Catholics. He said in a special way, the men trained at the seminary named in Blessed John Paul II's honor would continue his work.

"The men who will be formed here are preparing to be priests of this millennium, the agents of the Holy Spirit renewing the face of the earth and the voice of the New Evangelization calling all people near and far to embrace the Lord Jesus," Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily.

Tangible reminders of Blessed John Paul II's life and legacy abound in the archdiocesan seminary named in his honor. His name graces the seminary's entranceway, and a portrait of the pope painted by Pittsburgh artist Robert Daley is displayed at the chapel's entranceway. Inside the chapel is displayed an amice, a liturgical vestment worn by Blessed John Paul II as he celebrated Mass.

A reliquary near the chapel's altar displays a first-class relic, the blood of Blessed John Paul II stained on the cassock he was wearing when he was shot and critically wounded during an assassination attempt in St. Peter's Square in 1981.

During the seminary's dedication Mass, Cardinal Wuerl said that relic serves as a reminder to present and future priests that it is not always easy to take up Jesus' cross. Afterward, the cardinal said placing the relic in the reliquary provided the most emotional moment in the Mass for him, as a flood of memories returned to him of the pope who ordained him as a bishop 25 years ago. The cardinal was a concelebrant at the May 1 beatification Mass in Rome for Blessed John Paul II.

The new chapel also connects the seminarians in a special way with Pope Benedict XVI. An apostolic blessing personally signed by that pontiff is on display at the chapel's entrance, and the chapel's altar is the one used by Pope Benedict XVI at his 2008 Papal Mass at Nationals Park in Washington.

"It (this altar) says to us that Benedict, who is the chief shepherd, who came to our country in the exercise of his ministry as successor to Peter, to confirm us in our faith, is the rock on which our Church stands and the rock that we turn to for support and confirmation in our faith," Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily.

The cardinal also noted that the ambo used at the Papal Mass is also now in the seminary chapel, and "reminds us that it is the word of God that the priest proclaims, it is the teaching of the Church that he announces. His fidelity is to both, because it is not himself that he preaches but Jesus, and Jesus crucified."
Another aspect of the new seminary's chapel that ties the Church's past to its present and future is the altar stone, once used by Archbishop John Carroll, who in 1789 became the first Catholic bishop of the United States, heading the new Diocese of Baltimore, which then included the territory of all 13 original states. Archbishop Carroll used that altar stone containing the relics of two early martyrs from 1776 to 1790 as he served St. John the Evangelist Church in Forest Glen (now Silver Spring), which he founded. The archdiocesan high school named for Archbishop Carroll stands next-door to the new seminary.

During the dedication Mass, Cardinal Wuerl placed that altar stone in the altar, anointed the altar with chrism and incensed the altar. Near the beginning of Mass, the cardinal blessed and sprinkled the altar, chapel and seminary with holy water. Later in the Mass, the sung Litany of Saints included Blessed John Paul II, his friend and contemporary, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and the patron saints of the home parishes of many of the seminarians, who come from across the Archdiocese of Washington.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick concelebrated the Mass, and his fellow archbishop emeritus of Washington, Cardinal William Baum, was in attendance. Other concelebrants included Washington Auxiliary Bishops Francisco Gonzalez, Martin Holley and Barry Knestout, and retired Auxiliary Bishop Leonard Olivier. The concelebrating bishops included Bishop John Ricard, the retired bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., who now serves as rector of the St. Joseph's Seminary for Josephite priests and brothers in Washington.

Cardinal Wuerl thanked Bishop Ricard for the Josephite seminary's hospitality in hosting the Blessed John Paul II seminarians these past two months until their new seminary opened. The cardinal also thanked Daniel D'Aniello for being a special benefactor to the new seminary.

The chalice used at the Mass was given to Cardinal Baum by the archdiocese on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, and the ciborium was given to Bishop Oliver by the archdiocese on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination. After Communion, Cardinal Wuerl blessed the seminary's tabernacle, which was given to him from the priests of the archdiocese on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as a bishop.

The more than two dozen priest concelebrants at the dedication Mass included the four priests of the Archdiocese of Washington now serving as faculty members of Blessed John Paul II Seminary: Msgr. Panke, the rector and director of formation for all seminarians of the archdiocese; Father Carter Griffin, the seminary's vice-rector and the new director of priest vocations for the archdiocese; Father William Gurnee, the seminary's director of spiritual formation; and Father Mario Dorsonville, the seminary's adjunct spiritual director who continues to serve as director of the archdiocese's Spanish Catholic Center.

After Communion, Msgr. Panke offered Cardinal Wuerl thanks for his "great vision, courage and leadership" in founding the new Blessed John Paul II Seminary, and the congregation gave the cardinal a standing ovation.

Also at the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl encouraged the seminarians to have a special devotion to Mary, just as their patron, Blessed John Paul II, did. "Just as Jesus on the cross entrusted John to His mother, so does the Church today continue to encourage all of us to entrust our lives, our vocation, our ministry, our service to Mary, mother of Jesus, mother of God, mother of the Church. It is under that title that we bless this chapel - dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church," said Cardinal Wuerl.

Each seminarian's room includes a crucifix, a portrait of Blessed John Paul II, and a statue of Mary.

The seminary building was originally constructed in 1951 and served as a friary for the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, an order dedicated to ecumenical outreach. For much of the past decade, the building housed offices for the Catholic Standard and El Pregonero newspapers of the Archdiocese of Washington, the Office of Youth Ministry and the Consortium of Catholic Academies. This past fall, the cardinal announced the formation of the new seminary, and the building was extensively renovated to become the new home for the priests and seminarians of Blessed John Paul II Seminary.

After the dedication Mass, Msgr. Panke noted how Blessed John Paul II Seminary is providing a home to the increasing number of new seminarians for the archdiocese, who are beginning their studies together at Catholic University. "The Holy Spirit is active in the Church of Washington. It's a great sign of hope for the future of our Church," he said.