Sacred Heart Major Seminary sees biggest graduating class since school’s refounding

Graduates line the hallways at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on April 27 during the commencement exercises and baccalaureate Mass of the Detroit school. For the second consecutive year, Sacred Heart saw its largest graduating class since its refounding in 1988. (Photos by Tim Fuller | Special to Detroit Catholic)

102 graduates earn 112 diplomas, degrees or certificates this year; more than half are lay students

DETROIT — The Holy Spirit continues to call more souls to grow in understanding of the faith, as for the second straight year, Sacred Heart Major Seminary has seen its largest graduating class since the school's refounding.

On April 27, 102 graduates earned 112 degrees, diplomas or certificates at the Detroit school’s annual commencement. The total tops last year’s numbers — 98 graduates who earned 114 certificates, diplomas or degrees — making it the largest graduating class since Sacred Heart was re-established as a major seminary in 1988.

“For the last two years we have had a record number of graduates, and that is a really good sign,” Msgr. Todd Lajiness, rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary told Detroit Catholic. “It is a sign of a vibrant, healthy environment. Part of that is our admissions team working really hard with recruiting and making sure our students stay on course to graduation.”

This year’s class is composed of 57 lay students, 32 seminarians studying for the priesthood, and 13 members of the clergy. 

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron greets a graduate in the chapel of Sacred Heart Major Seminary on April 27.

Seminary officials say the school has experienced an average of a 4% increase in enrollment growth in the past five years.

Msgr. Lajiness credits the work of people involved with admissions at Sacred Heart in making sure those pursuing a degree are staying on track, despite any possible obstacles to graduation.

“When you move people to graduation, you are dealing with all sorts of factors that can stop someone from graduating,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “It requires a lot of attention on the part of an institution to keep people moving. And I’m really appreciative, very grateful for advisers and our faculty and administrators who work really closely with our students to help them get through the program.”

Thirty-three lay students earned a Certificate in Catholic Theology, the most-awarded degree at this year’s commencement, followed by 14 students — seven lay and seven studying for the permanent diaconate — earning a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, and 10 seminarians earning Bachelor of Philosophy.

The number of laity earning degrees is a sign of the seminary’s role in the new evangelization, Msgr. Lajiness said.

“I do think people are really excited about learning more, and I think it is certainly part of the vision spelled out in Unleash the Gospel of getting people a lot more engaged with the encounter, growth and witness to Jesus Christ,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “St. Augustine has this wonderful line, and I’m paraphrasing here, but it’s, ‘The love of the one we know becomes a love more deeply the more we know about them. And as we love more deeply, we desire to know more about Him.’ And so, we’re excited with more and more people wanting to more know about Christ.”