What really is behind the decision to close the Polish Seminary in Orchard Lake?

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July 19, 2021

An open letter to the Board of Trustees of SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake Schools
Dear Trustees,

(Ann Bankowski – regent, Rev. Remigiusz „Remek” Blaszkowski, Sister Nancy Marie Jamroz, Ludvik F. Koci, Walter Knysz DDS – regent, Joseph T. Lentine, Joseph Majcher – regent, Rev. Gary Michalik, Mary Kaye Beher-Neumann, Ray Okonski – regent, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Leonard S Suchyta, Rev. Stanley Ulman, Bishop Robert J Fisher, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron)

Please explain the reasoning behind your decision to close the only Polish and over 100-year-old seminary in the USA, built with money from Polonia. All the schools and centers of OLS exist thanks to the vision of Fr. Dabrowski and the generosity of Polish communities.

As a disclaimer, I used to work for OLS. For almost five years, I worked with Fr. Stanislaw Flis at the Polish-American Liturgical Center and The Central Archives of Polonia, where I learned the history of OLS, the way it works, and how important it is for Polonia. I worked under three different chancellors, three rectors, and two directors of the Polish Mission. I remember the generations of the priests working together, starting with Fr. Ziemba and Fr. Milewski and ending with the newest few currently on the campus.

According to the published letter about the planned closing of the seminary, you, the Trustees, gave the recommendation to the Board of Regents to close it based on: the declining enrollment caused by the changing demographics in the United States, the recent policy to not allow Polish seminarians to transfer between seminaries, and more vocational opportunities in Poland. Probably for the average reader, these arguments sound reasonable but not for the average Polish national Catholic. The job of the priest is not a typical one and has not changed due to the socio-political changes in Poland. This argument does not stand.

The declining enrollment to the seminaries is a well-known phenomenon in the world. Our seminary will have 11 students in 2021-2022. In Poland, we had 438 new seminarians in the 2020-2021 year (60 less than a year ago). Based on the character of our seminary, 11 seminarians is a good number. Historically, we had more students in good years, and we had worse years too. This argument is also lacking.

The new policy forbidding seminarians to transfer between seminaries could be changed in the future. As of today, it should motivate you to expand the way to recruit new students. Maybe it is a good time to look for new ones around Polonia. There are about 10,000,000 of us, and there are those called. If you have a will to find new ways, you will not rely on only one way through the branch of the seminary in Krakow.

All your arguments for closing the seminary are not convincing. We are provoked to ask what really is behind the decision of closing the seminary and why now?
If the real reason is the current situation of OLS, in details described by the Polish and American news, you should be ashamed of yourself. Nobody else but the Board of Regents, the Board of the Polish Mission, and you are responsible for the daily operation at OLS. All of you have been selecting, hiring, and controlling the situation on the campus, are avoiding responsibility for your inaction, and are now closing the seminary in such a way it ruins the multigenerational legacy of Polonia, the good names of hundreds of priests who graduated from the seminary and, what is worst, takes away the idea from Polonia that it is “their place.
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Polonia has financed this as “their place” and has a right to coownership and to ask questions. The first would be who and why “recommended” the Board of Regents to close the seminary? Besides this one, we have a few more questions.

1. What will happen to the seminary foundation, and who will receive the funds? Maybe the money will cover the cost of a new construction of a high school? Are you going to ask the donors for their agreement?
2. What is going to happen to the library, which is subject to the seminary?
3. What is going to happen to the Liturgical Center whose income subsidized the seminary? Do you plan to hire a Polish priest who could take over after the death of Fr. Flis? Polonia needs its pastors.
4. What is going to happen with the chapels? They are not a part of the diocese. They don’t have parishioners, and there are fewer and fewer priests on the campus.
5. What are the plans for the vacated buildings? The seminary, dormitory next to the seminary, library, and both chapels? A realistically thinking person should be afraid that parcel will be sold when they were bought through Polonia’s money.
6. Is OLS planning to lose its religious character? In the past, the rector (always a priest) was responsible for the campus and from the time of the foundation of OLS – chancellor. When the seminary goes, will the religious character go as well?

7. What is the future of the ministry of Polonia in OLS? The future of the archives and other Polonia institutions which were under the direct influence of the priest from the seminary? It is reasonable to not believe that anybody from the Board of Regents will keep alive any Polish institutions when the seminary will be gone and all the money from the Wikiera Foundation maintaining the Polish Mission, and indirectly OLS.

It is time to organize a meeting between Polonia and The Board of Regents, Trustees, and the Board of the Polish Mission where all of us interested in these subjects could receive answers to their own worrying questions about the seminary and the future of OLS. The president of the Board of Regents, Mr. Gross, gave some interviews about the seminary to the American press and maybe will find time for Polonia and Polonia’s journalists. We don’t have to remind that OLS is nonprofit corporation which should be obligated by law to the transparency of their financial books, plans, and goals, which cannot be kept hidden from American taxpayers.

Jolanta Halaczkiewicz

One Response to “What really is behind the decision to close the Polish Seminary in Orchard Lake?

  • Christopher Jachulski
    These are excellent observations and questions. There has to be a meeting of the regents with Polonia like an open Town Hall style meeting with question and answer period. Polonia cannot afford to take this decision lying down!

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