It remains the only pontifical seminary in the Western Hemisphere.
As immigration to the New World steadily increased, the Vatican needed to ensure the future education of priests and religious in the United States and beyond. To do that Pope Leo XIII granted a single seminary “pontifical status,” placing it under the care of the Vatican.
This seminary wasn’t located in New York, Washington, D.C., or even Baltimore. Of all places, the only pontifical seminary in the Western Hemisphere is located in Columbus, Ohio.
It began in 1875 with an orphanage for boys founded by Msgr. John Joseph Jessing, who eventually moved it to Columbus. After about a decade many of the young boys wanted to study to become priests and so Msgr. Jessing decide to open up his own seminary.
The seminary was surprisingly successful, attracting men from many different states, and after a few years Jessing wrote to the Vatican in hopes that it could continue after his death under the pope’s protection. Pope Leo XIII recognized the need to have a presence in the New World and accepted his request, making the Collegium Josephinum (“House of Joseph”) into the Pontifical College Josephinum.
According to its website, this status means, “The Josephinum is a pontifical institution immediately subject to the Holy See, through the apostolic Nuncio, and governed by the Board of Trustees. Its programs follow the norms established by the Code of Canon Law, the Congregation for Catholic Education, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
At first the seminary primarily educated German-speaking priests to serve the immigrant population, but over the years has turned international in scope. Since its founding in 1888, “more than 1,900 Catholic priests have received their training at the Pontifical College Josephinum. Ordained alumni serve the People of God in 48 States and more than 20 foreign countries.”
It is a unique seminary, one that has a rich history and special ties to the Vatican.