Theological College Providence Hall Renovation and Blessing

Fr. John C. Kemper, Provincial Superior, blessing the newly renovated Providence Hall. Assisting are Deacons Mak Garrett (left) and Ryan Hiaeshutter (right), both from the Diocese of Dallas, Texas.

Theological College now offers separate accommodations in its Providence Hall annex for eight student priests, who will enjoy the support and privileges of the seminary community while living in the renovated residence.

Previously, Theological College extended hospitality to priests striving to complete JCL,  STL, and other degrees at The Catholic University of America. More recently, the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS) crafted a five-year STL program with degree specializations in biblical, historical, systematic, liturgical, sacramental, and moral theology. Participants in this program will return  after ordination for their final year to earn an STL. As the fifth-year program was coming together in 2017 and 2018 under the direction of STRS’s Rev. Msgr. Michael Clay, Associate Dean for Graduate Ministerial Studies, Theological College’s Sulpician leaders faced space and comfort concerns for the expected increase in ordained program candidates. Very Rev. John Kemper, Provincial Superior, and Rev. Gerald McBrearity, TC Rector, were helped by Tim Murphy, TC Facilities Manager, to consider the Providence Hall annex.

For many years, Apple Tree Institute for Education Innovation had been renting the third and fourth floors of Providence Hall. In September 2018, it found a bigger, more cohesive space elsewhere in D.C. With the expertise of Suzanne Giguere of Corkill Cush Reeves Architects, plans were drafted for the vacated space: eight rooms with private baths, plus a communal kitchenette and an extra bathroom. Ms. Giguere spent several days analyzing, measuring, and floating ideas for the most efficient use of this century-old space. Providence Hall was formerly the convent for the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence, who served the domestic needs of the Sulpician Fathers and TC seminarians for almost 70 years, from 1918 to 1986.

Buch Construction, which had handled several McCormick Pavilion office space renovations, was the general contractor. According to Tim Murphy, “The biggest hurdle was to get the drawings approved by the D.C. government; we were happy to clear this hurdle with the city to begin work in November.” Other challenges included issues with asbestos removal, meticulously accomplished by Buch workers. Some of the old flooring and floor joists also had to be replaced. The contractors were able to finish the project in five months, leaving plenty of time before August for final details, such as furniture selection.

At the end of Theological College’s Orientation Week on August 24, the first full day that all students were in house to begin the 2019-2020 school year, the TC population witnessed a milestone event: the dedication of Providence Hall by Fr. Kemper. This year, the rooms will be occupied by three newly ordained TC alumni (from the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Archdioceses of New York and Washington) and one graduate of the North American College (Diocese of Rockville Centre), all of whom  will be studying at Catholic University for a final year to complete their S.T.L. degrees. They will be joined in Providence Hall by three JCL candidates—two from the TC classes of 2015 (Diocese of Fort Worth) and 2017 (Archdiocese of Louisville) and one from  the Diocese of Raleigh—as well as one Maryknoll- sponsored priest from China.

While the resident priests of Providence Hall accompanied Fr. Kemper through the house to a  room with a balcony, the seminarians participated by gathering below the balcony where the dedication was taking place. The unique parallel between the former and current occupants of Providence Hall, including the Sisters’ mission in service of the formation of future priests and the mission of the priests’ being further educated to serve the people of God, highlights a providential historical continuum worthy of the profound blessings offered by Fr. Kemper for the house and the Sedes Sapietiae statues placed in the rooms.

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