The seminary of Belfast will close in September 2018, after 185 years of existence. Maynooth and the Irish College of Rome will be the only two places left for forming diocesan priests from the Isle of the Saints.
Founded in 1833, four years after the emancipation of the Catholics, the St. Malachy Seminary formed priests from several Irish dioceses.
When the University of Belfast opened a department of scholastic philosophy in 1909, the seminarians were enrolled there so they could receive the diploma for their three years of philosophy studies.
But for the past several years, there have been fewer and fewer candidates to the priesthood, and the University of Belfast has decided to shut down its scholastic philosophy department, leaving the seminarians unable to obtain a diploma during their first three years.
After thinking it through, the diocese of Down and Connor has decided to send the remaining seminarians to other seminaries. “It is a sad moment for all,” declared the diocesan authorities in a statement on July 19, 2018.
St. Malachy will lengthen the already long list of Irish seminaries that have been closed, victims of the secularization of Irish society and the abuse of minors scandals that have tarnished the honor of the Church there more than anywhere else: St. Patrick in Thurles in 2002, Clonliffe in Dublin in 2000, St. Peter in Wexford and St. John in Waterford in 1999, St. Kieran in Kilkenny in 1994, and St. Patrick in Carlow in 1993.
This leaves only two seminaries for Irish candidates to the priesthood: Maynooth and the Irish College of Rome.