The main goal, he said, is to create two types of spaces: a private space for the seminarians living in residence and a public space that better integrates with the campus community of Western University and King’s University College in London, Ont.
“Our theme is rekindling that gift of God that’s within you and that’s really rekindling the gift of the seminary here,” said Keller. “The seminary is more than just a place where the seminarians come to study. It’s very important but it’s also a place where people come to study for their lay ministries and for our permanent deacons who serve in our diocese, too.”
This $32-million renovation project, which was formally announced in June 2015, is also part of the seminary’s reorganization to operate independently from the Diocese of London. The seminary is now going to operate as a non-profit organization to expand and better serve other dioceses across Canada.
Keller said “a mountain of paper work” had to be moved before construction could begin last August. Today, they are in the midst of the first stage of renovations.
The top two floors of the seminary has been gutted to its bare bones to create new residence spaces. The slate roof is being totally replaced. Stonework in the exterior facade is being cleaned and restored. New heating and cooling systems will also be installed to reduce the seminary’s carbon footprint.
Once the new residence spaces are ready (slated to be finished in September 2018), seminarians and seminary faculty will be moving in to new dormitories so that work on the rest of the building can begin.
As formation director, Keller said he is able to work with his formation team to make sure that the renovations will serve everyone that uses the building. This year is especially challenging with 19 new seminarians enrolled.
“Actually, it’s a funny thing because our numbers are up this year,” said Keller. “Every room in the house is now full.... But surprisingly, morale amongst the guys is amazing. They’re packed in here like sardines, but they seem to be very joyful and prayerful.”
St. Peter’s Seminary first opened in 1926. Since then, the 18-acre site has undergone five significant renovations and expansions. The last renovation took place in 1990-1991 to modernize Aquinas House, a residence for guests and the Permanent Diaconate program.
Those renovations were made possible through contributions of parishioners to the “Pentecost 2000” campaign. About $2 million from the endowment funds raised in that campaign is now contributing to the current renovations.
The most significant contribution comes from the Diocese of Hamilton with a pledge of $23 million.
David Howie, executive director of St. Peter’s Seminary Foundation, said the foundation will soon launch a “Rekindling the Gift” capital campaign to raise an additional $6.5 million for the project.