On Sunday, September 17th 2017 former alumni of St Alberts Jr. Seminary and friends of St Alberts gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of St Alberts Jr. Seminary in Middletown, NY.
The Carmelites first started Mt Carmel parish in Middletown in 1912. At that time the Carmelites were looking for property to open a Junior Seminary which would educate high school age boys in the hope that they would one day become Carmelites. Finbar O’Connor, who would later become the Commissary General asked Richard Colfer, the pastor of Mt Carmel in Middletown to look in the area for property which could serve as a Seminary. Richard Colfer soon reported to Finbar O’Connor that “The Thistles” in Middletown was available and O’Connor immediately set about to purchase the piece of property which today serves as the Novitiate. Cardinal Farley, the Archbishop of New York also wanted the Carmelites to begin their own Seminary and Novitiate in New York and helped to raise funds for the future seminary.
“The Thistles”, the Red Barn and about 10 acres of land was eventually purchased for $20,000 and on September 16, 1917 St Alberts Jr Seminary opened. It was a Sunday and school began the next day – September 17. Not much is known about the number of students in the first years of the school since no records exist. However, the population of the school gradually grew and the Carmelites gradually purchased more land around St Alberts for the Novitiate. O’Connor Hall, the Red Building and the Chapel building all would be built on the land the Carmelites purchased.
St Alberts continued to function as a Minor Seminary until 1977 when it closed because of the lack of students. Minor Seminaries and boarding schools were no longer viable. However, for 60 years St Alberts Jr Seminary educated some future Carmelites and many young men who developed lasting friendships with the Carmelites and those with whom they went to school.
A number of them gathered on Sunday, September 17th to mark the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the school. Fr Michael Kissane, O.Carm., (St Alberts Class of 1976) in his talk after communion mentioned that in 1972 when he entered St Alberts there were 54 freshmen. Nine would end up graduating the High School in 1976. He is the only one from his class who remained a Carmelite and the next two graduates of St Alberts would be Fr James Hess and Fr Frank Dixon who were about eight years ahead of him.
However, Fr Michael Kissane mentioned that it is wrong to judge the success of the High School by its numbers. Although the Carmelites never saw large numbers of vocations from the High School seminary, the teachers and Carmelites that ministered in the High School formed many young men who went on to serve the church and society in many ways.
The Alumni of St Alberts who gathered after mass for some refreshments recalled many memories of their years at St Alberts. Mr. Vincent Begley, the provincial archivist has set up a display of old photos and documents in the Heritage Room for all to see.
Although St Alberts closed in 1977, the memories and friendships that developed in those years continue today. A special thanks is extended to all the Carmelites, many of whom are deceased, who labored for many years to educate and form future leaders in the Church and society.