The Aquinas Institute of Theology said Monday that it would begin construction and renovation next week on the former Loretto Academy building in St. Louis as a new priory for its priest candidates.
Once renovated, the 101-year-old building at 3407 Lafayette Avenue will accommodate 42 residents. There are now 30 priesthood students at the Dominican graduate school, which also trains lay Catholics to serve in ministerial roles in the church.
This fall, Aquinas enrolled 10 men preparing for the priesthood, its largest class in more than 20 years. Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, which trains diocesan priests for the St. Louis Archdiocese, has also experienced growing numbers of candidates for the priesthood in recent years. After years of concern over a widespread priest shortage in the United States, Catholic leaders are allowing themselves to hope that trend may have flattened out.
"This is a real statement about our commitment to Aquinas and St. Louis, and also to the prospect of future priesthood candidates," said the Rev. Charles Bouchard, a former president of Aquinas and a member of the Dominicans' building committee for the Loretto project. "Our numbers are good and the guys coming in are young, just out of college. Something is happening here, it's not just a blip."