The Pontifical College Josephinum is one of more than 180 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States. But it’s the only seminary in the U.S. that’s run by the Vatican.
"There are only 15 pontifical seminaries in the world. 14 of them are in Italy and then Columbus, Ohio. That makes us a unique seminary in the United States," says Father James Wehner, the Josephinum’s president.
About 200 men are enrolled at the Josephinum. While the seminary offers academic degrees, Wehner says there’s a larger purpose.
"They’re going through a formation experience; it’s like going through boot camp. So here we’re providing the space and the time for the men to get trained in a way that they can then answer the question, ‘Am I called to be a priest,'" says Wehner.
During evening vespers the music rises through the elegant and expansive Saint Turibius Chapel. The chapel rises several stories above the third floor of the main building at the Josephinum. The 81-year-old building reflects the sacred architecture of Europe.
Columbus Architect William Heyer says the chapel is reminiscent of iconic places of worship such as France’s Mont Saint Michel.
"Sacred architecture is always trying to bring man in touch with the divine," says Heyer. "It’s meant to carry us into another realm … Saint Turibius Chapel, rising above the rest of the buildings, is symbolic of that flight of the spirit, taking us out of the mundane at the level of the ground, and lifting us toward the heavens."
The chapel’s soaring architecture and beautiful altar create an atmosphere conducive to worship and prayer.
"The paintings and all of the symbolic forms that are in the church are part of the chapel speaking to the people who come here for liturgies. These are things that are important for us to understand the building. It’s talking to us. When you take all of these things out, the building really has a hard time communicating with you," says Heyer.
The placement of the chapel, Heyer says, is evidence of its importance.
"It’s the highest, it’s most important, it’s at the center, it’s at the heart of the campus. And the architecture is monumental, it’s unique, and it celebrates Catholic architecture throughout time, really," says Heyner.
"We have a beautiful campus with a beautiful history; a very beautiful architecture which hopefully raises the minds and the hearts of people to the kingdom of God," says Father Wehner.
Download the audio tour “Marion to Chillicothe: Where North Meets South” at See OhioFirst.org. The New Ohio Guide is produced by the Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.