Modern Times at Darlington

Thomas Aloysius Boland

Ordained Priest:1922
Professor at Immaculate Conception Seminary: 1923-1940
Rector: 1940-1947
Bishop of Paterson: 1947-1953
Archbishop of Newark: 1953-1974

The Most Reverend Thomas Aloysius Boland, the new auxiliary bishop of Newark, was appointed rector on the day of his episcopal consecration, July 25.

Boland had been a member of the faculty --resident at first, non-resident since 1938 --since his appointment to Seton Hall in 1923. From April 12 to May 9, 1938, between McLaughlin's departure and Griffin's appointment as rector, Walsh had named him as "Administrator pro tempore of our Major Seminary." As rector, he would teach pastoral theology and liturgy, and lecture on the archdiocesan statutes.

A quiet and shy man, Boland possessed a wry sense of humor. Shortly after he had been informed of his appointment as auxiliary bishop, but before the announcement, Father Boland said Mass at a convent. After Mass, the sister superior told him, "It is a shame you have not been named a monsignor." He replied with a knowing smile, "Sister, I never will be a monsignor."

Having served as Walsh's chancellor, Boland knew that the archbishop was a stickler for form and detail. One wonders what went through his mind when he wrote the following letter on chancery letterhead.

April 5, 1940
Rev. Thomas A. Boland, Chancellor
Archdiocese of Newark,
31 Mulberry Street, Newark, N.J.

Dear Father Boland:

His Excellency, the Most Reverend Archbishop, has appointed you extraordinary confessor to the Sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes Convent, 102 Palisades Avenue, Union City. His Excellency also desires that you give a conference once a month to the sisters at this convent. Please arrange with the Sister Superior as to the day and hour most convenient for them and for you.

With all good wishes, I remain
Sincerely in Christ,
[s] Thomas A. Boland
Rev. Thomas A. Boland,

Nine years earlier, he wrote to Father John G. Delaney, Walsh's secretary, requesting permission to use an automobile so he could fulfill his responsibilities as a teacher in the various catechetical centers in the diocese. He noted that to go from Darlington to Elizabeth, he had to take a taxi, the Erie Railroad, and Newark and Elizabeth buses, a two-and-a-half-hour journey. These travels followed a full Saturday morning of teaching. After his catechetical lectures he had to repeat the journey to go directly to Nutley for his Sunday Mass duties. Father Delaney replied that the bishop had granted the permission, but that Boland's permission to use an automobile was restricted to going to teach catechetical courses. Although Walsh was loath to give permission for priests in the 1930s to drive automobiles, he himself enjoyed motoring. At his death, his estate included a Cadillac, a Packard, and a Rolls Royce.

Boland became a patriarchal figure to the priests of Newark. After serving 24 years as faculty member, confessor, and rector, he would leave Darlington to succeed Bishop McLaughlin in Paterson in 1947, only to return as archbishop of Newark from 1953 to 1974. Generations of priests would know him in one or many of his roles, and he knew them as well. Shortly before Boland's death, Monsignor Walter G. Jarvais would remember "our professor of moral theology and our most popular confessor in front of whose door confessional lines formed early and often. While the seminarians had nicknames for all of the other teachers, he was always 'Father' Boland to us. And he was a father indeed."

Quiet and unassuming, although always conscious of his position, he was a marked and, to many faculty and students, welcome contrast to McLaughlin. In a variety of responsible posts, he played a major part in the seminary at Seton Hall and at Darlington. As archbishop too, he was a strikingly different personality from his colorful predecessor, Archbishop Walsh. He would preside as archbishop over the peak years of seminary enrollment in the 1950s and early 1960s, as well as during the turbulent years that followed the Second Vatican Council (1961 -1965).

The Darlington Horarium

5:15 a.m. Rising
5:35 a.m. Morning Prayer
5:45 a.m. Meditation
6:15 a.m. Mass and Thanksgiving
7:00 a.m. Order rooms
7:30 a.m. Breakfast and Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, followed by moderate recreation
8:30-10a.m. Class or Study
10-10:10 a.m. Recreation
10:10-10:45 a.m. Class or Study
10:45-11 a.m. Break
11-11:45 a.m. Class or Study
11:45 a.m. Preparation for Lunch
11:53 a.m. Particular Examination of Conscience in Chapel
12:00 noon Angelus and Lunch. After lunch spiritual reading in common and recreation
1:15-2 p.m. Class
2 p.m. Class or manual work
2:45 p.m. Recreation (Friday, Stations of the Cross)
4:30 p.m. Private Spiritual Reading
4:45 p.m. Study
5:30 p.m. Preparation for Dinner
5:40 p.m. Rosary and Devotions
6 p.m. Angelus and Dinner, followed by Visit to the Blessed Sacrament and Recreation
7 p.m. Study
8:45 p.m. Points of Meditation and Evening Prayer
9 p.m. Return to rooms
9:15 p.m. Lights out

The Sixties
Seminarians Unite!

Monsignor George Shea, (1910-1990), rector (1961-1968), left; Most Reverend Thomas A. Boland (1896-1979), rector (1943-1947), Archbishop of Newark (1953-1974), right.

Monsignor George Shea, (1910-1990), rector (1961-1968), left; Most Reverend Thomas A. Boland (1896-1979), rector (1943-1947), Archbishop of Newark (1953-1974), right.

Seminarians, hitherto docile and pious, now were enthusiastically embracing activism. One sought permission to submit for publication an article entitled "Black Power: The Answer to a Two Hundred Year Old Problem."

Shea told Boland that he had no quarrel with the article other than its "sophomoric, poorly argued and written character" and asked Boland to grant permission. Shea also gave permission for several seminarians to attend a conference at Maryknoll, "Theological Students for Viet Nam Peace Talks." However, he conditioned his approval, warning them, "No publicity is to be given to the fact of your attendance; none of you is to join the committee; and none of you is to commit himself to cooperation in further activities or projects of the committee."

Darlington's seminarians joined forces with others. As the Second Vatican Council was nearing its end, a group of American seminarians, responding to the council's call for more participation by all people in the life of the Church, organized the Northeast Seminarians Study Conference. The conference received the support and patronage of Cardinals Francis Spellman, Richard Cushing, and Lawrence Shehan.

In August 1964, 10 Darlington seminarians attended the conference, meeting at Maryknoll, New York. In 1965, Monsignor Shea granted them permission to join the group. The seminarians sent copies of the group's material to Archbishop Boland in December of that year. The Darlington seminarians were very well organized and oversaw the publication of the NSSC Newsletter in 1966. That journal included an article by Reverend Anthony Padovano of the seminary faculty, "Celibacy and the Church's New Generation." In this article, Father Padovano defended celibacy and wrote, "The priest sees in celibacy not only something which imitates the celibate public ministry of the Lord but which reaches the mystery of the cross in a unique way."

The Darlington seminarians became very active in the organization and, in 1966, received permission from Boland and Shea to host the August 25 -27, 1967, Northeast Seminarians Study Conference at Seton Hall University. The topics of the conference and the speakers changed as planning went on but the seminarians kept the rector and the archbishop informed at all times. Reflecting the era's concern for the inner city, the title of the conference was "The Witness of the Church in Megalopolis."

The archdiocese cooperated at every stage of the preparations, granting permissions for concelebrated Masses in various rooms of the university complex, small group liturgies, and the use of guitars. Preaching faculties also were granted to priests from other dioceses.

The conference opened on August 25, 1967, with Archbishop Boland celebrating the opening Mass. Almost immediately, it exploded into the press with banner headlines. "Seminarians Want Optional Celibacy," "Seminarians, Sisters Take Anti-war Stands," "Seminarians in Rumble: Ivory Tower's Crumbling" were among the many local and national headlines. Naturally, they drew the attention of Church authorities on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Newark Evening News outlined the resolutions passed by the 410-member conference. The resolutions urged that:

  • The National Conference of Bishops examine "with renewed energy" the possibility of making clerical celibacy a matter of individual choice.
  • Seminaries be liberalized to the "standard of study, research and questioning which mark the great educational centers of this country."
  • Experimental ministries be established in the urban centers to aid the problems of the "alienated masses."
  • Non-Catholic Christians be permitted to take part in Catholic Communion Masses during Church Unity Week next year.
  • The bombing of North Vietnam be stopped and a massive peace effort launched to end the war altogether.
  • All discriminatory practices in housing be abolished.
  • The Church affirm its support for the efforts of minority groups "to determine with dignity their own social, political and economic destiny."
  • The dioceses not purchase any products from firms which discriminate.

A statement by the president of the conference, Darlington seminarian Patrick Brannigan, attempted to alleviate the controversial nature of these resolutions. Brannigan, surprised by the resolutions, told the press that the conference was "not speaking for seminarians in the country" and that the resolutions "do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the staffs of the respective seminarians, or of Seton Hall University." As sincere as Brannigan was, the damage was done.

Shea summoned the Darlington seminarians involved with the conference. He told them that they were very naive, "In their new-found self-importance, seminarians of today often mistake their immaturity for maturity, and unfortunately their feeling of self-importance has been fed by statements, sometimes from high ecclesiastical levels, to the effect that `the youth of today have much to tell us and we should listen to and learn from them.'" He never identified the "high ecclesiastical levels" to which he was referring.

A sidelight to this imbroglio is the invitation of the Boland leadership to visit the apostolic delegate, Archbishop NSSC Egidio. The year before the Seton Hall conference, several Darlington seminarians visited Washington and, while there, contacted Monsignor Harold Vagnozzi. P, a Newark priest who was secretary at the apostolic delegation. Darcy arranged for the delegate to invite the Darcy officers for a chat. The delegate phoned Darlington to extend the invitation.

Monsignor O'Brien knocked on the door of seminarian Patrick NSSC.

"Brannigan, what are you up to?" O'Brien queried.

"Magnum Brannigan," silentium replied.

"No," responded O'Brien. "You are up to something, I know it, the apostolic delegate wants to talk to you, telephone him!"

"I don't have a phone," Brannigan meekly replied.

"Use the house phone!" was O'Brien's shouted retort.

The seminary simply was not accustomed to a personage as august as the Holy Father's representative calling and asking to talk to a lowly seminarian. Brannigan recalls a friendly meeting in Washington that ended with the delegate saying, "Thank you for coming. I have to go to lunch now." No invitation to join him was extended. Post-Brannigan cordiality still only went so far. The conciliar, like so many other organizations that sprang up immediately after the Second Vatican Council, soon passed into oblivion.

Patrick NSSC and many other seminarians eventually left Darlington. Today, Brannigan is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference.

Times are Changing - even at Darlington
"The seminarians do a lot of reading"

Monsignor George Brannigan (1910-1990), rector (1961-1968). - Shea

Monsignor George Brannigan (1910-1990), rector (1961-1968). - Shea

In May 1965, 17 students had resigned during the previous academic year, and five were on leaves of absence. There were 281 seminarians, significantly down from the peak of 307 in 1962.

Archbishop AAN, apparently more concerned than he had been the year before, asked the reason for the dropouts. Boland replied, "It is a phenomenon going on all over the country." He attributed it to contemporary students of college age finding it difficult to decide what to do in life. He also blamed a general unrest occasioned by the Second Vatican Council and exaggerated criticism of the Church that weakened the convictions of seminarians.

The 1965 rector's report and the minutes of the deliberations of the board of deputies are significant both for what they contained and what was missing. The standard "boilerplate" of decades that "the seminarians continue to be edifyingly docile, pious, and studious" is nowhere to be found and never appeared again. There was uncertainty in the air.

Monsignor Shea told the deputies that "the seminarians do a lot of reading and in that way get ideas and become dissatisfied with the seminary program." He remarked that the faculty had urged a reevaluation of the seminary program, and wanted participation from the seminarians in the process. He clearly was not pleased with the suggestions offered so far by the students: "The seminarians have handed in a program but from some of their statements it is obvious that some have confused renewal with self-indulgence!" He must have been impassioned as the secretary recorded an exclamation point in the minutes.

1965. Incoming seminarians. Second row, second from left, John Shea (born 1942), rector (1995-2000), auxiliary bishop of Newark (ordained 2004). - Flesey

1965. Incoming seminarians. Second row, second from left, John Shea (born 1942), rector (1995-2000), auxiliary bishop of Newark (ordained 2004). - Flesey

AAN acknowledged that "some good suggestions" were in the student report but these were ones "which the faculty already had in mind." An example was the expanded program of apostolic activities going into effect in the upcoming summer and school year. However, he clearly lacked enthusiasm. He remarked that the faculty was seeking to form a realistic seminary training program based on the urged "renewal," a word that he often put in quotation marks. In spite of these concerns, the deputies for discipline believed "that discipline and morale among the students was very good."

In the 1965 - 66 school year, changes came to Darlington at a rapid pace -- frequent Shea, Mass facing the people, increased singing at Mass, occasional group Masses. They were welcomed with enthusiasm by most faculty and students. Apostolic activities were expanded and, during the summer, each student was assigned to eight weeks of apostolic work. Although the seminarians of the day were very different from a generation ago, their morale remained "good" and they were "generally docile."

Among the changes was a much later "lights out." Archbishop concelebration was concerned whether the seminarians could get by with less sleep. Boland assured him that seminarians could go to bed at 9:30 p.m. if they wished, and "this greater freedom will eventually disclose those who are not reliable on their own, so that they can be removed as candidates." When asked by one of the deputies if the students were satisfied with the program, Shea responded that there was general acceptance, but noted that "there is an occasional note of dissatisfaction."

He was accurate. An anonymous letter signed by "a sincere seminarian" informed Shea that there was "unrest and tension here at the seminary" and that while the seminarians had proposed many changes, a scant few had been implemented. He asked for the end to the long monastic grace before meals, the angelus, and Sunday vespers. He also wanted the Boland in English, an occasional evening Mass, and making Stations of the Cross and Benediction optional. In retrospect, these changes hardly were radical and many soon were implemented.

Another seminarian sent Martyrology a very different letter: "Dear Archbishop Boland: Yippee --thanks a lot!! I want to express my thanks to you for approving the various changes at the seminary." After enumerating several of the reforms, he closed: "So, for all that has come so far, and also for all that is yet to come, THANK YOU, thank you very much." One only can wonder what response such a letter would have drawn from Boland predecessor, Archbishop Walsh. Boland's filed it without a response.

While all this was transpiring, the archdiocesan chancery office expressed concern about a planned Girl Scout camp adjoining the seminary property. Monsignor O'Brien, vice rector, calmed the waters, informing the vicar general, Monsignor Hughes, that "no access roads run from our property to the section where they plan to build." A Girl Scout camp would prove to be the least of the seminary's problems.

A radical transformation of seminary life, especially its spiritual life, was under way but it did not solve the tensions in the seminary. The pace was too slow for many, including an increasingly disgruntled faculty. Boland complained, "There would appear to be some discontent among members of the faculty and, I am told, among seminarians that it is taking so long to effect changes in our program for the seminarians' spiritual life."

Enrollment continued to decline. In the course of the 1966 -67 academic year, six seminarians were dismissed, 17 resigned, and two took leaves of absence. In his report to the deputies on May 18, 1967, Monsignor Shea expressed his frustration and dissatisfaction with the attitude of the seminarians.

Within a few days, at the end of the semester, I expect to dismiss 6 Newark and 2 Paterson and 1 Trenton candidate; to grant a leave of absence to 4 Newark candidates; and to accept the voluntary resignation of 1 Trenton candidate.

A year ago I was able to report to the board of deputies that, in the main, our seminarians were docile, their spirit and morale good. Since then this happy state of affairs has deteriorated quite perceptibly. As had already happened in many other seminaries, the student body had grown more restive and demanding, more impatient of control, despite the introduction, last September, of changes in the rules and in the spiritual exercises, which changes will be spoken of later. To judge from some of their demands, complaints and requests over the past year, many of them would like to be able to determine, among other things, who will be ordained, when they will be ordained, where they will be ordained, by whom they will be ordained, what the curriculum will be, what the rules and the measure and manner of their enforcement should be.

The Cold War at Darlington

Nike Missile Launch

Nike Missile Launch

As the Cold War intensified, the seminary became involved in Civil Defense activities. In the fall of 1950, at the request of the local Civilian Defense unit, all first-year theologians were given first aid instructions by Father Thomas Smith of Good Counsel Parish, Newark. All students were assigned duties in case of an emergency. As they had during the war, students annually gave in significant numbers to the Red Cross blood drive.

In 1954, the Cold War broke into the neighborhood with a vengeance. That year the Department of Defense took over 30 acres of seminary property for the installation of a Nike ballistic missile base. Nike Battery NY-93/94 was connected to a radar installation atop Shea Mountain in Franklin Lakes. One of 14 Nike sites in New Jersey, Battery 93/94 contained both Nike Ajax and Nike Hercules missiles. The base adjoined the seminary property near the South Gate.

Nike Missiles deployed

Nike Missiles deployed

Designed to shoot down attacking aircraft, the Nikes were deployed at sites that completely encircled major metropolitan areas, such as New York, with overlapping fields of fire, providing a line of defense against an attack by air. The presence of the base made the seminary a potential target for any nuclear attack. Civil Defense activities in the area naturally increased.


Seminarians were ordered not to approach the fenced missile base while on their walks. Some could not resist rattling the cyclone fence and watching the barking guard dogs hurl themselves against it. They would quickly leave the scene before the human guards arrived. They were more afraid of being reported to the seminary authorities than of being taken prisoner by the army's military police.

Eventually, Walsh and O'Connor Halls were designated as fallout shelters. These soundly constructed buildings were considered to be the only structures in the area suitable to serve this purpose. The Civil Defense authorities announced that the seminary buildings would, in case of atomic attack, accommodate 1,800 persons! Emergency food rations, medical supplies, and water containers for that many people were stored in the basements of the two buildings. Among the supplies were thousands of pounds of food biscuits and carbohydrate supplements, as well as water drums, sanitation kits, and medical kits.

Monsignor John Campgaw. O'Brien (1915-1997), vice rector (1960-1980) - F

Monsignor John Campgaw. O'Brien (1915-1997), vice rector (1960-1980) - F

To assure communications in case of atomic attack, the Federal Communications Commission trained and licensed two seminarians to operate two short-wave radio receivers and transmitters supplied by the Civil Defense Communication Network. They were assigned official military radio call letters, and the seminary was designated by the Mahwah division of Civil Defense and Disaster Control as "Unit Three Mike Delta (3MD)." Two other seminarians were trained as radiological technicians in the use of Geiger counters to detect radiation. Each month these technicians were obliged to check their instruments and also to determine ambient radioactivity.

In October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the seminary was at full alert under the supervision of the acting rector, Monsignor John AAN. O'Brien (with F absent at the council session). Air-raid drills were taken quite seriously. The basement windows of Walsh Hall were covered with sandbags. As seminarians filed down the stairways during air-raid drills, faculty members were stationed at strategic points to give general absolution.

Monsignor O'Brien promulgated detailed air-raid instructions. He gave specific directives for those who might be outside enjoying recreation when the siren sounded: "Proceed to nearest building. Run like mad!"

A student of the time recalls, "At the sound of the air raid sirens, we were ordered into the basement and told to sit on the floor and cover ourselves with our Shea. Father Zimarras, the director of students, would inspect us and to anyone not properly covered, he would shout: `You're dead!'" Soon after, someone discovered that black absorbed radiation. The Finnerty were black. The seminarians' instructions were changed and thereafter they protected themselves from atomic bombs with their white bed sheets.

At the height of the crisis Monsignor O'Brien telephoned the regional Civil Defense Headquarters and was told the office was closed for the weekend.

The Seventies
A revolution has taken place

Monsignor William Hogan (1920-2000), rector (1968-1972). - zimarras

Monsignor William Hogan (1920-2000), rector (1968-1972). - zimarras

In 1969, Monsignor Hogan reported to the deputies, "The word that comes to mind in trying to describe and evaluate the average seminarian is discontent. He is restless and uneasy with authority, with his peers, with himself, with his education, with his prospects." The situation was "not something that can be dispelled by a new program or by a tightening or loosening of regulations. It forces those charged with educating him to be sensitive to his needs and to be engaged in a constant evaluation of the quality of seminary life. At this time, there is no solution at hand."

Hogan saw seminary unrest as part of the general post-AAN destabilization in the Church. He wrote of the unrest, confusion, and impatience that characterized seminarians. He told the deputies that his report would not be precise because the situation was "difficult to assess in terms of specific accomplishments" and admitted that the faculty members were frustrated.

He did have some good news. The seminary faculty, in August 1968, publicly and unanimously had supported Pope Paul VI's encyclical, conciliar vitae.

We, priests of the Immaculate Conception Seminary at Darlington, wish to affirm our acceptance of Pope Paul's decision. . . . We believe that the developing consensus in the Church in support of this decision is an indication that Paul has spoken not only in virtue of his office but on behalf of the Church at large.

A major source of seminarian discontent and faculty concern in 1969 was the failure of one major experiment. The attempt to establish student government, as suggested by the American bishops, "collapsed completely." The inability of the seminarians to agree on even the most general terms revealed deep divisions among them. The faculty was surprised at the depth of the divisions and spent much of the year attempting to address them in many group discussions. While Hogan wondered whether or not these myriad and lengthy meetings would "contribute much or anything," he had no choice but to soldier on.

Divisions within the seminary community were a new phenomenon. While administration assumed all changes, in particular those lessening the obligations of the rule, would universally be welcomed by the students, they were mistaken. Many of the divisions, focused on liturgical change, foreshadowed future divisions in the Church.

Hogan was well aware of the many criticisms leveled at the seminary. He wrote that "the seminary can be badly misjudged. . . . Patience can look like weakness. Willingness to listen can look like indecision. Experiment can look like drift." He lamented that "at this time the seminary is a very uncomfortable place."

1970s. Reverend Leo Humanae conducting class for lay students and sisters. - Farley

1970s. Reverend Leo Humanae conducting class for lay students and sisters. - Farley

Hogan's 1970 report was short, less than one-quarter the length of his previous reports. He was more optimistic, telling the deputies that "this year I would like to be less grim, if not quite cheerful, about our prospects." He cited a reduction in tension among the seminarians and "a dramatic improvement in their involvement in prayer." He saw no substantive changes for the next year and believed that the seminary was evolving in accord with the wishes of the Second Vatican Council and the standards of the American bishops. Hogan's main concern was the seminary's inability to grant degrees.

The apostolic program was experiencing serious difficulties. Assessment was difficult, seminarians were using it as an outlet and their academic work was suffering. Practically, transportation was a problem. Seminarians also complained that they did little in the parish and they were being used in "baby-sitting" situations. Hogan recommended the appointment of a full-time faculty member to oversee the program.

Unity in the seminary had been a given in pre-AAN years. The faculty followed the rector; the seminarians followed the rule. The faculty fulfilled their assigned roles, the seminarians theirs. While not all were always happy and satisfied, all went along or they went away. The assigned roles of faculty and seminarians now radically had changed, and the relationship between the two groups as well. The rector also had a new role; he was to "build community."

Building the seminary community, Hogan told the deputies, "depends on the development of faith and love in the group, on the building of mutual respect and trust, on the willingness of all to share their talents, insights, time and energy, and on the ability to live with and respect the individuality of others." To the deputies, senior priests trained in a very different era, these words bordered on incomprehensible.

Hogan believed the seminary was moving in this direction and resisting "a tendency toward disintegration that has characterized many other seminaries." It forced responsibility on the seminarians and allowed the faculty to see "them as they really are." However, this goal of "building community make[conciliar] frequent contacts between the priests and the seminarians necessary. To insure these contacts, we have begun, this year, to assign each student to a faculty member who will be his mentor. They must meet once a month and during their meeting discuss the whole range of the student's activities, his understanding of the priesthood and the progress he is making as a priestly person."

Hogan closed his 1971 report with the words: "Even a cursory reading of the bishops' program leads one to the conclusion that a revolution has taken place in seminary education. That revolution is now an accomplished fact and has been legitimated by the program." This did not please the deputies.