Reverend Monsignor Gerard McCarren Installed as Rector of Seminary

Monsignor McCarren became the 23rd priest to serve as rector of the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology.

Monsignor McCarren became the 23rd priest to serve as rector of the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology.

The grey clouds that had been looming over South Orange all day, finally gave way to blue skies as four bishops, 80 priests, 40 seminarians, and deacons gathered outside the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception on Seton Hall’s main campus last Sunday. Led by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, the presbyters processed inside at half past four to celebrate the Mass of Installation of Reverend Monsignor Gerard Hargrove McCarren, S.T.D, as the twenty-third rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary.

Joined by representatives from the University community, concelebrants and congregants filled the Civil War-era chapel, marking the official start of McCarren’s term as “father of the seminary community.”

Referencing the Program of Priestly Formation, Cardinal Tobin read the role and responsibilities Monsignor McCarren was assuming.

The rector, always a priest, serves as the pastor of the seminary community. He is to be distinguished by prudence, wisdom, and balance. Someone highly competent who coordinates the educational endeavor in the governance of the seminary.  He serves as the father of the seminary community and takes an active part in the accompaniment of the seminarians throughout their formation process.  He sets the direction and tone of the seminary program by creating a climate of mutual confidence and trust. He elicits the full cooperation and involvement of all the members of the seminary community.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, (center) joined by concelebrants at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, (center) joined by concelebrants at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Cardinal Tobin then officially conferred the appointment: “I am confident in the qualifications and capability of Monsignor Gerard McCarren. I hereby commend Monsignor McCarren to serve as your new rector.”

The congregation and concelebrants rejoiced in the moment and offered heartfelt applause as Monsignor McCarren stepped to the ambo to humbly offer his homily.

The new rector began with a story about a seminarian he provided spiritual guidance to at the summer program Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska. The seminarian was from a remote village in Vietnam, and he spoke of the development of his vocation in Vietnam. “I listened as he told how he would escort parishioners each Sunday to another village five miles away, traveling through a jungle to a remote area where priests were celebrating Mass. Helping the villagers cross the river to reach their destination safely was the most difficult part of the journey.” McCarren said the seminarian’s mission was a metaphor for the priestly vocation. “The term pontiff,” he said, “means just that, one who makes bridges.”  He explained that pontiff applies not only to the pope but to bishops, priests, and to many others. 

Linking to messages of the day's readings, Monsignor McCarren told the congregation, “We are enjoined to be ministers of reconciliation, and this can take place only in love, and it leads to deeper love.  It is a charge specially given to those who accept the mission given to our seminary school, to be ministers of Jesus, to work for reconciliation, for peace, for unity, for that salvation in which we can all be one in Him, forever. As members of the body of His Church, we find Him. We help each other to find Him, and we are empowered to lead others to Him.”

McCarren described the work of the formation faculty at the Seminary as exacting. He acknowledged and thanked the staff, students, seminarians, spiritual directors, faculty, tutors, and friends of the Seminary, along with administrators, staff, and alumni across the University for their support. He expressed his gratitude to family and friends watching the Mass via livestream from their homes across the country in places such as Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Omaha and Arkansas.  He emphasized that the event's focus was about seminary and its recent graduates and acknowledged the former rectors and members of the seminary community.  “We may not be fording a river,” he said, remembering the seminarian’s story and his mission in Vietnam.  “But the challenges before us in our culture and in our Church are no less. We are strengthened for the task before us because we do this in prayer, and we do this together.” 

Appointed Interim Rector in 2022

The Archdiocese of Newark and Seton Hall University announced McCarren’s appointment as Rector and Dean of the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology in March, following a national search. He held the post of Interim Rector and Dean beginning on July 1, 2022. Prior to that time, he was Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and the seminary's Spiritual Director. His multifaceted experiences in priestly formation, deep knowledge of theology and esteemed reputation among priests and seminarians made Monsignor McCarren a clear choice for this appointment.

“A highly respected member of the Seton Hall community, Monsignor McCarren is ideally suited to leading Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology,” said Katia Passerini, Ph.D., Interim President of Seton Hall. “His tenure as Interim Rector and Dean brought a renewed sense of vitality and even greater enthusiasm to the seminary. I welcome his full-time appointment with confidence that his great faith, administrative expertise and outstanding scholarship will continue to enrich the seminary and its students.”

“Hope,” was the word Father Colin Kay, Vice President for Mission and Ministry, used to express what he was feeling at this important moment in the seminary’s history.  “This new beginning, for Monsignor McCarren and for the Seminary School of Theology, fills me with hope—hope for the students entrusted to his care and hope for the important work they will one day do, for the Church and for the whole world.”

Following Mass, Monsignor McCarren was greeted by many well wishers, among them, Archbishop Joseph Tobin, Interim President Katia Passerini, and Interim Provost Erik Lillquist.

Following Mass, Monsignor McCarren was greeted by many well wishers, among them, Archbishop Joseph Tobin, Interim President Katia Passerini, and Interim Provost Erik Lillquist.

A well-known scholar of Saint John Henry Newman, McCarren was a member of the Newman Association of America’s board of directors from 2001 to 2016. In addition to his work at Seton Hall, he has taught and provided spiritual direction over many summers at the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF) in Omaha, Nebraska, and is deeply grateful to IPF for the profound spiritual support he has received there. He is a graduate of Delbarton School and earned a B.A. from Yale University with majors in History and in Philosophy (Psychology track), an M.Div. from Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, and an S.T.L. and an S.T.D. in Systematic Theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1991. From 2007 to 2016, he served as a Vatican appointee to the Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council.  Monsignor McCarren served as president of the Federation of Seminary Spiritual Directors (United States and Canada) from 2018-2022. He is thankful for his many years as a weekend assistant priest at Holy Trinity Church in Westfield.

Immaculate Conception Seminary is a House of Formation for the Roman Catholic priesthood and the School of Theology of Seton Hall University. Forming priests for God's people has remained the seminary's constant focus, and the seminary faculty—well-educated authors and scholars in their own fields—devote their time and energy to preparing these men for priesthood amidst the challenges of the 21st century. The School also focuses on the education of lay men and women in theology, permanent deacons, religious who are not studying for ordination, and already-ordained priests—not only providing for them academically, but also for their personal, pastoral, and spiritual formation.

Watch a livestream recording of the Mass of Installation.

Categories: Faith and Service