mission and history
The Pontifical College Josephinum is a Roman Catholic seminary whose mission is to provide initial formation to men so that they can participate in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ, “Head and Shepherd, Servant and Spouse.” The seminary prepares men for the ordained priesthood in the Propaedeutic, Discipleship, and Configuration Stages, integrating the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions of formation. At the service of integral formation are two schools: the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Theology.
The Josephinum is a pontifical institution immediately subject to the Holy See, through the Apostolic Nuncio, and governed by the Board of Trustees. Its programs follow the norms established by the Code of Canon Law, the Congregation for the Clergy, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As a pontifical seminary, the Josephinum assists seminarians in developing their unity and love for the Holy Father and the Holy See.
Continuing the vision of its founder, Msgr. Joseph Jessing, the Josephinum seeks to prepare holy, generous, adaptable, and resilient priests for the 21st century and to serve the pastoral needs of the Church. In fidelity to this vision, the Josephinum provides resources to prepare candidates for the priesthood and the diaconate, enabling them to respond to the particular needs of their local communities. The Josephinum shares its resources with the Church by promoting vocations and offering ongoing formation to clergy and education to the laity.
Approved by the Board of Trustees, February 22, 2022.
The Pontifical College Josephinum owes its existence to the vision of a zealous priest, Msgr. John Joseph Jessing (1836-1899), and to the generosity of many throughout the United States who helped him carry out his dream of preparing priests to serve Catholics in America.
Joseph Jessing came to Ohio from Germany in 1867 at the age of 30. Three years later, he was ordained a priest for the newly established Diocese of Columbus.
At his first assignment in Pomeroy, Ohio, Father Jessing witnessed the hardships of the orphaned boys in his parish. In 1873, he began publishing the Ohio Waisenfreund (Ohio Orphan’s Friend), a German newspaper that gained a national circulation of 38,000. The paper provided much-needed religious instruction and world news for his German-speaking readers. It also brought in financial support for his work with the orphans and enabled Fr. Jessing to establish an orphanage at Sacred Heart Parish (Pomeroy, OH) in 1875.
In August 1877, the growing orphanage moved to Columbus, closer to the railroad, in order to increase circulation of the Ohio Waisenfreund. A trade school was set up for the older orphan boys, providing training in printing, church furniture construction, tailoring, shoe repair, baking, and farming.
A Leap of Faith
In 1888, when four of the older boys expressed a desire to study for the priesthood, Father Jessing extended an invitation in the Ohio Waisenfreund for seminary training for two additional boys. More than 40 applications were received, and 23 young men from 11 states were accepted. On September 2, 1888, a seminary, the Collegium Josephinum, was born in honor of Father Jessing’s patron, St. Joseph.
A Pontifical Seminary
Four years later, to ensure that his seminary would have a stable future and a national purpose in the United States, Fr. Jessing asked the Holy See to accept it as a pontifical institution. Pope Leo XIII was preparing the Church to enter the new century and recognized the growing importance the American continent held for the continuing spread of the Gospel. He accepted the Josephinum through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith on December 12, 1892, thus making the Collegium Josephinum the Pontifical College Josephinum, linking it directly to the Vatican.
Change and Growth
From its original campus at East Main and 17th Streets, the seminary relocated to its present site in 1931. The cornerstone was installed for the new main building complex only one week before the 1929 stock market crash that heralded the Great Depression. Undaunted by the threat of economic disaster and true to Msgr. Jessing’s motto, If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31), the seminary’s leaders proceeded, confident that their brave undertaking would succeed. The institution stands today as a monument to that trust, as well as to the generosity of those who support the Josephinum’s mission.
Over the years, our campus has grown and expanded to provide state-of-the-art facilities to accommodate the needs of our seminarians. Expanded recreational facilities and the college building have been built and periodically updated to provide the optimum climate for study, research and recreation. The Pope St. John Paul II Education Center, begun in 1982, has been enlarged to include a new Priestly Formation Center on the third floor of the library. St. Turibius Chapel, which stands at the heart of the seminary, underwent a much-needed historic restoration and liturgical renovation in 2016. Nearly one year later, St. Turibius Chapel and altar were dedicated by His Excellency, The Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and Chancellor of the Josephinum, on April 24, 2017.
Continuing the Mission
For several decades, the Josephinum focused on preparing students to minister to German-speaking Catholics across the country. As the need for German-speaking priests declined, the Josephinum adopted a wider mission. Keeping in mind Msgr. Jessing’s original purpose of educating students in financial need, the seminary turned its attention to preparing candidates to minister in rural and missionary dioceses.
Today, the Pontifical College Josephinum prepares men for service to the Church in dioceses both large and small, within the United States and around the world. Since its founding in 1888, more than 1,900 priests have received their training at the Josephinum. Ordained alumni are active in nearly all of the 50 states in the United States and in more than 20 foreign countries. Lay alumni are just as widespread and make invaluable contributions to the life of the Church.
Monsignor Joseph Jessing
Monsignor John J. Soentgerath
Monsignor Joseph Och
Monsignor Henry J. Grimmelsman
Monsignor Adrian F. Brandehoff
Monsignor Paul A. Gieringer
Monsignor Ralph A. Thompson
Monsignor Thomas P. Campbell
Monsignor Frank A. Mouch
Monsignor Dennis F. Sheehan
Monsignor Blase J. Cupich
Monsignor Thomas J. Olmsted
Monsignor Earl Boyea
Monsignor Paul J. Langsfeld
Father James A. Wehner
Monsignor Christopher J. Schreck
Very Reverend Steven P. Beseau
*Dates for the rectors from Jessing through the appointment of Dennis Sheehan
are taken from Leonard J. Fick’s The Jessing Legacy 1888-1988.