Home Diary 1969 History Historical Accounts Major Seminary Building History 40th Anniversary Resources Photos Needed 1959 Voice


I would like to give you some of the history of Saint John Vianney.     Most of this information is from the 1965 Disciple, SJV's yearbook.    As time permits, I'll add some very interesting pictures of the campus under construction.    Be sure to also check the history as told by the 1969 Disciple.

From the 1965 Disciple:


My name is John Marie Vianney.

As had occasionally occurred at other times and in other places, I was once again the center of attention.   This time it was on June 7, 1959, and the place was the Roman Catholic Diocese of Miami. 

The immediate scene was not to unusual.  There was a white cross chalked on the ground, and three gilded spades, but oh! the look of hope on Bishop Carroll's face as he turned the first spadeful of earth.  This simple but significant action was the beginning of truly great expectations.  Whatever the future, history was already in the making, because this ground-breaking was the beginning of the first American east-coast seminary south of Baltimore, Md.  

Ground Breaking

Work begin immediately and progressed so rapidly on the first building, that three months later, on September 7, 1959, thousands of the faithful from south Florida would witness the dedication of the new seminary.

It seemed hardly possible that so much had happened so quickly.  Bishop Carroll called it the "Miracle of St. John Vianney," and, indeed the events of the next sex years would convince the most incredulous that the Hand of God was the most actively involved.

These events are my story, a story of growth and progress in the new seminary's structure and souls and spirit, a story of new hope and confidence swelling in the heart of our priest-starved diocese.

Dedication Ceremony.   These buildings are now in Columbus High School.

On September 8, 1959, the day after the dedication, St. John Vianney Seminary opened its doors to fifty-seven young men, the first spes gregis of a "home-grown" clergy.  From the many parts of diocese they came, - from St. Michael's and Corpus Christi in Miami, from St. Ann's and St. Juliana's in West Palm Beach, from St. Anthony's an Our Lady Queen of Martyrs' in Fr. Lauderdale, from Little Flower in Hollywood, from St. Paul's  in Arcadia, from St. Matthews's in Hallandale, from St. Joseph's in Stuart.  Academically, these new seminarians ranged from the four years of high school.  

Understandably, at this point, the seminary's physical facilities were considerably limited.   The newly constructed original building housed a chapel, a dormitory-locker room, a library, and a small infirmary, but for refectory, classrooms, and playing fields, the seminarians had to avail themselves of adjacent Christopher Columbus High School's facilities.  The faculty, likewise experienced the usual inconveniences of a new venture, and until the completion of the Faculty Residence in February, 1960, all but two of Vincentian Fathers were daily commuters from a temporary residence in nearby Westchester (8321 SW 19 St.).   Meanwhile, the seminarians contributed a great deal of "toil and sweat" - if not "blood and tears" - spending much of their out-of-class time clearing various areas of rocks and tree stumps, cutting and transplanting sod.   Nevertheless, despite the limitations and the hard work, the entire seminary "family" was imbued with that spirit which comes from being pioneers.

In September, 1960, the seminary began its second year with its enrollment doubled and the curriculum lengthened to include the first year of college.  The building program kept pace with the completion of an Administration Building and an addition to the High School building.  The building provided a much larger chapel, library facilities, Music Room, Biology laboratory, and enlarged dormitory quarters.  Not included in the specifications was the designation Storm Shelter but such it became two weeks later when Hurricane Donna struck, causing all hands, including the evacuees of the High School Building, to "wait out" the hurricane in the new Administration building whose south side was completely protected by louvers to withstand the 90-MPH winds.   With all the major facilities, except a refectory, located within the seminary compound, the young institution began to experience a more settled spirit and a real feeling of permanency.

As the seminary began its third year in the fall of 1961, its original enrollment had tripled and the curriculum had reached its full development as a six-year High School and Junior College program.  With the completion of the Dining Hall Building and the installation of a large Study Hall and of Biology and Chemistry laboratories on the second floor, the seminary was physically self-contained.  Changes, enlargements, improvements would continue to take place, but at least in some shape or form all the "vital organs" were present and functioning.  Finally, in June the seminary had its first independent graduation, complete with Pontifical Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement Exercises.

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The dining hall building and old pool as viewed from where the High School building is today.

Thus far each year had been different and 1962-63 was no exception.  Specifically, there were twenty men ready for the major seminary but the major seminary was not yet ready for them.  It was decided that they should pursue the first year of their higher studies at the minor seminary.  The problem of space became acute with three years of high school students, two years of collegians and the major seminarians all occupying one building.  The temporary solution  was the conversion of the large study hall in the Dining Room Building into living quarters until the completion, in January, of the College building.  This new building also provided en enlarged chapel now desperately needed to accommodate the burgeoning enrollment.

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College Building under construction

At length, after four years of planning, of construction, of expansion, years of alternate cramped quarter and breathing space, years of converting here and improvising there, the seminary was not only self sufficient, but even integral.  Although its lifeblood was coursing healthily through its necessary facilities, there yet remained two major and vital improvements involving the very heart of the spiritual formation and academic training, namely, the chapel and library.  Within two years, both of these would occupy their adequate places.

The school year had closed on a sad note caused by the deaths of two people close to the hearts of everyone at S. John's.  On June 1, 1963, Father John Long, C.M. died.   Father Long was one of the faculty pioneers, having been with the seminary as Spiritual Director since its opening in 1959.  Two days later the whole world was saddened as the beloved Pope John XXIII returned to God.  The memory of Pope John's warm personality and his living, genuine and universal charity would never be entirely erased from the lives and thoughts of seminarians everywhere.

The year 1963-64 was memorable for many reasons.  Seminarian-status was given a "lift" as the first alumni of St. John Vianney's either entered the newly-opened St. Vincent De Paul Major Seminary at Boynton Beach, or journeyed to Europe to complete philosophical and theological studies.  Also as a result of the opening session of Vatican II in the fall of 1962, the seminary had taken on a "new look" in the area of activities and regimen.

Long before the full impact of Vatican II would make itself felt, however, the shock felt 'round the world on November 22, 1963, rocked the little world of the seminary as President John F. Kennedy knew the impact of an assassin's bullet.  For many reasons, resiliency is a plentiful attribute of the seminarian, but in this case the "snap-back" would never be entirely complete.  Meanwhile the aforementioned events in Rome bore happier results.   The students now went home for a weekend everyone month; the collegian attended lectures and concerts were given on the seminary campus; the seminarians had the privilege of venerating the very accent Russian Orthodox Icon of Our Lady of Kazan.  By the end of the year a more realistic, wider-horizoned, incipient ecumenical spirit pervaded St. John Vianney's.

This past year, 1964-'65 was one of realization and completion, a dream became reality and a turn completed.  A permanent, adequate, and fitting chapel is the capstone devoutly hoped for by everyone who has love for and the interest of the seminary at heart.  Invariably its becoming a reality cedes place to the physical demands of altogether worthy but less noble necessities.  At length, after having occupied three temporary locations, and through the extraordinarily charitable solicitude of a great diocesan benefactress, the permanent chapel became a dream realized and a joy to behold.   The completion of the chapel released the library from its cramped quarters in the Administration Building and permitted after three temporary locations its permanent and spacious relocation in the College Building. 

1964-1965 also marked the end of the beginning, not only of a completed current building program or of fully implemented academic curricula complete with adequate facilities, but the end of the "first generation" so to speak.    The Freshman Class which began when the seminary began was ready to move on.   Completely and thoroughly now, St. John Vianney Minor Seminary was in operation.   In a sense it had achieved "tenure", and could take its place among much older and venerable similar institutions, neither smitten with diffidence nor puffed up with temerity, but humbly grateful for the honor of being able to do the work of God, and confident in the knowledge that it was what is was - the "Miracle of St. John Vianney" - by virtue of the Hand of God.