St. Augustine Seminary celebrates 100th anniversary, honoring legacy of justice and mission

By Joanna Puddister King

GREENVILLE – The Catholic community of Sacred Heart in Greenville, came together on Saturday, June 24 to celebrate the momentous occasion of the 100th anniversary of St. Augustine Seminary. The special Mass, presided over by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, was attended by Society of the Divine Word (SVD) priests from around the diocese and beyond, who joined in commemorating the seminary’s rich history and remarkable contributions.

The origins of St. Augustine Seminary can be traced back to the early 20th century when the Society of the Divine Word, known for their commitment to justice and peace, ventured into the Deep South. Despite the challenging backdrop of the Jim Crow era, the SVD priests saw an opportunity to promote equality and progress by establishing Sacred Heart seminary in 1920. This groundbreaking initiative marked the creation of the first school for African American candidates for the priesthood in the United States.

GREENVILLE – Various SVD priests and others gathered for a photo after a special Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of St. Augustine Seminary was held at Sacred Heart Church, the site of the original seminary, on Saturday, June 24. (Photo by Sister Amelia Breton, SBS)

Recognizing the need for greater resources and a more conducive environment, the SVD made the decision to relocate the seminary to Bay St. Louis in 1923, within the boundaries of the Diocese of Jackson (nee Natchez), where a larger Catholic community and increased support were available. With this move, the seminary was renamed St. Augustine, an homage to the great theologian and philosopher.

During the commemorative Mass, Bishop Kopacz acknowledged the significance of the SVD’s mission and the impact of their work, remarking on their steadfast commitment to the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus – to make disciples of all the nations.

Bishop Kopacz also shed light on the profound influence of Father Arnold Jansen, the founder of the Society of the Divine Word, and his unwavering dedication to the Gospel. Father Jansen’s vision for the SVD was rooted in the belief that announcing the Gospel was the “greatest act of charity,” said Bishop Kopacz.

“Blessings to all who are part of the Society of the Divine Word, and much gratitude for your continuing presence in the Diocese of Jackson, now for well over 100 years.”

The 100th anniversary celebration of St. Augustine Seminary, scheduled for later this year, promises to be a significant milestone in the history of the seminary and a testament to the ongoing legacy of justice and mission embraced by the Society of the Divine Word.