Discover the rich history of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary & School of Theology, formerly known as the Athenaeum of Ohio.

Bishop Edward D. Fenwick established St. Francis Xavier Seminary on Sycamore Street in Cincinnati. With four seminarians and six preparatory students studying Latin, classes began in the simple frame building that had been the first Catholic parish founded in the city. (Image: The seminary’s first home, the former Christ Church)

The Athenaeum, located next to the seminary, was formed for the education of lay students.  As a school of liberal arts, the Athenaeum attracted a majority Protestant enrollment in its first year, but as the number of Catholics in the city increased, its enrollment became predominately Catholics. 

St. Francis Xavier Seminary moved east to Brown County, Ohio, where it was staffed by diocesan priests and later the Vincentian Fathers. The location proved difficult, and after a few years, and the seminary was moved back to Cincinnati. 

The Society of Jesus was invited to assume the leadership of the Athenaeum. The Jesuits who staffed the school renamed it St. Xavier College. It developed a six-year program of study that resulted in the eventual formation of two independent schools: St. Xavier High School and Xavier University. 

Bishop John B. Purcell presided over the laying of the cornerstone for a new seminary located in Price Hill. The seminary was renamed Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West after Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, where Purcell had served as president.(Image: Mount St. Mary’s Seminary on Price Hill) 

St. Gregory Seminary was founded as a preparatory seminary for high school and college-aged students. A new campus in Mount Washington was selected. Fenwick Hall opened the following year with 70 students in residence. It remained as the minor seminary until Mount St. Mary’s moved from Price Hill in 1904. 

Due to an aging building in Price Hill, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary was relocated to Mount Washington. St. Gregory’s Seminary moved downtown, but closed three years later.

Dedication of a new Mount St. Mary’s Seminary building in Norwood, Ohio. At the same time, St. Gregory’s Seminary reopened at the Mount Washington campus. (Image: Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Norwood, Ohio) 

Archbishop John McNicholas incorporated all archdiocesan institutions of higher learning, including Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and St. Gregory’s Seminary, under the name Athenaeum of Ohio. 

St. Gregory’s Seminary dedicated a second building on the Mount Washington site (today’s east wing); 10,000 attend the dedication. 

A fire on Holy Saturday morning destroyed the south wing of the Fenwick building. The college students were relocated to other seminaries for the remainder of the year. To replace the wing, a new structure (today’s Bartlett Pastoral Center) was built as a temporary kitchen and refectory (and later utilized as a library). (Image: Remnants of the south wing after the fire) 

New addition to St. Gregory Seminary (today’s west wing) completed, including offices, classrooms, seminarian residences, and the St. Gregory Chapel. Enrollment reached a combined 600 seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s and St. Gregory’s. 

The Lay Pastoral Ministry Program, one of the first programs for lay ecclesial ministry formation in the U.S., began with 21 participants. (Image: Early graduates and faculty of the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program with Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk) 

Last class of St. Gregory’s Seminary graduates. 

Mount St. Mary’s Seminary returned to Mount Washington campus with 77 seminarians enrolled. 

Seminary enrollment reaches 95, the highest number in 40 years, exceeding the capacity of the main building. 

A new residence for seminarians, Fenwick Hall, is dedicated. (Image: Gracious benefactors, faculty, staff, students and friends gather for the dedication of Fenwick Hall)