What Is the St. Charles Borromeo Inter-diocesan Partnership?
The St. Charles Borromeo Inter-diocesan Partnership is an agreement of the three diocesan bishops of New York, Brooklyn and Rockville Centre to have their local churches cooperate in the education and formation of Catholic leadership, particularly seminarians preparing for the priesthood.
Created on Nov. 4, 2011, the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo, the Partnership carries out the specific mandates that appear in the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) signed last fall by Cardinal Dolan, Bishop DiMarzio and Bishop Murphy. The JOA pledges the three bishops and their respective staffs to work together on a single program of priestly formation that begins at the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston for college seminarians and pre-theologians. It then continues at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie for graduate-level major seminarians. The bishops are also committed to sharing resources for the training of permanent deacons and laity, as well as offering support for the ongoing formation of consecrated women and men.
Every six months the Inter-diocesan Partnership brings the ordinaries together for a meeting to assess existing programs and plan new initiatives. The three bishops are assisted by a secretary and an advisory committee made up of the seminary rectors, the director of the Sacred Heart Institute for Ongoing Formation of Clergy and whomever else they may choose on an ad hoc basis for help on matters of finance, governance and theological education. The Partnership does not replace any of the functions of the governing boards of the seminary houses or institute, but rather focuses on the coordination of programs and events that take place within them and between them.
The first plenary meeting of the Borromeo Partnership took place on March 15 and confirmed the recommendations made by the five committees set up for the year of transition to implement the JOA. The Bishops approved several key proposals: that St. Joseph’s Seminary would be the degree-granting school for all the accredited programs within the Partnership (clerical and lay); that the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation would have its own board of directors and become civilly incorporated; that the Sacred Heart Institute would likewise be legally incorporated, housed at Huntington and function as the joint enterprise of all three dioceses. Other decisions taken at the plenary have to do with coordinating library services and using educational technologies to link the three campuses where theological courses are taught.
The Borromeo Partnership is not itself a civil or canonical entity but a moral agreement that expresses the communion of local churches in our area. Cardinal Dolan, Bishop DiMarzio and Bishop Murphy have taken a bold initiative in creating a flexible structure that allows for broad collaboration in the spiritual and theological training of our Catholics leaders so that they may continue to be effective agents of the New Evangelization.
Father Massa is secretary of the St. Charles Borromeo Inter-diocesan Partnership.