Bishop James Massa Appointed Rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, announced the appointment of Bishop James Massa as the rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, effective July 16. Bishop Massa is an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn and a former member of the seminary faculty, 2012-2015.

“I’m delighted to be going home to Dunwoodie,” Bishop Massa said in an interview with Catholic New York this week as he traveled to the seminary for meetings.

“St. Joseph’s Seminary has a history of being the house of formation for generations of priests,” he said.

Bishop Massa’s appointment was made with the approval of the Holy See, and with the support of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Bishop John Barres of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, who together with Cardinal Dolan, make up the St. Charles Borromeo Council, which oversees the seminary system shared by the three dioceses. 

Bishop Massa succeeds Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, who became rector in 2011 after the three downstate New York dioceses merged the programs of St. Joseph’s with those of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Long Island.

Then-Father Massa was the coordinator of the merger, overseeing the formation of the new faculty and the accreditation of academic programs with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Association of Theological Schools. St. Joseph’s Seminary, and the three sponsoring dioceses, have been praised for taking seriously the call of the Holy See that seminaries merge and cooperate, to provide the best possible theological, pastoral, spiritual, and faith formation education and training.

Recalling the process that brought together the three downstate dioceses into one seminary, Bishop Massa said, “Everyone had the sense that this was the right moment.” The “trust” shared by the three prelates, Cardinal Dolan, Bishop DiMarzio and Bishop William Murphy, then the bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, filtered down to faculty members who responded generously by sharing best practices with each other as they worked to set and meet goals, the bishop said.

Looking ahead, Bishop Massa, the fifth bishop to serve as rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary and 22nd overall, takes up his post as the seminary is about to begin its 125th anniversary year. He comes prepared with the experiences of serving as a professor of dogmatic theology at Dunwoodie and also having previously taught at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington and Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass.

“The legacy of Dunwoodie is of great importance to the Church in the United States. It’s enormous,” Bishop Massa said. “The archdiocese has now shared this great institution with neighboring local churches” and religious communities.

The bishop said he hopes “we can continue to build bridges of good collaboration” for the training of Catholic leadership “in this new and challenging era.”

In addition to seminarians from the Archdiocese of New York, Diocese of Brooklyn and Diocese of Rockville Centre, St. Joseph’s Seminary trains priesthood candidates for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., the Diocese of Camden, N.J., the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the Neo-Catechumenal Way, the Piarist Fathers and Brothers and the Idente Missionaries.

St. Joseph’s also sponsors degree programs for candidates for the permanent diaconate, as well as for members of the laity pursuing various ministries in the Church. The Archdiocese of New York, Diocese of Brooklyn and Diocese of Rockville Centre cooperate in the administration and governance of the seminary system, which includes Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, Queens, for men in college preparing to enter the Seminary, and the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, for the ongoing education and formation of priests. There is also a branch campus in Somers.

Ordained an auxiliary bishop in 2015, Bishop Massa has been the moderator of the curia, the vicar for Catholic education and the vicar for evangelization for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

He is the former executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, D.C., 2005-2011. He is a former consultor to the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and currently serves as a member of that same Pontifical Council.

Bishop Massa earned his doctorate in systematic theology from Fordham University in 1997, writing his dissertation under the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. He serves on three USCCB committees: doctrine, education and the Catechism, and is a member of several ecumenical dialogues.

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