Pontifical North American College

The Pontifical North American College is a Roman Catholic educational institution in Rome, Italy, that forms seminarians for priestly ministry in the dioceses of the United States and elsewhere, and that provides a residence for priests from the United States and elsewhere who are pursuing graduate studies or continuing formation programs in Rome. Oversight of the college is the responsibility of the Holy See's Congregation for the Clergy,[1] which is delegated for most matters to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops acting through the college's episcopal board of governors.

Pontifical North American College
Latin: Pontificium Collegium Civitatum Foederatarum Americae Septemtrionalis
MottoFirmum est cor meum
Motto in English
"Steadfast is my heart"
TypeRoman Catholic seminary; continuing formation institute, clerical residence
Established8 December 1859 (160 years ago)
RectorPeter Harman
Rome, Italy (on property subject in part to Holy See extraterritorial jurisdiction)

41°53′51″N 12°27′33″E
CampusJaniculum Hill (Seminary and Casa O'Toole Continuing Formation Institute)
Central Rome (Casa Santa Maria Graduate Studies Residence and Office for Pilgrims)
ColorsUnofficially, red and blue
AthleticsClericus Cup Soccer Team
NicknameNorth American Martyrs
AffiliationsUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Congregation for the Clergy


The North American College was founded in 1859 by Pope Pius IX. As the college's founder, Pope Pius ensured that the new college would have a suitable home in a former Dominican and Visitation convent on the Via dell'Umiltà, near the Trevi Fountain.[2] He knew the property well, since he used to serve Mass there for the Visitation sisters as a young boy.[3] The college was opened ceremonially on 8 December 1859, and the new foundation received a formal visit from the pope on 29 January 1860.[4] This original campus is still owned by the College and called the Casa Santa Maria.

It was granted pontifical status by Pope Leo XIII in 1884,[5] and was incorporated in the United States by a special act of the Maryland General Assembly in 1886 as a non-stock (not-for-profit) corporation under the name "The American College of the Roman Catholic Church of the United States."[6] This is its official name for the purposes of United States federal and state law, and for such things as contributions and bequests. The college is exempt from United States federal taxation, and contributions to it are deductible by the donor to the extent provided in United States federal tax law and regulations and other applicable laws and regulations.[7]

Until the outbreak of the Second World War, all the college's students resided at the old campus in the heart of the city. During the war, the various national seminaries in Rome were temporarily closed by Pope Pius XII and non-Italian students returned to their home countries. When the war ended and the seminaries re-opened, the Catholic Church in the United States had experienced such an increase in vocations to the priesthood that the old campus could no longer accommodate the many seminarians whom United States bishops wanted to send to Rome for their priestly formation and university studies. To respond to that situation, the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States authorized construction of a new seminary complex on the Janiculum Hill overlooking the Vatican. The complex was built on the grounds of Villa Gabrielli al Gianicolo, land the bishops had purchased in 1926.[8]

Pope Pius XII dedicated the newly built seminary complex on 14 October 1953.[9] The Casa Santa Maria then became a residence for ordained American Catholic priests pursuing advanced studies in Rome. In 2009 and 2010, a historic eighteenth-century residence on the Janiculum Hill campus was renovated to provide a new home, the Casa O'Toole, for the college's Institute for Continuing Theological Education, a continuing formation program for priests ordained ten years or more. In addition, a new convent was built for the religious sisters who make up part of the college's staff. In January 2015 the college opened a newly constructed tower on the main Janiculum Hill building. The new construction houses classrooms, gathering space, liturgical practice chapels, and administrative offices.[10]

On 23 November 2015, the Congregation for the Clergy announced the appointment of Peter Harman of Springfield, Illinois, to succeed James F. Checchio as the college's rector, effective on 1 February 2016.[11]

Structure and enrollment

The college has four departments: a Seminary, which prepares candidates for the Catholic priesthood; the Casa Santa Maria, a residence for Catholic priests pursuing graduate studies; the Institute for Continuing Theological Education, located in the Casa O'Toole on the grounds of the Seminary; and the Bishops' Office for U.S. Visitors to the Vatican, which serves pilgrims who come to Rome from the United States, as well as persons who travel to Rome from the United States on college or Holy See matters, particularly members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The college has welcomed many visitors, including four popes, two presidents of the United States (Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy), and the evangelist Billy Graham.

The board of governors of the college consists of one diocesan or auxiliary bishop from each of the fifteen regions into which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is divided. As of 2016 the Chairman of the Board of Governors and President of the college is John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, and the Rector of the college is Peter Harman, a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

For the 2014–2015 academic year, enrollment in the Seminary is approximately 250, at the Casa Santa Maria approximately 75; and at each of several continuing formation sessions, approximately 30.[12]

Enrollment in the college is available to properly qualified Catholic seminarians and priests who are studying for a diocese in the United States, nominated for such enrollment by a diocesan bishop of the United States, and approved for enrollment by the Rector. Enrollment of students who are studying for non-American dioceses or who are not American citizens is by decision of the board.[13] At present, a number of Australian seminarians are enrolled in the Seminary Division, and several priests of non-United States nationality are resident at the Casa Santa Maria or are enrolled in the college's continuing formation program. For their academic formation, the students of all departments may, as approved by their bishop and the Board of Governors, attend any pontifical university or other educational institution approved by the Holy See.[14] Human, pastoral, and spiritual formation is provided by the faculty of the college.


No.NameYears served
smiBernard Smith (Pro-Rector)1859–1860
1.mcclWilliam G. McCloskey1860–1868
2.chaSilas Chatard1868–1878
3.hosLouis Hostlot1878–1884
schAugustine Schulte (Pro-Rector)1884–1885
4.oconeldDenis J. O'Connell1885–1895
5.oconelwWilliam H. O'Connell1895–1901
6.kenBishop Thomas F. Kennedy1901–1917
7.oheCharles O'Hern1917–1925
8.burEugene S. Burke1925–1935
9.hayBishop Ralph L. Hayes1935–1944
keaJ. Gerald Kealy (Pro-Rector)1945–1946
10.oconorArchbishop Martin J. O'Connor1946–1964
11.rehArchbishop Francis F. Reh1964–1968
12.hicBishop James A. Hickey1969–1974
13.darHarold P. Darcy1974–1979
14.murCharles M. Murphy1979–1984
15.purLawrence M. Purcell1984–1990
16.obrEdwin F. O'Brien1990–1994
17.dolTimothy M. Dolan1994–2001
18.mccoKevin McCoy2001–2005
19.cheJames F. Checchio2005–2016
20.harPeter Harman2016–present


In addition to their academic and pastoral activities, the students at the college participate in athletic competitions with students from other Roman ecclesiastical institutions. Since 2007, the college has competed in an annual soccer tournament among Roman Colleges, called the Clericus Cup. The college's team, nicknamed the "North American Martyrs", won the championship in 2012, 2013 and 2018 and was runner-up in 2009 and 2010.

See also



  1. Benedict XVI 2013.
  2. McNamara 1956, pp. 63–88.
  3. Brann 1910, p. 69.
  4. McNamara 1956, p. 72.
  5. Brann 1907, p. 424; McNamara 1956, p. 285.
  6. Brann 1910, p. 110.
  7. "Support the NAC". Vatican City: Pontifical North American College. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  8. McNamara 1956, pp. 502–503.
  9. McNamara 1956, pp. 656–665.
  10. Uebbing, David (15 April 2013). "North American College breaks ground on 10-story building". Catholic News Agency.
  11. "Rector Named for the Pontifical North American College" (PDF) (Press release). Vatican City: Pontifical North American College. 23 November 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  12. Checchio, James F. (2015). "Rector's Corner". Roman Echoes. Vol. 20 no. 1. Washington: Pontifical North American College. p. 5. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  13. Canonical Statutes of the College, Article IV, 1 (19 March 1998)
  14. Canonical Statutes of the College, Article VII, 1 (19 March 1998)


Benedict XVI (2013). Ministrorum institutio (apostolic letter). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
Brann, Henry A. (1907). "American College in Rome" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company. pp. 423–424.
 ———  (1910). History of the American College of the Roman Catholic Church of the United States, Rome, Italy. New York: Benziger Brothers. LCCN 10011865. Retrieved 29 October 2017.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
Constituent Documents. Pontifical North American College. 2000.
McNamara, Robert F. (1956). The American College in Rome, 1855–1955. Rochester, New York: The Christopher Press. LCCN 56007591.

Further reading

Cicinelli, Aldo (1970). The Church of S. Maria dell'Umiltà and the Chapel of the North American College. Translated by Daley, Daniel P. Rome: Marietti. OCLC 956093523.
DiGiovanni, Stephen Michael (2016). Aggiornamento on the Hill of Janus: The American College in Rome, 1955–1979. Woodridge, Illinois: Midwest Theological Forum. ISBN 978-1-939231-62-8.
Murphy, Brian (1997). The New Men: Inside the Vatican's Elite School for American Priests. New York: Gosset/Putnam. ISBN 978-1-57322-699-8.

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