St. Joseph's Seminary (Washington, D.C.)

Coordinates: 38°56′37″N 76°59′21″W / 38.94361°N 76.98917°W / 38.94361; -76.98917
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St. Joseph's Seminary
St Joseph Seminary, DC
AffiliationCatholic Church
RiteLatin Church
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusActive
OwnershipSociety of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart
LeadershipFr Nixon Mullah, SSJ (rector)
Fr Leo Udeagu, SSJ (vice rector)
Fr Anthony Bozeman, SSJ (academic dean)
PatronSt Joseph
Year consecrated1930
CountryUnited States
Geographic coordinates38°56′37″N 76°59′21″W / 38.94361°N 76.98917°W / 38.94361; -76.98917
Architect(s)Maginnis & Walsh
StyleColonial Revival architecture
Date established1888 (Baltimore)
St Joseph's Seminary
LocationWashington, D.C.
ArchitectMaginnis & Walsh
Architectural styleColonial Revival architecture
NRHP reference No.100008232
Added to NRHPSeptember 28, 2022

St. Joseph's Seminary is a former Catholic major seminary and current house of formation in Washington, D.C. for the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart (also known as the Josephites), a Catholic society of apostolic life that serves African Americans. The seminary was the first in the United States to accept Black men into formation for the Catholic priesthood and religious life.

St Joseph's was originally founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1888 by Fr John R. Slattery for the Mill Hill Missionaries, from which the Josephites became independent 5 years later. The Josephite iteration of the seminary was relocated to DC in 1930.[1]

The seminary property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in September 2022.[2]


St. Joseph's Seminary was founded in Baltimore, Maryland by John R. Slattery in 1888 as a major seminary for the Mill Hill Missionaries, an English Catholic religious community that came to the United States to minister to newly emancipated former slaves following the American Civil War. The seminary became independent of Mill Hill along with the Josephites in 1893, and moved to Washington, DC in 1930.[1]

The building is located on the Brookland neighborhood of DC, also known as "Little Rome", known for the various Catholic institutions established in the area following the revelation of plans for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1914.[1]

The seminary has served as the place of formation for several significant Catholic religious figures, including Charles Uncles, the first African-American Catholic priest trained and ordained in the United States, and the notable priest-activist Philip Berrigan.[3][4] For several decades in the early to late 20th century, however, racial politics led to the seminary being closed to most African Americans.[1]

Constructed in a Neo-Georgian style, the building received a new chapel wing in 1958.[5]

For several decades, the seminary operated as an academic institution, possessing its own faculty as a degree-granting institution for men studying to become Josephites. The seminary closed for studies in the early 1970s, following conflicts related to the Black power movement and the resultant exodus of most of the society's seminarians, Black and White.[1]

In recent decades, the seminary has functioned as the residence for the society's seminarians, most of whom hail from Nigeria and study at the nearby Catholic University of America.[6][7] The building also houses several retired Josephites, the Paulist formation community, and a community of Franciscan religious sisters from Mexico who perform domestic duties.

Due to the society's financial difficulties, the property's significant backyard green space was sold in 2017, later developed into a set of townhouses opened in 2022. An adjoining park was also built along with the new development, near the existing Josephite Seminary Park.[8][9]

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2022.[10]

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ochs, Stephen J. (1993). Desegregating the altar : the Josephites and the struggle for black priests, 1871–1960. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-1859-1. OCLC 28646434.
  2. ^ "Weekly List 2022 09 30 - National Register of Historic Places (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  3. ^ "Philip Berrigan, the peace activist and former Roman Catholic priest, was born 97 years ago today". Frank Beacham's Journal. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  4. ^ Berrigan, Philip (2018). Fighting the Lamb's War Skirmishes with the American Empire. Fred A. Wilcox, Tripp York. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-7252-4022-3. OCLC 1197866809.
  5. ^ "St. Joseph's Seminary – The Josephites established this Georgian Revival style seminary building in "Little Rome" in 1930". DC Historic Sites. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  6. ^ "Josephites prepare Nigerian priests to serve in the US. – Free Online Library". Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  7. ^ "Nigerian seminary to provide recruits for U.S. priesthood; Order sees need to serve blacks". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  8. ^ "More Than 80 Townhouses Planned Near St. Joseph's Seminary in Northeast". Washington City Paper. August 17, 2016. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  9. ^ "In D.C.'s 'Little Rome,' Development Sparks Debate Over God, Growth And Green Space". WAMU. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  10. ^ "Weekly listing". National Park Service.