History

Opened as a Roman Catholic Seminary in 1893 and restructured into an Institute for Theological and Ministerial studies in 1981, St. Bernard’s has steadily pursued a course of dedication and service to the Church as it meets the challenges and changes within our world. Our founder, Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid, an educational pioneer, was bold and innovative in his vision of theological education.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen introduced changes enabling the traditional seminary to meet the challenges of the Second Vatican Council, and in the 1960’s St. Bernard’s became one of the first Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States to open its doors to laity. The focus on ministerial and theological education for the laity intensified with the move from the north side of Rochester to the Colgate Rochester Divinity School (now known as Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School) campus on South Goodman Street. In the late summer of 1981, St. Bernard’s and the Colgate Rochester Divinity School signed a covenant establishing a graduate-level affiliation between the two institutions. Under this arrangement, both institutions retained their own curriculum, degrees, endowment, alumni, and Boards of Trustees. Both institutions shared the physical facilities of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, maintaining a single library, and, within curriculum requirements, extended cross-registration privileges to all enrolled students.

In the fall of 1989, St. Bernard’s initiated an extension campus in the Diocese of Albany. To this day, it continues to serve the educational and ministerial needs of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and surrounding areas, most notably through its Pre-Theology Program.

In August 2003, St. Bernard’s moved to its new campus at 120 French Road in Rochester. This marked an exciting new phase in the history of the school. This existence, independent from its former association with the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, would not have been possible without the support and significant financial commitment from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, as well as from its many alumni and donor supporters. This third iteration of St. Bernard’s (from this point forward known no longer as an Institute but as a School of Theology and Ministry) continues to meet the challenges of the day in its service of the Dioceses of Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, and Syracuse. In addition to the support it receives from other dioceses, it enjoys many associations with other communities that serve the Church.

In August of 2019, St. Bernard’s expanded its online distance learning to students from across the country and the globe vis-à-vis its accreditation with NC-SARA - “a nonprofit organization that helps expand students’ access to educational opportunities and ensure more efficient, consistent, and effective regulation of distance education programs.” To date, our programs have reached across twenty-nine states and fourteen countries. In addition to this national and international growth, St. Bernard’s also entered into a teach-out agreement in 2020 with Christ the King Seminary following its closure. This agreement allowed CKS students the ability to complete their degrees. We now provide ongoing diaconate and lay formation for the Diocese of Buffalo.