St. Edward's Seminary

sedes sapientis statue, st. edwards seminary statue, kenmore wa

Dominic Vautier
last update 8/2013

It was a funny time, the middle 50s, probably because of the huge number of young Catholic boys who for one reason or another decided they wanted to dedicate their lives to God by becoming Catholic priests.  Seminaries throughout the country were suddenly flooded with young applicants.  Bishops likewise were ringing their hands in glee as so many new candidates flocked to their seminaries.  It seems that "The harvest indeed was great but the laborers are many." 

But things changed and this euphoria was not to last long.       

I have often thought about this whole movement. Was it simply a side effect of the baby boom?  Or was it more, like perhaps a notion that so since so many of us lacked good father figures because our dads had been off to the war and came back psychologically ravaged?  Then logically were all our homes dysfunctional or something?  Mine was not.  All I can do is shrug and leave this issue to the sociologists and book writers to explore.  Anyway I was a part of it, albeit perhaps as a fellow traveler.

Yes, I was there yet I never did understand this unique phenomenon going on but I was mightily caught up in it.  In September, 1956, off I went with my meager bag to St. Edwards, the minor Seminary for the Seattle Diocese, situated in Kenmore on a large plot overlooking the shores of Lake Washington.  I spend my high school freshman year there.  That 9 months played out like a Greek drama.

Photography was my big thing at the time so I took some shots of the main building. The cafeteria was on the left.  There was a long hallway with classrooms.  the "majors" and profs lived on the 4th floor because St. Thomas was just under construction.  The gym had been recently built along with a temporary dorm for first high students (and some unfortunate second high guys).  In the picture above you can barely make out the temporary dorm.  We started out with 55 first high kids that year.  10 left during the year I think.  7 more were asked to leave at the end of the year.  I was one of them.


So many things happened in such a short period, and I can only vaguely begin to unravel the story of those fast and furious nine months away from home for the first time, away from the comfort and security of my family, away from my brothers and friends, and away from music and sports and girls.  I remember longing for Columbus day as if it were some kind of elixir, the first "free day", as they were called, a time when we could go home and see our families.

But when Columbus day came, it was not the same.  Somehow I had grown up.  I had began to turn that long slow corner into adulthood.

What struck me was that the students and faculty were mercilessly and relentlessly driven by sports (you had to be driven I suppose -- after all there were no girls).  Each kid was assigned a team either Spartans, Trojans, Crusaders, or Buccaneers (see link above for more on this).



The seminary was divided onto two groups of students, majors and minors.  The minors consisted of those in the first four years of high school and two years of college.  When a student became a junior in college he took minor orders and got to ware the cassock and collar.  There was supposed to be no communication between these two groups, although a lot of it did go on.  We never missed an opportunity to break the rules.  I could never quite understand the segregation.  I did not know anybody in the major seminary but I never did understand why we could not talk to them.  Maybe we were not "holy" enough.  Funny set up. 

The next year 1958, the major seminary was completed and all the major guys moved out.  More food and room for us.



In the summer of 1956 workers began construction on the St. Thomas facility.  We were not supposed to go over there.  We did anyway.  We would steel away at night and go over and report on the progress of construction.

The new seminary was dedicated in January 1957 and I was there.  So were a whole bunch of bigwigs from all over the country.  Bishop Connally presided and the corner stone was set in by cardinal MacIntire from Los Angeles.  He was so feeble and did a terrible job with the mortar and could hardly swing a trawl let alone know which end to use.  Some young priests alertly helped him out.  We were sitting there snickering away.  Workers came after the ceremony and did everything over again right.



The cafeteria was at the east end of the building.  It had about 30 tables.  The majors sat way over to the east and they could come and go as they pleased. They got to come in and leave first and seemed to have lots of food.  The "profs" sat on two adjacent tables that were on a raised platform in the middle of the dining hall.

Minors were arranged differently.  Each table had 12 students.  The table captain was usually a second college guy and sat at the head of the table and was served first.  He controlled the discipline of his table and the distribution of food. Seating progressed by class down to freshmen who had the last seats and got what food was left over, if any.

Whenever I could I tried to get a waiter job because there was always lots of food left over on the profs table.  We would get food platters from the galley and carry them out to the tables--easy work for sure.  After we would clean the tables and get to eat.  We had to eat fast to make it to first period.

Once me and this other kid got hold of a big bowl of cherries left over.  I looked at him and said "Think we can finish this?"  He replied "just watch."  We ate the entire bowl of cherries.  I had the runs all day.

One day I went down to the darkroom after mass to get some film and was late for breakfast.  I went to the big double doors but was too embarrassed to go in because I would have to report to the prof in charge and explain why I was late.  I skipped breakfast that day but everybody knew I had missed because they could see me through the glass door.  For the rest of the day I got ribbed.


Laundry management was a complete mess.  We had no local service so one was provided but it was way too expensive for many of us.  After all our parents were paying $100 a month tuition (I later found out) but some families could apply for relief from the diocese.  I think that the diocese took over the tuition at 3rd year college. 


So what most of us did was mail our laundry home each Monday in a big mailing box and hope to get it back by Friday.  It didn't always work out that way so sometimes I washed my own laundry.  Monday afternoon the line to the mail room would extend halfway down the hall.  Dennis Peters was in charge of the mailroom and he hated Mondays.





When my sister died I went through the estate and found my old laundry mailing box. Didn't smell too good.



At St. Ed's the studies were hard for some but I did OK.  I did well in Latin, Math, English, but not so in Ancient History, even though the history teacher was the only good one on the faculty (and the only friend I had).  His name was Fr. Geoquinto, also my confessor and I got to know him well.  Measured by what I know today the Sulpicians were good teachers but nothing to rave about.

Math was usually first period.  It came easy to me but I found a place in the back of the classroom and slept all period.  The teacher "uncle bud" immediately put me to sleep.  All he had to do was start talking in his slow monotone.  I wish I had recorded him because I had trouble sleeping most of my life and now and have to take medication.  But "Uncle Bud" put me to sleep immediately.  I don't know how anyone could possibly make math so boring. 

Latin was something else.  We would decline and conjugate each others names.  I was "Doms"  so I was third declension.  doms, domis. domo, domum, domo.  Our favorite was John Sincula.  He was first declension.  sincula, sinculae, sinculae, sinculam, sincula.

We finally got to do some Caesar at the end of the year.  

st. edwards seminary study hall, kenmore wa

The seminary was a harsh world.  Everybody had nicknames.  Most of the "Profs" had nicknames, some of which were not at all kind but most of the names were funny.  I only remember my robotic and lethargic math teacher "Uncle Bud".   I forget many of the other names.  Many of the students had nicknames too and some names were downright cruel.  My name was "Doms." 



st. edwards seminary chapel, kenmore wa 1957

Every Sunday we did Matins and Lauds.  We  lined up by class and procession into the chapel chanting the Miserere sometimes in English.

Even after almost 50 years I remember the words.

The entoner would begin 

"Miserere mei Deus" at a pitch about middle G.

we responded.

Secundum magnam miserecordiam tuam
Et secundum multitudinam miserationem tuarum
Dele iniquitate mea

and then continue into the Chapel, loosing about five notes on the way.

other days it was sung in English

Have mercy on me O Lord,
according to your great mercy
and according to your the multitude of your mercy
Forgive my iniquities
For indeed I was born in sin
Guilt was already with me
When my mother conceived me
but thou are ever faithful to thy purpose
And now in deep parables
Thy wisdom has instructed me
turn away from my sin
free me from my guilt
through my fault
through my fault
through my most grievous fault

now that's some cool stuff

dominic vautier in standard uniform in front of St. Edwards Seminary, Kenmore, Wa 1957

We attended mass every day.  The seating was carefully dictated.  Everybody had a place.  I tried to get into the choir but they did not accept first high.  That was the only time in my life I was not accepted into a choir ever.

The uniform was black pants, sweater, white shirt and tie for class.  On Sundays we had to ware suits.

One day at mass I started reading Revelation.  I read it three times over the course of a month.  The kid sitting next to me kept poking me.

We all had to receive communion every day.  I did not like the idea at all.

We had to go confess once a week.  That was OK because my confessor was a cool guy.

I ask you what kind of trouble can you get into in that place?  It was hard to come up with any confessable material, so it usually was a chat session.

Me: "Hi Padre.  How's it going anyway."

Fr:  "You are not doing so well in my class"

Me:  "well you see all those Greek guys died a long time ago and I just don't see the importance."

after some time

Me:  "well gotta go...bless me father for I....."



We were required to have this big-ass book called the Liber Usavalis which was loaded with 1350 pages of liturgy and Gregorian chant.

I wish I still had mine.  I got rid of it some years ago.  Got another one later and used it to do some music here.




st. edwards seminary annex building, kenmore wa   

There were so many first high students at that time--so many that a temporary dormitory had to be quickly built for us.  It was very confined and you had to wait in line to brush your teeth and shower in the morning.  There were bunk beds too. 


Here is another picture of the temporary dorm.

st. edwards seminary annex building, kenmore wa 1956

st. edwards seminary, kenmore wa may day celebration 1957

There were frequent visits and conferences held by the parishes where all these visiting priests and nuns would come.  We would just stand around with our hands in our pockets looking stupid.  The majors are here on the left.  Many of the minors are in the right.

st. edwards seminary, kenmore wa may day celebration 1957

Here is another shot I took.  This was between the Gym and first high dorm.

st. edwards seminary, kenmore wa may day celebration 1957

from another angle showing first high dorm and gym.


st. edwards seminary swimming dock on lake washington, kenmore wa 1957


On some weekends we got to do a lot of swimming on Lake Washington.

I was swimming in the lake and got a cramp.  Dennis Peters jumped in and pulled me out.  Dennis teaches school in shoreline.  He should be retired by now.

On April 29, 1957 we had a partial eclipse if the sun. I had brought my elbow telescope from home the previous "free day" and set it up on a chair in one of the classrooms.  I projected the sun's image on the wall and gave everybody a science lesson.

The Profs thought I was a strange kid.


st. edwards seminary, kenmore wa partial eclypse 1957 projected on classroom wall



At the end of the year they asked me not to come back. After all, they had so many kids to pick from and could exercise a lot of judgment in this respect.  The faculty thought something was wrong with me because I slept during math class (err---right), even though my grades were good.

My confessor advised my about the decision and he said that he really wanted me to stay because I was a good candidate for orders and he voted for me.  This was not a lot of consolation to me because I felt like a complete failure.  I wandered out by the statue of Mary in front and found several other kids who had likewise been asked not to come back and we commiserated together.  It was probably a good path on my road to adulthood but I would have stayed for another 4 or 5 years.  By that time I would have certainly arrived at the conclusion that I could not live without girls. 

St. Edwards was a difficult period for me.  It was my first extended time away from home and also a time when I sort of "broke away."  My big regret is that I was not there long enough to be able to establish a lot of real and lasting friendships.  The opportunity was certainly there nonetheless.


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