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American College reopens doors to students and researchers in 2014

20 Sep 2013

Starting in the 2014-2015 academic year, the American College – the first U.S. seminary in Europe – will reopen its doors to students and researchers from the United States working in theology and religious studies, philosophy and canon law. The college will host the St. Damien Community and the St. Damien Project, which will offer a Sabbatical Program and a Summer Program. The initiative constitutes a rekindling of ties between KU Leuven and the United States.

Starting in the 2014-2015 academic year, the American College – the first U.S. seminary in Europe – will reopen its doors to students and researchers from the United States working in theology and religious studies, philosophy and canon law. The college will host the St. Damien Community and the St. Damien Project, which will offer a Sabbatical Program and a Summer Program. The initiative constitutes a rekindling of ties between KU Leuven and the United States.
The American College was founded in 1857 and was the first U.S. seminary in Europe.

Fewer and fewer American seminarians found their way to Leuven in the last half-century, forcing the American College to close its doors in 2011. New plans are now underway to reverse this trend and reopen the American College. KU Leuven, Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Episcopal Conference of Belgium presented the St. Damien Project Charter on 20 September.

Starting in the 2014-2015 academic year, the St. Damien Community will welcome (primarily) American students and researchers pursuing studies in theology and religious studies, philosophy and canon law. The St. Damien Sabbatical Program will also be launched in 2014. Participants will reside in the American College for a year and will have the opportunity to take courses in their own domain or follow a selection of other courses at KU Leuven and UCL. The St. Damien Summer Program, an academic program open to KU Leuven professors and their American colleagues in the summer months, will begin in 2015.

"The program is aptly named for Father Damien, a saint that represents the bond between Leuven and the United States"

"The program is aptly named for Father Damien, a saint that represents the bond between Leuven and the United States," says Lieven Boeve, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies." Americans consider Damien, who was from Flanders, as 'their' saint because of his work on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. In the United States Capitol, each of the 50 states has a statue representing a famous resident. Hawaii chose Father Damien. That gives you an idea of his standing."

The St. Damien Project is being realized in three phases. In the first phase, to be carried out in the 2013-2014 academic year, KU Leuven will renovate 141 student rooms, three studios and an apartment in the American College (Naamsestraat 100). Another 13 studios and an office area will be prepared in the Rector's Residence. In 2014, the facade of the building will be renovated. 

From left to right: Rector Rik Torfs, Mgr. Ronny Jenkins (Secretary-General of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), Mgr. Johan Bonny (Bishop of Antwerp) and Professor André Wénin (UCL) | © KU Leuven – Rob Stevens