Byzantine Catholic Seminary receives 10-years reaccreditation from Association of Theological Schools

By Father Robert Pipta and Helen Kennedy

Father Robert Pipta, Rector of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary, has received from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) a letter stating that their Board of Commissioners “voted to reaffirm the accreditation of Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius for a period of ten years.” This news was received after an ATS evaluation team conducted a 3-day comprehensive evaluation of the Seminary in November 2019.

Father Robert stated, “The visit from the ATS comprehensive evaluation team was an uplifting and affirming experience which left me thankful to God for such talented Seminary leadership and faculty. The team spoke of our Seminary community as hospitable and congenial. I couldn’t be more delighted with the outcome.”

Ten years is the longest period ATS affirms accreditation to a theological school. The Seminary previously held accreditation for seven years. The importance of being an accredited institution, according to ATS, is to “ensure that institutions of higher education function according to standards of institutional and educational quality.” ATS grants accreditation to theological schools in the United States and Canada. The mission of ATS is to promote the improvement and enhancement of theological schools to the benefit of communities of faith and the broader public.

Included with the ATS Board report was the approval for the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology (MAT) degree programs. The MDiv degree program currently has 12 seminarians, three of whom are married. The MAT program currently has 21 students enrolled, most of whom take all of their courses online.

Father Christiaan Kappes, Academic Dean stated, “I cannot overstate how pleased I am. Not only were the professionalism and scholarship of our academic program affirmed, but the mature collaboration of our administration and faculty was praised as a Seminary hallmark. I could not have tranquilly welcomed our visitators save for the fact that our faculty, administration, and students were already living in a culture of transparency and collaborative assessment.”

During the visit, the ATS team met with the MDiv students and stated they were impressed by their maturity and centeredness. Timothy Fariss, student representative said, “I had the opportunity to share my four years’ experience of growing through the Seminary with the evaluation team. It was interesting to hear the experiences they brought from visiting other seminaries. In return, I shared some of the recent developments that occurred in the master’s program and seminary life.”

Metropolitan William Skurla announced the Seminary had “passed another milestone by completing the Association of Theological School audit.” Metropolitan William also stated, “everyone at the Seminary worked hard for two years preparing for this visit.”

Mrs. Helen Kennedy, Director of Accreditation, led the two-year preparatory efforts. The Seminary was required to complete a comprehensive self-study. This was accomplished with the dedication of three sub-committees working with dedicated laity, students, faculty, alumni, staff, and administrators. Seminary professor, Dr. Matthew Minerd, who was the primary reviewer of the report, stated, “My work editing and organizing the content of our Seminary’s self-study helped me see a truly encouraging fact: we have deeply integrated the various requirements of ATS through this process of accreditation. In looking at the results of the shared labor of all those who were involved in drafting our self-study it was edifying to see a unified picture of the spiritual, academic, and professional policies in place here, and I am heartened that the health of our institution has been recognized by ATS in this manner.”

The ATS Board report also identified other distinctive strengths of the Seminary including its commitment to be a center of learning for the Eastern Catholic Churches that encourages collegial, ecumenical, and collaborative engagement; and the implementation of a culture of comprehensive, data-driven assessment, committed to quality improvement across all sectors of seminary life.

Mrs. Kennedy stated that “during these past seven years, the Seminary has shown significant scholarship and commitment to excellence. These qualities reflect the commitment of Father Robert Pipta, Father Christiaan Kappes, and all the staff and faculty.” The next comprehensive evaluation
visit is to occur in fall 2029, one term before the period of accreditation expires on March 31, 2030.

“Coinciding with the beginning of our 70th anniversary year, this announcement reminds us that we are forever accountable,” stated Father Robert, “and I’m eager to work with our team to develop a new strategic plan that will challenge and strengthen us over the next decade. I desire that BCS be second-to-none when it comes to preparing future leaders for Eastern Catholic parishes in America.”

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