February 17 is a special day for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. On that day in 1826 the Oblates were approved as a religious congregation by
Pope Leo XII. This year February 17 marked another new beginning: the dedication of two new buildings at the Oblate School of Theology (OST) in
San Antonio, Texas.
The Oblates opened OST (originally known as the San Antonio Philosophical Seminary) in 1903. Its original purpose was to serve as a house of formation for young men interested in joining the Missionary Oblate congregation as priests or brothers. OST has undergone a number of changes in its 109-year history. While the education of the faithful remains its overall goal, the school’s focus has expanded dramatically.
Father Pat Guidon, O.M.I. was president of OST from 1970-1995. As the needs of the Catholic Church changed over the years,
Fr. Guidon realized the need for lay people to play a more active role within the Church. He began the process of shifting the focus of the school from an Oblate seminary to a center for theological training. Today OST boasts an ethnically diverse student body and invites persons of all faiths and religions to study within its walls.
In 2008 OST took one more giant step to accommodate the growing needs of the Church: an ambitious $30 million capital and endowment campaign called Building on Faith.
Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints football team, jump-started the campaign through the Tom and Gayle Benson Charitable Foundation – a $15 million gift. Pledges and donations made since that initial gift have brought the campaign to about 80% of its goal.
The generosity of Oblate benefactors has helped to secure the future of OST – and of the Church. As part of the campaign, two buildings have been constructed on OST’s ever-growing campus: a conference center/educational building and a guest house for short-term visitors.
OST President Fr. Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I. is very happy to offer these new additions to the San Antonio community. “We are proud to be able to offer such an impressive new facility … we have waited a long time for this day,” he said.
Construction of the conference center and educational building was completed in late January. The OST Board of Trustees proudly named the building Whitley Theological Center in honor of Loyd Whitley, an Honorary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, and his late wife Louise. “Oblate School of Theology is proud to have their name grace our new building,” explained Fr. Rolheiser. “Loyd and Louise Whitley have both been friends and supporters of the Oblates and Oblate School of Theology for more than 50 years.” The couple’s son, Fr. Rufus Whitley, O.M.I. serves as General Treasurer of the Oblates. While most of the rooms in the Whitley Theological Center are yet to be named, it has been decided that the auditorium will bear the name Louise Rumely Whitley Hall.
Whitley Theological Center is a state-of-the-art 24,098 square-foot facility that includes an auditorium capable of holding over 400 people. The building also has three classrooms, two seminar rooms and offices. Student areas – a lounge, break room and outdoor seating area – have also been included. A large catering kitchen will allow the school to rent the space for non-OST events.
The Guest House was completed in October 2011, although interior details are still being fine-tuned. The two-story 4,700-square-foot building can house up to 20 short-term visitors, guest speakers or professors. The first floor of the residential building has a community room and five guest rooms, while the second floor has three apartment units and two guest rooms.
The construction of these two incredible buildings is just the beginning. Another $5.3 million is needed to fully equip the Whitley Theological Center with the latest educational technology. Funds are also needed to support existing programs until returns on endowment funding can fully support those programs.
Once the new buildings are fully funded, OST plans to begin renovations on the 85-year-old main administration and classroom building. This update will include the installation of central air, heating and electrical systems and a fire alarm and sprinkler system.