I learned the other day that my alma mater, the American College of Louvain, where I lived when I studied philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven, is shutting its doors for good at the the end of the Spring 2011 semester.
There was talk, even when I was a seminarian there, back in 2001, that the college might have to close its doors.
First, we opened up our rooms to visiting sabbatical priests and religious. And then, the college tried to bring in extra cash by housing university students in a separate living space from the seminary. When I was there there were only about twenty or so seminarians.
The place was far from doom and gloom though. I loved living there and remember fondly all the men and women I lived with in those halls.
It is sad to see the school close. The United States Catholic Bishops, who administer the seminary, said in a statement, that the school was closed due to low enrollment.
Personally, I have always thought that bishops did not care for Leuven as a place to train their future priests, because the Catholic University is perceived as more progressive in its theological method, more so than tradition-prone schools like the Gregorian University and the like.
Now that I am out of religion completely, and do not conform to Catholicism in the way I once did, it still pains me they are closing the American College. Yes, the University at Leuven will still remain, but it means Bishops in America will no longer be sending men to study there, nor will priests and religious have a sabbatical place to find intellectual and cultural stimulation. I think it is an isolationist move on the part of the Bishops. It is a gesture towards insularity and exclusion. The fewer places Catholic authorities send their people to study, the more exclusionary the pact as a whole becomes.
I learned many things living at the American College. I learned that Australians are wild and awesome. One Australian priest would sing to us from Les Miserables at the dinner table. I learned that during finals week, the best thing to do is NOT talk about school work at the dinner table. Also, Naamsestraat 100 was my home for about a year and a half. The place is part of my lexicon of home. I lived with strong minds in the field of theology and philosophy. The impact on me, at the age of twenty to twenty-one, of living in a house that encouraged the history of theology as well as rigorous philosophical thinking is an invaluable gift I won't soon forget.
I wonder what will happen to the physical plant. The college grounds are quite beautiful. The building is one of the few in Leuven that has a backyard. I have a hunch the University will take it over and turn it into dormitory space. I hope they leave room for philosophers.