Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary is the essential prequel to the story of Saint John Vianney College Seminary. How could we celebrate 100 years of college seminary formation in this Archdiocese without acknowledging where the first 47 years quietly took place along the beautiful shores of Lake Johanna, north of St. Paul? SJV was delighted to sit down with four alumni and capture their remembrances from four years of high school and two years of college at the hallowed grounds of 3003 Snelling Avenue North.
Father Martin Siebenaler
Nazareth Hall 1947-1953
Q: How did you finance your seminary studies?
A: Benefactors [from our parish] left an endowment for future education that paid 1/3 of our education. Dad paid a third and [my brothers, Father Leonard and Father John, and I] paid the other third after we could afford it. I think it was $300 or 400 per year. We were born during the Depression and didn’t have anything. Our dad had to borrow $500 from Aunt Gertie and Uncle Clint each year and trade in his life insurance to buy a 1934 Chevrolet. That’s trust in God, isn’t it? The older you get, the more you appreciate your parents and what they had to sacrifice.
Q: How did you spend your free time?
A: After supper, especially in October and May, we would go down to the Marian grotto on the lakeshore and pray a Rosary. The smokehouse, attached to one of the sides of the building, was where the boys would talk over good times. We had a big field near the entrance for playing football and baseball. The sand burrs would stick to your stockings. I hit a baseball over the left fielder’s head for a triple one time. The college boys would help coach and taught us the three-point stance for football.
Q: Who influenced your discernment spiritually?
A: We were taken care of by our good pastor. When riding to the seminary, he said “We’re going to stop at the grocery, get a couple crates of apples and oranges, and ask the sisters to put them in their cooler so the boys can help themselves after class before they go out to play.” He died about four years after we started seminary and didn’t get to see us ordained. The priest who took over helped nurture my vocation. I used to get bothered by tension headaches in seminary, but he told me, “You can do it.” Archbishop Brady ordained me and two other boys as transitional deacons in December, and we were ordained priests in February. No problem with headaches after that!
This interview was originally published in the Fall 2023 Vianney News magazine.