O’Dea

O’Dea

Stories of St. Edward

In the late 1920s, the land for Saint Edward Seminary was purchased by Bishop Edward John O’Dea using his own personal inheritance. Bishop O’Dea donated the 366-acres to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle to build a seminary to educate young men for the priesthood.

By 1896, when Bishop Edward J. O’Dea was consecrated as the third Bishop of Nisqually in Alaska, the state’s Roman Catholic population had grown to 46,000, served by 57 priests and 46 churches. Moreover, the state was on the verge of tremendous growth caused by the arrival of the transcontinental railroad and the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. In this period of growth, Bishop O’Dea came to be known as a builder of Catholic institutions. In 1903, he received permission from the Vatican to move the diocesan headquarters to Seattle, which had become the regional population and economic center.  In 1907, he completed the construction of Saint James Cathedral, recognized to this day as one of the city’s most prominent buildings. At the cathedral dedication, he announced the official name changed to the Diocese of Seattle. 

Despite this growth, the church in the Northwest relied on distant seminaries, such as Saint Patrick’s near San Francisco, to educate priests for diocesan and parish work. Bishop O’Dea considered the lack of local priests to be a barrier to the increased growth of the church. He made it his goal to build a seminary to train local men as priests. Working with other bishops of the region, he was able to meet this goal in 1931 with the opening of Saint Edward Seminary. For nearly fifty years, the new institution provided up to twelve years of education from high school through graduate-level theology for young men who were interested in becoming parish priests in the participating dioceses. It also provided a Roman Catholic high school education for hundreds of young men at a time when there were few Catholic high schools.

A Group Of People Standing In Front Of A Crowd

Bishop Edward J. O'Dea laying the cornerstone of St. Edward Seminary.

Photograph courtesy the Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle.