History of Holy Apostles
The history of Holy Apostles begins centuries before the college was created. The land on which the college sits also is the site of the oldest home in Cromwell, the Ranney House, built by one of Cromwell’s founding families. This home, now known as St. James Hall, became famous as the starting point for the amazing adventures of a subsequent owner, Capt. John Riley, whose cargo ship ran aground in Africa in 1815 and who was sold into slavery, along with his crew, by desert nomads. Riley’s travails were chronicled in Dean King’s best-selling book, “Skeletons on the Zahara” (Little, Brown & Co.).
The Ebenezer Beckwith Octagonal House, now known as St. Peter’s Hall, was erected in 1854.
The operations of Cromwell Hall, a private sanitorium that treated various emotional disorders, moved to the site in 1883, after which the adjacent Octagonal Barn (now St. Andrew’s Hall) was remodeled and enlarged with a brick addition. At one time Cromwell Hall had 14 buildings with 112 rooms. Patients came from all across North America and included Bing Crosby and Judy Garland.
The campus’ extraordinary natural setting was enhanced through the work of the famed Olmsted landscape architecture firm whose founder Frederick Law Olmsted designed New York City’s Central Park. In 1908, the Olmsted firm created a small arboretum on the property.
Cromwell Hall closed in the early 1950s and the property lay unused for several years before being acquired by the Rev. Eusebe Menard, O.F.M., who founded Holy Apostles Seminary as a minor seminary to help older men discern their call to the priesthood.
The seminary was originally operated by the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles, an order of priests founded by Father Menard. In 1984 the order invited the three Roman Catholic bishops in Connecticut to join the Board of Directors, along with lay men and women. This expansion of the board gave the college and seminary the benefit of episcopal oversight, along with ecclesial and professional expertise. The bishop of the Diocese of Norwich, currently the Most Rev. Michael Cote, serves as the school’s chancellor.
The college division was opened in 1972 to offer a Roman Catholic college education to lay students and consecrated religious. In 1978, Holy Apostles was authorized to operate as a major seminary (also known as a theologate), offering the Master of Divinity and preparing men for the priesthood.
Graduate degrees were offered to the laity starting in 1982. In 1998, the college opened its online learning graduate-level programs and also began offering the post-master’s certificate in theology. Non-degree graduate certificate programs were introduced in 2001. A Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies program was introduced in 2009.
The online learning undergraduate-level programs began being offered in 2012 for the purpose of assisting students in finishing degrees they had begun elsewhere. The college was approved in 2014 for a fully online undergraduate degree program. The seminary received associate membership in the Association of Theological Schools the same year. In June, 2017, Holy Apostles received accreditation by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools.