Mount St. Mary’s Seminary Rector Named Protonotary Apostolic by Pope Benedict XVI
Emmitsburg, Maryland —His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has elevated Mount St. Mary’s Seminary Rector Msgr. Steven P. Rohlfs, S.T.D., P.A., to the rank of Protonotary Apostolic.
Msgr. Rohlfs is the only active American seminary rector who has received this papal designation — the highest honor bestowed upon a priest. The original seven Apostolic Protonotaries were appointed by the Pope in the fifth century and were members of the immediate Papal household. By the 19th century, the Papacy had extended the honor to senior priests outside of Rome who were given exceptional ecclesiastical responsibilities at the diocesan, regional or national levels.
“The Mount St. Mary’s community is delighted to share in this news with Msgr. Rohlfs,” said Thomas H. Powell, president of Mount St. Mary’s University. “His vision in guiding the Seminary’s mission of intellectual, human, spiritual and pastoral formation, and the continued success of our seminarians, is a direct result of his leadership and priestly ministry.”
Mount St. Mary’s is the largest seminary in the United States, with more than 170 men, from 28 dioceses and two religious orders, studying for the priesthood.
“I am truly touched by the thoughtfulness of the Holy Father and Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria,” said Msgr. Rohlfs. “ I consider this as much an honor given to the seminary as given to me.”
Cardinal William H. Keeler, former Archbishop of Baltimore and former Chancellor of the Seminary named Msgr. Rohlfs as Rector at the Mount, in 2004. A respected theologian, he has written numerous articles in his field of medical ethics, healthcare, family planning and key medical issues confronting the Church today. He is also a popular retreat master and workshop facilitator for clergy and the laity. Over the years he has served as a pastor, high school chaplain, vocation director and in the marriage tribunal.
A native of Lincoln, Illinois, Msgr. Rohlfs attended St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, and graduated from the Higher Institute of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, in 1971. He came to Mount St. Mary’s in 1972 as a seminarian to study for the Diocese of Peoria and was ordained to the priesthood in1976 by Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke. He received a Master of Arts degree in Dogmatic Theology and Liturgical Theology from the Mount in 1976 and his Licentiate and Doctoral degrees in Moral Theology from the Angelicum in Rome in 1988 and 1989 respectively. He completed postgraduate studies in diplomacy at Northwestern University, School of Continuing Studies.
Bishop John J. Myers of the Diocese of Peoria appointed Msgr. Rohlfs in 1999 to the posts of Vicar General, Chancellor and Moderator of the Curia. Upon the transfer of Bishop Myers to the Archdiocese of Newark, he was elected by the Consultors to be the Administrator for the Diocese of Peoria. Upon his accession to the diocese, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky reappointed Msgr. Rohlfs to the posts of Vicar General, Chancellor and Moderator of the Curia.
Msgr. Rohlfs was named a Prelate of Honor in 1993, a Knight Commander of the Holy Sepulchre in 1997, and a Knight of the Sovereign Military Constantinian Order in 1999.
The last Mount priest to be so honored by the Holy Father was former university president, Msgr. Hugh Phillips.