San Marcos Chapel

Saint Ita's Seminary
Santa Fe, New Mexico

St. Ita's is our Seminary for the training of our Clergy and Formation of our members in Religious Orders. Courses of study for Certificates are a hybrid of online distance learning combined with short residence practicum phases at our working ranch /monastery in the beautiful high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

From time to time we will also be offering to the public, in both an online and/or retreat setting, the chance to take courses in Celtic Spirituality and other topics of interest and for a variety of reasons: independent study as an elective in another institution (with approval of that institution) or simply for the love of learning or spiritual growth.

 

St. Ita is regarded in Ireland as the 'Foster mother' of many Saints.  She created a special school and children's residence for many of Ireland's future great saints, including St. Brendan the Navigator, and took in many others who went on to become scholars and monastic leaders.  We wanted to honor her legacy as an inspiring educator and our seminary’s patron Saint.

Seminary & Formation

For men and women seeking Ordination or Incardination (if already ordained) we begin with our Certificate in Celtic Spirituality (required). This self-paced/ proctor assisted program is designed to be done at home, prior to or with agreement by St. Ita’s Dean, concomitant to the Certificate Program in Christian Foundation and the Certificate of Ministry Program with our partner Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary for our Holy Orders candidates with no former of formal seminary or theological training.

Click the link below to see the Baylor–Truett Distance learning phase: 

https://www.baylor.edu/truett/index.php?id=952507

 

Once completed, our Certificate in Celtic Spirituality awarded by St. Ita’s, may also serve as one of two Independent Study electives for the Baylor-Truett Certificate of Ministry required course of study.

The essence of our rich Celtic Catholic Spirituality will begin with several key books:

“Listening for the Heartbeat” of God” J. Philip Newell

“Christ of the Celts” J. Philip Newell

“How the Irish Saved Civilization” Thomas Cahill

“The Celtic Way of Evangelization: George Hunter

“Journey’s on the Edges: The Celtic Tradition” Thomas O’Laughlin

 

At the completion of each Certificate issued by Baylor-Truett or for those on the track for Incardination they will complete a required residency/practicum phase, each approximately one week in duration, with us at St. Ita’s Seminary in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Phase I Residency concentrates on our administration of the seven Sacraments which is our core mission. Celtic and Franciscan Distinctives will also be covered along with world religions and traditions with visits from top spiritual leaders from those faith traditions.

 

Phase II Residency will continue with “Priest-Craft”, Spiritual Coaching and Counseling and Spiritual Direction, Ritual and Liturgy as well as Defining your Ministry.

Successful completion of the residency phases will lead the candidate for Holy Orders through the Deaconate ordination and ultimately into the ordained Priesthood.

In designing the path for the conferring of Holy Orders or Incardination ( of already ordained priests/ministers) it is fitting for us to structure both our Hybrid/Distance studies and our resident /practical phases to what is realistically and authentically our current ministerial needs, so that what is obsolete in former functions or offices is removed, what is useful is retained, what is necessary is defined and what is required/expected for candidates ordination may be determined and defined.

Ultimately our Seminary’s hybrid program by design, is the most cost effective (Baylor- Truett’s low-cost pay for each course as you go and our super low cost residency at St. Ita’s) and scholarly efficient program for mendicant / bi-vocational clergy seeking Apostolic, Sacramental Ordination to the Priesthood.

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Sunrise over the Reflection Pond

at St. Ita's Seminary.

St Ita

History of Saint Ita

Saint Ita of Ireland is highly regarded in Ireland and in other Celtic lands in that she is considered the ‘Foster Mother of the Saints’.

 

Ita was reputedly of royal lineage. She was born at Decies, Waterford, Ireland, refused to be married, and secured her father's permission to live a virginal life. She moved to Killeedy, Limerick, and founded a community of women dedicated to God. She also founded a school for boys, and one of her pupils was St. Brendan.

 

After St. Brigid, St. Ita is the most famous woman saint in Ireland. Her birth of noble Christian parents, Kennfoelad, a Déise Chieftain and Necta his princess wife, is said to have taken place around 470 near Faithlegg outside Waterford.

From her baptism on she was filled with the Holy Spirit. All marvelled at her childhood purity and behaviour, and her abstinence on the days she had to fast. She was prudent, very generous, kind toward everyone, and gentle as well as chaste in her language. As she grew up, it quickly became apparent that she wished to devote her life to God.

There is no doubt Ita excelled in the ‘Six Gifts" of Irish womanhood the ancient Celt looked for in the well educated girl - wisdom, purity, beauty, music, sweet speech, embroidery. She refused an offer of marriage as she wanted to consecrate herself completely to Christ. Her father refused her. She went at once to an aged priest she had known from childhood and publicly made her vows which she had already formed in her heart. She left her father’s house and the pleasant places round it and set out with some companions for the Ua Conaill territory in the West of Munster, the present Co. Limerick, to a place called "Cluain Creadhail" which some interpret to mean "Meadow of Faith" and which is now called Kileedy.

Legend has it that Ita was lead to Killeedy by three heavenly lights. The first was at the top of the Galtee mountains, the second on the Mullaghareirk mountains and the third at Cluain Creadhail. Her sister Fiona also went to Killeedy with her and became a member of the community.

Also known as the Brigid of Munster, biographers often compare St. Ita to St. Brigid, but the differences are more striking than the resemblances between these two foremost women saints of the Catholic church. Brigid's life was spent in continual movement. When she had made a success of one convent settlement, she moved off to found another. Ita did just the opposite. Instead of entering one of Brigid's convents, she founded a convent in a district where there was none, at the foot of Sliabh Luachra. The place became known as Killeedy and it was here that she remained until she died.

A strongly individualistic character is glimpsed in the stories that surround her life. When she decided to settle in Killeedy, a chieftain offered her a large grant of land to support the convent. But Ita would accept only four acres, which she cultivated intensively. The convent became known as a training school for little boys, many of whom later became famous churchmen. One of these was St. Brendan, whom Bishop Saint Erc gave to Ita in fosterage when he was a year old. St. Ita kept him until he was six.

The great Navigator revisited her between his voyages and always deferred to her counsel. He once asked her what were the three things which God most detested, and she replied: 'A scowling face, obstinacy in wrong-doing, and too great a confidence in the power of money'. Brendan also asked her what three things God especially loved. She replied, "True faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a religious spirit, and open-handedness inspired by charity."

Ita's original name, some claim, was Déirdre, but because of her thirst for holiness she became known as Ita. This quality may have been what drew so many women to join her monastery and families to send their sons to her. Besides her mentoring, Ita is also associated with competence in healing, and an Irish lullaby for the Infant Jesus is attributed to her.  As with other monastic figures of Ireland, she spent much time in solitude, praying and fasting, and the rest of the time in service to those seeking her assistance and advice.

St. Ita died in approximately 570. Her grave, frequently decorated with flowers, is in the ruins of Cill Ide, a Romanesque church at Killeedy where her monastery once stood. A holy well nearby, almost invisible now, was known for centuries for curing smallpox in children and other diseases as well. This well has two names - It is called St. Bernard’s Well on the OS map, but the local name has always been Tobar Bhaile Ui MhÈidÌn, My Little Ita’s Well, coming from the place name, Cill Barra MhÈidÌn. "Church of my little Ita’s Height."

There is a strong local following of St. Ita in Munster, particularly in Waterford and Limerick, and her name is a popular one for Irish girls. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a new move was made in Ireland for recognition of her importance in the Catholic church; this was accomplished when Bishop Butler of Limerick obtained from Pope Pius IX a special office and mass for her feast which is now kept on January 15.

Resources:
An extract from the entry on St. Ita in Edward Sellner's "The Wisdom of the Celtic Saints."
1997 Catholic Information Network

 

 St. Ita teaching a lesson to St. Brendan the Navigator on 'What three things does God love most?"

She told him: "True faith with a pure heart...

...a simple, spiritual life...

...with generous acts of charity'

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