Christ the King Seminary in Aurora has received its largest gift ever -- a $3.5 million donation that will go toward the school's endowment.
A donor with a long connection to the seminary made the gift and asked seminary officials to remain anonymous.
The benefactor recognizes "the importance of bringing more priests for the service of the church," said the Rev. Peter J. Drilling, interim president and rector of the seminary.
The donor was described by seminary officials as being deeply committed to the mission of the school for many years.
The gift consists of $2.5 million now, boosting the endowment from $7.5 million to $10 million. Another $1 million is being deferred to the endowment over time.
The seminary's previous largest gift was $1.2 million in 1999 from the estate of Helen J. Jordan, an accountant from North Tonawanda who had established a scholarship fund in 1995 at the school. Jordan died in 1998 at the age of 95.
Sixteen candidates for the priesthood are currently studying at the seminary, along with 145 lay students and deacons.
While other dioceses closed their seminaries long ago because of enrollment declines, representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo have said they are committed to keeping the seminary open.
Christ the King, which originated near Olean as part of St. Bonaventure University, last year celebrated 150 years as a seminary.
Diocesan officials have said the seminary remains a vital place -- not just for training priests, but as a center of educational programming for lay people, who are expected to take on greater leadership roles within the church.
The diocese last year moved two departments -- the office of the diaconate and the office of church ministry -- from the chancery in Buffalo to the seminary, which costs about $3 million per year to operate.
Bishop Edward U. Kmiec has yet to appoint a new president. Drilling has been serving in an interim capacity since July 1, when Monsignor Richard W. Siepka completed a 12-year tenure as president.
Siepka, who was credited with helping secure the gift, is now pastor of St. Andrew Church in the Town of Tonawanda.