Seton Hall University names priest president following resignation of previous president — By: Catholic News Agency

President’s Hall, Seton Hall University. / Credit: Wikimedia/cc by sa 3.0

CNA Staff, Apr 9, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic university in New Jersey returned to its historic tradition of naming a “priest-president” following the previous president’s abrupt resignation and lawsuit against the school. 

Seton Hall University, one of the oldest diocesan-run universities in the nation, on April 2 announced Monsignor Joseph Reilly as the 22nd president of the university. Reilly is an alumnus of the university and the current vice provost of academics and Catholic identity.

The 168-year-old university had a “priest-president” for 146 years of its history, and Reilly’s appointment marks a “return” to the tradition, the university press release noted.

Reilly will take over from interim president Katia Passerini, who took up the role after former Seton Hall president Joseph Nyre’s resignation in July 2023.

Nyre and his wife, Kelli, filed a lawsuit alleging that the former chairman of the university’s board of regents, Kevin Marino, had intimidated Nyre and sexually harassed his wife by kissing and touching her.

The suit alleged that the university violated New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Nyre also alleged that Seton Hall engaged in discrimination and retaliation, and breach of the separation and general release agreement.

Laurie Pine, a spokeswoman for the school, said the allegations were “completely without merit” in a February statement.

An independent financial review uncovered a series of embezzlement schemes by a “small number of trusted, longtime employees of Seton Hall Law,” Marino and Nyre announced in a joint email to the university in December 2022.

The university, which is home to Immaculate Conception Seminary and St. Andrew’s Hall seminary, also suffered under the leadership of the disgraced former cardinal and former archbishop of Newark Theodore McCarrick.

McCarrick “used his position of power as then-archbishop of Newark to sexually harass seminarians,” according to a university statement in 2019. 

Seton Hall has about 10,000 students, including 6,000 undergraduates. Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Newark and chair of the board of trustees, and president of the board of regents, said in an April 2 statement that he is “confident” that Reilly will be “an outstanding president.”

“In my service with Monsignor Reilly on the board of trustees, he impressed me with his abiding faith, keen intellect, and genuine care for the entire university,” he said.  

The current chair of the board of regents and the presidential search committee, Hank D’Alessandro, said that Reilly “was the ideal choice.”

“He possesses a deep faith in God and a demonstrable commitment to nurturing our students to greatness as we advance among the nation’s foremost Catholic universities,” D’Alessandro said in the statement. 

“There is no one better suited to leading the university at this moment — a time when Seton Hall stands at the cusp of extraordinary progress,” he said. 

Reilly attended Seton Hall Prep and graduated from Seton Hall University in 1987. After he was ordained a priest in 1991, he returned as rector of the college seminary in 2002. 

Reilly served as dean of the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology from 2012 to 2022 and most recently served as vice provost of academics and Catholic identity. 

Reilly said he is both “profoundly grateful” and “exceedingly energized” to take on the role.

“Seton Hall is the place where I have come to know the truth about God, about who I am before God, and about what contribution to society that God is inviting me to make,” he said. 

In 2005, St. John Paul II named Reilly as a chaplain to his holiness, and in 2015 Pope Francis appointed him as a missionary of mercy. 

Reilly has a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, a licentiate in sacred theology from Pontificio Istituto Teresianum in Rome, and a doctorate in educational administration from Fordham University.   

Reilly also served on the Faithful Citizenship Strategy Committee and the Catholic Social Teaching Task Force for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

“I cannot wait to engage our community as together we strive to bring new life to the timeless Catholic mission that makes Seton Hall unique among American universities,” Reilly said. 

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