The Pontifical North American College is a Roman Catholic educational institution in Rome. It was founded in 1859 by Blessed Pope Pius IX in a former Dominican and Visitation Convent, the Casa S. Maria, located in the historic center of Rome near the Trevi Fountain.
During the Second World War, Pope Pius XII, out of concern for the safety of foreign seminarians in Rome, required them to go back to their home countries. When the war ended, Pope Pius XII re-opened the Roman national seminaries. By that time, the Church in America had experienced such an increase in vocations to the priesthood that the Casa S. Maria could no longer accommodate the many seminarians whom United States bishops wanted to send to Rome for their priestly formation and university studies. Since 1926 American bishops had purchased a large portion of Villa Gabrielli, one of the last surviving large green areas within the walls of Rome, overlooking the Vatican, so it was decided to build a new seminary on that land. Pope Pius XII dedicated the newly-built seminary on December 8, 1952, the annual Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Casa S. Maria was converted into a residence for ordained United States Catholic priests pursuing advanced studies in Rome.
The College now consists of the Seminary, which prepares candidates for the Catholic priesthood, the The Casa Santa Maria Graduate House, a house for priests attaining advanced degrees, the ICTE program , an institute for the continuing priestly formation of Catholic priests experienced in ministry, as well as the Bishop's Office for U.S. Visitors to the Vatican , a facility that assists persons from the United States who come to Rome as pilgrims. It also provides accommodations for persons who come to Rome from the United States on College or Holy See matters, particularly members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Enrollment in the College is available to properly qualified Catholic seminarians and priests who are United States citizens, although citizens of other countries can be admitted with the permission of the College's Board of Governors. All students are nominated for enrollment by their own diocesan bishop, subject to approval by the Rector of the College. Students in degree programs take their academic courses at Pontifical Universities, institutions of higher learning in Rome approved by the Holy See. Human, pastoral and spiritual formation is provided by the faculty of the College.
The Board of Governors of the College consists of one United States diocesan or auxiliary bishop from each of the fifteen regions into which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is divided. The current Chairman of the Board of Governors is the Most Reverend Edwin F. O'Brien, Archbishop of Baltimore; and the current Rector of the College is Monsignor James F. Checchio, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, NJ.
For the 2007-2008 academic year, enrollment in the Seminary is approximately 190, at the Casa S. Maria approximately 70, and at each of two continuing formation sessions, approximately 30.