Black Spot on the White Horse
St. John Vianney Minor Seminary, which Clarence Thomas's friends unkindly dubbed "the cemetery," was located on the Isle of Hope. The optimistic name is a misnomer. Like many of the small fingers of the Georgia coast projecting into the Atlantic, the Isle of Hope is really an isthmus that the tides occasionally separate from the mainland. The seminary on this pocket of pine-topped coastline was only a few miles down Skidaway Road from Pin Point.
The Benedictines had established a presence in the area in 1877, erecting a monastery and beginning to serve the needs of newly emancipated blacks along the Atlantic seaboard. Their efforts complemented those of the Franciscan Sisters, who began their mission in Savannah a year later. In the 1950s, the Diocese of Savannah selected the Isle of Hope as the site for a new high-school, or minor, seminary. Throughout the United States, the Catholic Church was embracing the notion that young men considering the priesthood should be segregated during the high-school years into their own little universe, a minor seminary fairly close to home. On the Isle of Hope, a collection of cottages that had housed displaced persons after World War II beckoned for conversion. The minor seminary that blossomed from this refurbishing was named after St. John Vianney, a nineteenth-century French priest who, after canonization, became the patron saint of priests engaged in parish work.
St. John's, as its residents called it, opened its doors to these youngest seminarians in September 1959. The stated "Philosophy of Education" of the institution limned the values that undergirded the course of studies:
Man is made to the image and likeness of God. God has endowed man with a certain nature. The development of this nature belongs to the