Have a burning need to banish evil? Well then, you’ll be happy to know that it’s no longer necessary to fly all the way to Rome to study your craft. Once the exclusive dominion of the Vatican, top-notch training in the Roman Rite of Exorcism is now available much closer to home. Sure you could jet off to Italy to learn the not-so-gentle art of demonic expulsion. Or, if you live in the USA, you can save a few bucks and just drive to a quiet, little suburb of Chicago, Mundelein, Illinois. Right now ordained priests around the U.S. are planning their very own road trips to this unexpected summer destination secreted away in the heart of the Midwest.
The Pope Leo XIII Institute is set to reprise its annual exorcism conference this August at Mundelein Seminary, roughly 40 miles north of Chicago. Outfitting clergy with state-of-the-art defensive tactics in humanity’s on-going battle with the Devil is the main objective of this private organization. The independent, non-profit was founded to serve and educate Catholic bishops, priests, exorcists, deacons, and laity and offered its first conference in 2005 in response to Pope John Paul’s recommendation that every diocese appoint an exorcist.
This year’s exorcist conference will focus on the teachings of Father Cliff Ermatinger and his book The Devil’s Role in the Spiritual Life. Past conference themes have included the exploration of the Virgin Mary’s role in defeating Satan and the in-depth examination of the motives of rebellious angels. The keynote speaker of the 2016 conference was Father Gary Thomas, the real-life priest on whose experiences the 2009 book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist was based, as well as the 2011 film The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins.
As of 2017, there were over 70 million Catholics living in the United States. Although no official count of the number of exorcists in the U.S. exists, the ranks seem to be growing. Whereas in 2011, there were only a handful of exorcists to serve legions of parishioners, today, there are an estimated 70-100 active exorcists in the country. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, there are currently 195 dioceses in the U.S. Thanks to the efforts of the Institute the gap is closing, and may one day make the dream of an exorcist in every diocese a reality. However, a great demand for exorcisms persists. The exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis reported that by October 2018 he had received 1,700 requests for exorcism, the most he’s ever received in a year, according to a recent article in The Atlantic.
The Pope Leo XIII Institute also offers year-round educational opportunities to combat the growing epidemic of demonic possession. A 2-year educational program was created on the request of past conference attendees. This school for exorcism at the Mundelein Seminary has graduated 104 students since their first cohort began in 2014. 59 exorcists are set to graduate in November 2019.
The intensive courses are for clergy only. However, if you’re pious enough to score a letter of permission from your bishop, you can attend the annual conference. If you’re no angel, don’t fret, you can still visit the beautiful seminary grounds which are open to the public daily from 9-5. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a real-life exorcist out for a stroll. The Feehan Memorial Library on-campus also offers some rare books on exorcism.