Divine Word Seminary - History - Early History

Early History

As early as the Provincialate of Fr. Joseph Klekamp, SVD Provincial, 1955-56 there was a plan to acquire a property in Tagaytay City. Because of lack of space either the minor or the major seminary of Christ the King had to transfer to outside Manila. Fr. Klekamp’s idea was taken up by Fr. General Grosse-Kappenberg who, in April 1957, commanded that hereafter "the two departments must be separated, and that immediately."

In the Provincial Chapter of 1957, (28 December–30 December) held at Christ the King it was resolved, by a vote of 17 to 8, that “the major department should leave the present Christ the King.” Voting for the new site's location was near Manila, 18 votes; Tagaytay, 7 votes.

The truth was that most of the fathers in Christ the King favored the major seminarians to remain in Christ the King but Provincial Kutscher was personally “for the transfer of the major seminary to Tagaytay because of the mild climate.”

In 1955, a property of 65 hectares in Alfonso, Cavite was bought with the money obtained from the sale of a 2-hectare portion of the property of Christ the King. The rector, Fr. Alphonse Mildner (1958–64) vehemently objected to Alfonso because of its distance and isolation in a province not particularly known for its peace and order. Taytay in Rizal was considered but abandoned in favour of Tagaytay city, just 15 kilometres from Alfonso 52 kilometres from Manila. The Tagaytay property was bought in 1962. therefore The reason for moving out of Christ the King and Quezon City was, because it was “overcrowded and too unsuited for a seminary and especially a novitiate.” Besides the plan to decongest Christ the King due to “the growing number of novices” there was the desire to look for “a quiet place away from Manila.” An informative meeting among the Christ the King Fathers was held on 11 January 1963, in preparation for the coming Provincial Chapter scheduled for 17 January–19 January. The discussion was moderated by Rector Mildner (1958–1964). It was pointed out that “if buildings are provided on the Tagaytay campus for both philosophy and theology, it would solve many problems of faculty and library facilities.”

In a memorandum submitted to the Father Provincial favoring the use of ”Tagaytay as full scholasticate and novitiate,” the factor of pleasant environment and cool climate was cited again as a big plus against remaining in Quezon City; Tagaytay, it was said, is “more conducive to prayer and study.” To the observation that Manila offered better academic training because of top class schools in the area, the memorandum countered that the advantage could be offset “provided that the Society takes real care and interest in the seminary.”

While Tagaytay clearly answered the declared problems of Manila, the question remained: Who would move out? In Christ the King, there were two factions who wanted to stay in Quezon City. Given the necessity of going to Tagaytay, one group always recommended the other move. One group of the Fathers wanted the Fratres (and themselves) to remain; the other wanted all but the minor seminarians (high school and the first two years in college) transferred to Tagaytay. The capitulars at the 1963 Provincial Chapter were unanimous in saying that the minor seminary should stay in Christ the King. The Chapter, presided by Fr. General Schuette himself unaware, somehow saw a possible further development of Tagaytay.

A written vote was taken on the question of whether to move theology as well as philosophy. The count was 19 to 5 in favour of retaining theology at Christ the King and moving philosophy and the novitiate. "Now," said Fr. General, "we ought to stick to this as an overall plan. If at a later date we want to build theology at Tagaytay it will still remain a possibility, though the building will still fit there."

On 12 September 1963, the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, the first group. They were two professed brothers, 13 brother-novices, Father Muehi, the Novice Master and Father Smarzly, Procurator. This is how the House Chronicle described Tagaytay a quarter of a century ago:

It is a dead city for there are very few people living here and very few houses. Perhaps it’s because of banditry and “hold-ups” which have occurred not too infrequently in the past. However the place itself is famous for its cool climate - much cooler than Manila but milder than Baguio. Indeed, it is a place conducive to prayer, study, and meditation. And, perhaps, this is one of the reasons why it has been chosen as the seedbed of the Major Department of the Philippine SVD. Tagaytay City is also noted for its scenic spots, e.g., the panoramic, breath-taking view of Taal Lake with its famous volcano standing majestically in the midst.

On 7 November, 44 clerical-novices arrived in Tagaytay accompanied by Fr. Vicente Braganza, socius to the Novice Master, Father Joseph Bette. Fr. Alois Lehberger, the rector assumed his post on 4 July 1964. Officially appointed with Fr. Lehberger was Fr. Alphonse Mildner, the new Novice Master who would remain for 12 years.

The two visits by Father General Schuette during the summer of 1964 and the pro-Tagaytay sympathy of the new Provincial Heinemann definitively resolved the issue of the whole scholasticate coming to Tagaytay, i.e., theology and philosophy Fratres together. In a special meeting of the Provincial Council with Fr. General Schuette on 15 June 1964, it was mentioned that “the Generalate has received in the meantime letters urging the transfer of all scholastics, including theologians to Tagaytay.” An oral, open vote was taken by Fr. General: “All the members voted for the transfer of all scholastics, including theologians to Tagaytay.” As a consequence, Fr. General Schuette ordered the construction of a new building for theology, and a church “would have to be built as soon as possible." The philosophers left Christ the King on 6 July 1964. On 13 July, the theologians followed even though the scholasticate building was under construction. The House Chronicle records:

"The Novitiate building was so packed up that some fratres had to sleep along the corridors and corners of the house. The second building will only be habitable after a month or so."

Although classes had started a few days before, the High Mass in Honour of the Holy Spirit for the school year 1964-65 was sung only on 20 July. The SVD community at this time numbered 131, clerical novices included. By August 1964, all the theologians could move in to the philosophy building. The first ordination to the priesthood, of Reverends Raboy and Baral, took place on 7 December 1964 at Imus Cathedral.

At 3:30 in the morning of 28 September 1965, the Taal Volcano erupted. People woke up to the insistent ringing of the house-bell, and everybody jumped out of bed as the news of the explosion passed from room to room. There was a slight confusion on what to do. The sky was dark and lighted by occasional lightning and brilliant flashes from the exploding volcano. Many rushed to the road and looked down at the beautiful but grim sight.

On 13 August 1967, the Pope John XXIII Training Center was blessed in the presence of Bishop Casas of Imus and Dean Montemayor, founder and president of the Federation of Free Farmers. The beginnings of the center were rough and the reasons for its existence were hotly discussed. The Center was more than just a place; it symbolized the SVD scholastics’ involvement in social action which was held to be an integral part of religious missionary formation. Because the Generalate would not finance the construction of the Center, the scholastics held concerts to raise funds. The barrio apostolate was aimed at the creation of self-sufficient, independent Christian communities. The Fi’atres’ association with the Federation of Free Farmers led to the establishment of local chapters and in the çonscientization process of the farmers. The scholastics participated in demonstrations for and with the farmers. The 1,200-strong farmers’ cooperative (SMSK) in Tagaytay is one direct result of the education programmes of farmers conducted by the barrio apostolate.

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