San Carlos Seminary - History


San Carlos Seminary, the Royal, Conciliar, and Archdiocesan Seminary of Manila, was the first diocesan seminary established in the Philippines. In 1562, the Council of Trent decreed that every bishop should establish in his diocese a center of clerical education which would serve as a seedbed of the diocesan clergy. In 1581, Bishop Domingo Salazar, OP, decreed the establishment of a seminary to prepare the indigenous natives for the priesthood and for ecclesiastical dignities. Even if, in spite of several attempts, his dream could not crystallize until a century and a quarter later, the church and the state did what the poverty of the colony and other adverse circumstances would allow as a provisional solution. Colleges where ecclesiastical and religious native vocations might be fostered were founded, from the beginnings of the 17th century onwards: Colegio de San Jose (1601) of the Jesuits, Colegio de Sto. Tomas (1611) of the Dominicans, Colegio de San Juan de Letran and Colegio de San Pedro y San Pablo (1632). Although these Colegios fostered training for future priests, a diocesan seminary was still needed.

In 1592, King Philip II of Spain enjoined that the pertinent decree of Trent be implemented in the “Indies.” He ordered all archbishops and bishops of the Indies to found and support seminaries decreed by the Council of Trent for the formation of a local (native) clergy.

Since the Philippines was then under the “Patronato Real” system, on April 28, 1702, King Philip V of Spain ordered the establishment of a seminary in Manila for eight seminarians. However, this plan was modified by Abbe Giovanni Battista Sidoti, an Italian priest accompanying Archbishop Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon, papal legate to Peking, on the way to China. He worked for the erection in Manila of an Asian regional seminary for seventy-two seminarians of the Far East, with the approval of Archbishop Diego Camacho y Avila. The seminary was named Real Colegio Seminario de San Clemente in honor of Pope Clement XI. Having learned of the development, the King ordered the closure and demolition of the seminary building, the execution of his original plan, and the transfer of Archbishop Camacho to Mexico.

From 1702 to 1730, the seminarians took their courses of philosophy and theology at the Colegio de San Jose and Colegio de Sto. Tomas. The number of seminarians increased several times.

On December 8, 1707, Archbishop Francisco de la Cuesta, O.S.H., Camacho’s successor, opened the seminary. In 1715, he renamed the seminary to Real Seminario de San Felipe in honor of the King’s patron saint. It was located in front of his palace in Intramuros.

In 1728, Archbishop Carlos Bermudez de Castro had a dispute with the governor-general over his right to nominate professors in San Felipe. He argued that the seminary was an ecclesiastical institution to be administered by the archbishop in conformity with the decrees of the Council of Trent and the laws of the Indies. His successor, Archbishop Juan Angel Rodriguez, O.S.T., continued de Castro’s fight over the archbishop’s right to guide the seminary. However, the civil authorities, under the pretext of Patronato Real, rebuffed them.

The impetus for a review of how the “Patronato Real” administered the seminary came when Bishop Miguel Lino de Espeleta of Cebu became acting governor-general of the Philippines from 1759 to 1761. He insisted that the royal treasury pay its obligations to the seminary which amounted to 54,000 pesos from 1705 to 1759. The royal treasury had committed 1,200 pesos for the yearly maintenance of the seminary. Hence, during the 54 years of the seminary, the royal contribution to the seminary averaged only 200 pesos a year.

The British invasion in 1762 dispersed the seminarians. It was only on January 25, 1768 that the seminary was re-opened by Archbishop Basilio Sancho de Santa Justa y Rufina, naming it Colegio Seminario Ecclesiastico de Manila. It was placed under the royal patronage of King Charles II. On November 16, 1778, the King ordered a visitation of the seminary. As a result, reforms were instituted, and the magnificent buildings of the expelled Jesuits, the Church and Colegio de San Ignacio were assigned to the diocesan seminary. For some thirty years (1784–1817), the Colegio de San Jose and the diocesan seminary, which began to be called in 1786 as Real Seminario Conciliar de San Carlos in honor of the King, existed side by side. San Carlos was located from 1784 to 1880 on Real de Palacio St. (now General Luna Street) and Calle Escuela (now Victoria Street).

The Congregation of the Mission (C.M.), familiarly known as Vincentian Fathers, took charge over the seminary on August 2, 1862, under the patronage of Queen Isabella II and with the support of Archbishop Gregorio Meliton Martinez de Santa Cruz. Fr. Gregorio Velasco, CM became the first Vincentian Rector of the conciliar Seminary.

Earthquakes in 1852, 1863, and 1880 damaged the Church of San Ignacio and the seminary building itself. Following the last earthquake, the Vincentians temporarily moved their charges to their Casa del Ocampo at 959 San Marcelino Steet (1880–1883).

In 1883, Archbishop Pedro Payo, O.P. constructed a new seminary building between the new Jesuit church of San Ignacio and the Archbishop’s property on Arzobispo Street. The building was rented in 1925 by the Ateneo de Manila and was called “Patio de San Javier.” At present, it is the quarters for the employees of the Intramuros guest house of the archdiocese.

In 1897, the seminary was installed in a new building built under the direction of Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda. It occupied a whole block bordered by Beaterio, Anda, and Real de Palacio (Gen. Luna) Streets. The seminary stayed in this building for only a year (1897–1898). With the advent of the revolution, the Archbishop ordered its closure. The building, for a while leased by the Americans, became known as St. Paul’s Hospital, under the charge of St. Paul de Chartres Sisters and later of the Maryknoll Sisters.

Between the years 1900–1911, the seminary existed in an old building along Arzobispo Street beside the new San Ignacio Church. On May 20, 1905, the administration of the seminary was turned over by the American Archbishop Jeremiah Harty to the Jesuits. This arrangement under the Jesuits lasted for only six years until August 17, 1911. In the next two years, San Carlos was fused with Seminario de San Javier (the name given by the Jesuits, upon their return to the Philippines, to Colegio de San Jose) on Padre Faura Street. The few seminarians then went to San Javier for their studies until 1913, when San Javier was closed.

For economic reasons, on May 19, 1913, Archbishop Harty decided to transfer seminarians to a renovated building in Mandaluyong, which was constructed by the Augustinians in 1716 and had been abandoned since around 1900. In June 1913, the Vincentians were again put in charge of the seminary. The seminary’s name in honor of San Carlos Borromeo became by then definite.

In 1927, to separate the major seminarians from the minor seminarians, San Carlos was again housed at Casa de Ocampo in San Marcelino (in the grounds of Adamson University). In 1936, due to the construction of a new building in San Marcelino, the major seminarians joined the minor seminarians in Mandaluyong. The following years, San Carlos Seminary went back to San Marcelino in the newly constructed Central House of the Vincentian Fathers. In 1941, the major and minor seminarians were again reunited in Mandaluyong. The Second World War closed the seminary. By 1946, everyone was back in Mandaluyong.

In 1916, Archbishop Harty was succeeded by Michael O’Doherty, who administered the archdiocese until 1949. Cebu Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes, who became Manila’s first Filipino local ordinary in 1949, planned and ordered the construction of the new San Carlos Seminary at Makati. In 1951, he blessed the cornerstone for the new building of San Carlos Seminary in Guadalupe, Makati along Highway 54 (now Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA).

Archbishop Reyes died in October 1952. On January 24, 1953, Thomas Norman Gilroy, Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney and papal legate to the First Plenary Council of the Philippines, blessed the new building. The Manila seminarians and professors transferred from Mandaluyong to the new San Carlos Seminary to begin the school year 1953–1954. The new seminary building was constructed to house the major and minor seminarians of the Archdiocese of Manila (Pampanga was still included). The right wing would be occupied by the minor seminarians and the left wing by the major seminarians. In the middle of the building is the common chapel and in the basement, the refectory.

In 1951, the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (C.I.C.M., known as the Belgian or Scheut Fathers) had been asked by Rome to take up the formation of the seminarians in Lipa, where Bishop Rufino J. Santos, D.D., (to become Manila’s archbishop in 1953 and the first Filipino cardinal in 1960) was then the administrator of the diocese. On June 10, 1953, it was announced that the C.I.C.M. Fathers would take over the administration of San Carlos Seminary from the Vincentians and that the major seminarians (theology and philosophy) of Lipa would join the Manila seminarians in San Carlos. The transfer took place on the June 15 and 16 and on June 25, the new school year started with the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

In 1955, the minor seminarians were then separated from the philosophers and theologians of San Carlos Seminary. They transferred to the newly erected minor seminary under the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary, which was blessed on August 22, 1955. It was located a block away from San Carlos Seminary in the direction of the Pasig River.

In 1973, Cardinal Santos turned over the seminary administration from the C.I.C.M. Fathers to the diocesan priests led by Fr. Oscar Cruz, who later became Auxiliary Bishop of Manila in 1976. The cardinal died on September 3, 1973.

On March 19, 1974, Archbishop Jaime Lachica Sin of Jaro, Iloilo, later to be elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1976, was installed archbishop of Manila. With a vision for a unified formation of the candidates to the priesthood and of the laity, Cardinal Sin added new structures within the grounds of the old San Carlos Seminary in Manila.

Manila auxiliary bishop Protacio Gungon succeeded Bishop Cruz as rector in 1978. Two years later, Most Rev. Gaudencio Rosales, who would later become Archbishop of Manila became rector. In 1982, Msgr. Ramon Arguelles succeeded Rosales, and was rector for the next four years. The seminary vice-rector, Msgr. Francisco De Leon, began his five-year feat as rector in 1986.

The construction of the new building of the San Carlos Graduate School of Theology and the Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes Memorial Library began in 1985, and they were completed and blessed by Cardinal Sin and Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal on June 29, 1987. In that same year, the two-winged edifice for the Holy Apostles Senior Seminary (HASS) and the San Lorenzo Ruiz Lay Formation Center (or LayForce) was constructed. The Lorenzo Mission Institute (LMI), aimed at forming priestly candidates for the missions to the Chinese communities was built in 1989. In 1990, Bahay-Pari, a house for priests, was put up for the ongoing formation, physical rest and spiritual rejuvenation for the Manila clergy. On March 13, 1995, the cornerstone of the Holy Apostles’ Senior Seminary was laid to give way to the full-swing formation of the laity at the Layforce Building.

Msgr. Crisostomo Yalung, then vice-rector of the Lorenzo Mission Institute, became San Carlos’ new rector in 1991. Upon his elevation as auxiliary bishop of Manila in 1994, he was succeeded as rector by Msgr. Allen Aganon. Msgr. De Leon returned as rector in 1998, and three years later, he was transferred to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy in Mandaluyong City.

Msgr. Jesus-Romulo Rañada, parish priest of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish in Quezon City, was designated as new rector in June 2001. His term covered the school year 2001–2002. On August 9, 2002, he was installed parish priest of the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Good Shepherd in Fairview, Quezon City (at present, the Cathedral-Shrine of the Good Shepherd of the Diocese of Novaliches). On June 11, 2002, Fr. Edwin Mercado, who was then the executive director of the Lay Formation Center, was installed rector.

Upon Jaime Cardinal Sin’s retirement in 2003, a new, cultured church of Manila was witnessed as five new dioceses were carved out to respond to the surging pastoral needs of the present time, namely, the dioceses of Novaliches, Parañaque, Pasig, Kalookan, and Cubao. Sin’s successor was a former rector of the seminary, Lipa Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, who was installed as archbishop on November 21, 2003. Like Sin, Rosales was elevated to the College of Cardinals, which took place on March 24, 2006. Cardinal Sin, who have been known through the entire years of his ministry for his gratuitous support and concern for the seminary, died on June 21, 2005.

Since June 1, 2008, Msgr. Hernando Coronel, former rector of the Manila Cathedral, and also former secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, is the present father of the institution.

Most Rev. Luis Antonio Tagle, then Bishop of Imus, was named Archbishop of Manila on October 13, 2011. Known as Fr. Chito to San Carlos as he used to be a Professor at the Theology Department from 1982 to 1985, Archbishop Tagle continues the vision of his predecessor, Cardinal Rosales, to uplift and deepen the formation program of the seminarians through regular pastoral and theological updating and strengthening the seminary's thrust in human formation of the seminarians. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on November 24, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Some of the historic events that took place in San Carlos Seminary were the following: the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (January 20 to February 17, 1991); the Sixth Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (January 10–19, 1995); the grace-filled visit of Pope John Paul II (January 15, 1995); the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (January 20–27, 2001); and the Second National Rural Congress (July 7–8, 2008).

Through the years, the seminary has produced many dedicated and zealous men who have served for the mission of the Church. Some of San Carlos Seminary's distinguished alumni are GOMBURZA priests Mariano Gomez and Jacinto Zamora, priest-martyrs who became inspiration for Philippine independence during Spanish times, Rufino Santos, the first Filipino Cardinal, Ricardo Vidal, Cardinal Archbishop of Cebu, Bishop Nereo Odchimar, the newly-elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and many bishops and priests who dedicatedly served the Church.

The seminary is considered a national architectural heritage, since its architect during the building construction of 1951 to 1952 is Juan Nakpil, National Artist for Architecture.

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