The history of the seminary could very well have started with the existence of “Casa de Clerigos” in the Episcopal capital some time in the early part of the 18th century. It was located near the bank of a tributary of the Bicol River, in the site presently referred to as “Padian”. The word “Padian” was generally taken to mean as the place where priests are being made. Though the Casa de Clerigos served to train the diocesan clergy, it was not a conciliar seminary. It was some kind of an ecclesiastical college which assumed the task of training the diocesan clergy.
The transformation of the Casa de Clerigos into a conciliar seminary was the work of Bishops Antonio de Orbigo, OFM and his successor, Domingo de Collantes. “Seminario Conciliar de Caceres” was inaugurated on March 7, 1793, under the tutelage of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure.
However, not unlike the cathedral then was the building in which the seminary was housed. It was a wood and nipa made, combustible and non-durable, located in a swampy area. Bishop Bernardo de la Concepcion, OFM (1816-1829) then undertook to construct a consolidated religious center, where all ecclesiastical buildings – cathedral, bishop’s residence, seminary – would be grouped close to each other. Thus, in this period there arose a massive seminary building near the cathedral and the bishop’s residence somewhere close to its present site. This building was badly damaged by a typhoon in 1855 and again by fire five years later.
The construction of a new building was initiated by Bishop Francisco Gainza, O.P.(1862-1879) and was finished in 1865. This is the present building of the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary. Up until this point, the seminary structure, as organized by Bishop Collantes had the provisor and vicar general of the diocese as ex-officio rector. Its vice-rector was usually a Franciscan who taught Moral Theology and Liturgy. There were other teachers in Latin and Humanities who were at that time laymen.
On May 3, 1865, however, Bishop Gainza confided the direction and administration of the seminary to the Vincentian Fathers with Fr. Ildefonso Moran, C.M., as rector. The reorganized institution offered ecclesiastical as well as lay education and was for half a century the only center for higher learning in Luzon, south of Manila.
Bishop Arsenio Campo y Monasterio (1887-1903) geared the Seminary towards scholastic development. In 1892, the Seminario-Colegio was given recognition by the Spanish Government, placing it on equal level with the University of Santo Tomasin Manila. Thus, in the academic year 1897-1898 it had an unprecedented enrollment of 1,235.
Due to some lamentable consequences in vocations, the Seminario-Colegio system was abolished in 1925, limiting the seminary for candidates to the priesthood. Since then it came to be known as the Seminario del Santissimo Rosario.
The post-war years witnessed several changes in the organization of the seminary and even in the ecclesiastical structure of the diocese. By the middle of this century, the Diocese of Nueva Caceres was raised into an Archdiocese, with suffragan dioceses of Legazpi and Sorsogon. There was a significant increase in the number of vocations that although Legazpi and Sorsogon have founded their own minor seminaries, accommodation remained a perennial problem for the Holy Rosary Seminary. Later, Legazpi and Sorsogon would be able to house a philosophy department accommodating even the seminarians from the province of Masbate.
The problem however, remained. Thus on March 11, 1962, Cardinal Rufino Santos ofManila laid the cornerstone of a new seminary building at Concepcion Heights, three kilometers from the commercial center of Naga City, to house the Philosophy and Theology departments.
On August 10, 1964, a monument for a great man, Archbishop Pedro Santos ofCaceres, the Holy Rosary Major Seminary was blessed and inaugurated by Bishop Hernando Antiporda, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila and delegate of the Papal Nuncio,Bishop Carlo Martini, and Bishop Flaviano Ariola of Legazpi.
Thus the year 1964 marked the separation and division of the seminary. The old seminary became known as the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary and housed the high school students. After a century of administration by the Vincentian Fathers, it has now at the helm the diocesan clergy with Dominador Perez as its first diocesan rector and Concordio Sarte as the vice-rector. The Holy Rosary Major Seminary would remain for ten more years under the care of the Vincentians. By the school year 1974-75 it had Lucilo Quimbao for its first diocesan rector.
Due to a dearth of administrations and professors, the Bicol Bishops opted to regionalize the philosophy department of the Major Seminary. It will have to cater to all major seminarians from all over the Bicol Region. Thus, in the school year 1975-76, with the regionalization, came the same problems of accommodation, congestion and over-population. As a solution, the entire philosophy department was transferred to the Minor Seminary. But it was in vain. So in the next school year, the college department was divided as the immediate remedy to the problem. The first and second year classes remained at the minor seminary; the third and fourth year classes returned to the major seminary. It was also during this year that the Pre-College Formation Institute was established and housed at the Minor Seminary for the special training of late vocations.
Upon the assumption into office of His Grace Leonardo Z. Legaspi, O.P., D.D., as the third Archbishop of Caceres, the status of The Holy Rosary Major Seminary as an Archdiocesan seminary, not regional as planned before but never materialized, was clarified. As an Archdiocesan seminary it covers not only the seminarians of this Archdiocese but its doors are open as well to all dioceses comprising the Bicol Region.
At about this time, Sorsogon withdrew its seminarians. This and the fact thatArchbishop Teopisto Alberto constructed an annex building to the Major Seminary which became fully operative by the start of the school year 1984-1985, eased the problem of accommodation and brought back the entire philosophy department to the major seminary.
To honor some notable personages, the dormitories and halls of the Seminary were named after them. Thus, the annex building was called the “De Paul” building in honor of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the religious order which administered the seminary for the first ten years after its foundation. This building houses a dormitory, the Vianney Hall, named after the patron saint of the diocesan clergy, St. John Maria Baptist Vianney; and the Barlin Library, named after the first Filipino Bishop, an alumnus of the Holy Rosary Seminary. Other dormitories in the main building were named after former bishops of Caceres, namely, Reyes, Gainza,Sancho and Lladoc. The social hall was named after Archbishop Santos.
Prior to its twenty-fifth anniversary, the Holy Rosary Major Seminary saw several significant changes happen. In the school year 1987-1988, the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary stopped accepting entrants to its high school department. It will be exclusively a college seminary. Even the Pre-College Formation Institute was separated from it. The next school year saw the Pre-College men in their new home, the Holy Rosary Pre-College Seminary in San Jose, Camarines Sur. The transformation was completed in 1990. The school year opened to college seminarians only in the former Minor Seminary and the theologians in the Major Seminary.
On its silver jubilee year, the Holy Rosary Major Seminary produced its last batch of college graduates with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. Note here that henceforth, this degree will not be conferred on the graduates of the college seminary.
The Holy Rosary Major Seminary received a recognition fit to cap its years of hard work to be worthy of its glorious past. On March 24, 1990, its theology department was officially affiliated to the theologate of the University of Santo Tomas.
Henceforth, graduates of its theology department will be conferred the degree of Bachelor in Sacred Theology. It is a recognition of the capabilities of the major seminary manifested in its years of service.
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