History of the Our Lady of the Angels Seminary
The Franciscans (OFMs) have been in the Philippines for more than 400 years but it was only during the late 50s that they decided to build a major seminary.
In the beginning…
The first Franciscan missionaries in the Philippines were Spanish friars. They were working in Manila and in the Bicol region. They only had a minor seminary as the candidates studied philosophy and theology at the University of Sto. Thomas. The expulsion of missionaries from China in the late 40s and early 50s saw the coming of Italian and American friars. In response to the requests of the bishops for them to work in their dioceses, these new missionaries settled in Cagayan, Negros Oriental, Samar and Leyte. There were five Franciscan groups working then in the Philippines. Young men started to become attracted to their way of life and soon were asking to become Franciscans.
In Samar, there was a problem of where to train the Franciscan clerics who were nearing the completion of their novitiate year in 1959. It was the main concern of the friars in the Samar mission. Some proposed to send the Filipino clerics to the United States or to Japan for their philosophical and theological studies. However, the problem was when the Franciscans of Christ the King Monastery in Calbayog accepted the challenge to assume the heavy responsibility of training the clerics spiritually and intellectually. Hence, the first clericate in the Philippines in contemporary times was established in Calbayog, Samar in 1959. Classes opened with the school year in June and the first professors were: Fr. George Dubowski, Fr. Neal Kaminski, Fr. Pacific Linowski, Fr. Cantius Kobak, Mr. Eugenio Villanueva and Mr. Enrique Rueda. Fr. George Dubowski was the superior and Fr. Neal Kaminski was the master of clerics. The four cleric-philosophers were: Bro. Gabriel Bertos, Bro. Anthony Canales, Bro. Peter Mira and Bro. Bernard Fernando.
In the same year 1959, a general delegate was appointed to the Philippines by Augustine Sepinski, the minister general of the Franciscan Order, in the person of Fr. Aloysius-Ma. Contreras. Through his efforts, the clericate was transferred from Calbayog to Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, Makati on the sixth of June, 1960. Six clerics of the Calbayog Foundation joined the seven clerics of the Province of St. Gregory the Great of the Philippines. Fr. Florentino Delgado was the superior, Fr. Honorato Ybañez, the vicar, Fr. Neal Kaminski, the master of clerics, Fr. Antonino Sernagiotto, the vice- master of clerics and Fr. Myron Landolt. Brother Anthony Gancarz was also assigned to the monastery. The clerics took the majority of their classes at nearby San Carlos Seminary.
With the coming of three more student-friars from the Calbayog Foundation and another three from the Province of St. Gregory the Great, the number of student-friars rose to eighteen. This necessitated a bigger place for the theologate.
Fr. Contreras, being the general delegate, asked Rome for permission to purchase land and construct a major house of studies in the Manila area. The requests were readily granted and immediately plans were made. Land was purchased in the Novaliches area, about fifteen kilometers from the center of Manila.
On the 20th of October, 1961, Fr. Contreras together with the Franciscan Superiors of the Philippines, broke ground for the new major seminary of Our Lady of the Angels.
The importance and symbolism latent in that first shovel-full of earth lifted by the Delegate General, meant more than the enormous bites of the mechanical shovels which followed soon after. For the Franciscan Order in the Philippines, it meant the beginning of realizing its dream of having a new major seminary.
The following Franciscans took part in the ground breaking: Fr. Contreras himself; Fr. Florentino Delgado, provincial delegate of the Province of St. Gregory the Great of the Philippines; Fr. Humphrey Tobias, superior of the mission of the Assumption Province; Fr. Erwin Schoenstein, superior of the mission of Sta. Barbara; Fr. Patrick McCauley, superior of the mission of St. John the Baptist Province; Fr. Alejandro Carrascosa, Fr. Florentin Perez, Fr. Jose-Maria Barrulo, Fr. Neal Kaminski, Fr. Antonino Sernagiotto, Fr. V. Musconi, Fr. Myron Landolt, Fr. Silvestre Murillo, Fr. Segundino Blanco. Also present were sixteen clerics and Bro. A. Gancarz and Bro. D. Rippens. Thirty-two friars were present. After the ground-breaking ceremonies was the blessing of the well.
Why is the seminary named after the Our Lady of the Angels? Saint Francis of Assisi loved a little place called Portiuncula where a chapel was built in honor of the Virgin Mary. In this chapel, the Order of Friars Minor had its beginning. Francis loved this place above all others this place. He commanded his brothers to venerate with a special reverence; this place, he willed to be preserved as a model of humility and highest poverty. He experienced how endowed with many fruitful graces this place is. He witnessed this chapel of the Blessed Mother visited by angels. Therefore, he often said to his brothers: “See to it, my sons, that you never abandon this place. If you are driven out from one side, go back in at the other. For this place is truly holy and the dwelling place of God. Here, when we were but a few, the Most High gave us increase; here he enlightened the hearts of his poor ones by the light of his wisdom; here he set our wills afire with the fire of his love. Here he who prays with a devout heart will obtain what he pray for and he who offends will be punished more severely. Wherefore, my sons, consider this dwelling place of God to be worthy of all honor and with all your heart, with the voice of joy and praise, give glory to God in this place.”
By the middle of June, 1962, the new seminary was ready for occupancy. The transfer from Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, to the new seminary was done with great excitement. Along with Fr. Contreras were nine priests and one layman in the faculty. They were Fr. Neal Kaminski, superior; Fr. Apolinar Pastrana, vicar; Fr. Carmelo Paludetti, Fr. Brice Mulroy, Fr. Mel Brady, prefect of studies, Fr. Canute Rockenstein, master of clerics; Fr. Bruce Malina, procurator. Fr. Eloy Lopez came all the way from VOT, Sampaloc, Manila to teach Gregorian chant and music. Meanwhile plans for the seminary chapel and faculty wing were in the drawing board.
With the coming of another two student-friars this time from the Negros Foundation, the student population rose to twenty. Two brothers also came to help in the maintenance of the seminary.
On the 10th of September 1962 another Franciscan priest for the faculty, Fr.Cayetano Sanchez, and six student-friars arrived from Spain to join the community.
In October 1962, the lay seminarian’s department in college began. During this first year of operation, the Capuchin scholastics attended classes at OLAS.
On the 12th of February, 1963, the general minister of the Order, Fr. Augustine Sepinksi, came to bless the seminary. The provincials of the five Franciscan regional communities in the Philippines (or their representatives) came to attend the ceremonies. Not only the blessing of the seminary was the biggest gathering of Franciscans ever held in the Philippines, but it was also the first time in history that a general minister, the direct successor of St. Francis of Assisi came to the Far East in its more than 700 years of existence. Incidentally, the Franciscans had been working in the Philippines since 1578.
In the school year 1963 the first group of college seminarians was admitted to the seminary. Meanwhile, work continued at the seminary. The construction of the concrete wall around the seven-hectare lot began. The roads inside the seminary were constructed. The ground was improved; trees were planted; flower and vegetable gardens were cultivated. Turkeys, ducks, geese, chickens, hogs and cows were raised, supplying the seminary with eggs and meat.
On the 6th of January, 1964, the construction of the second wing started and upon completion was blessed by Rufino Cardinal Santos of the Archdiocese of Manila on the 8th of December. Ever since, the building housed the faculty members, the theologians, the additional classrooms, the library and the visiting and counseling parlors. Meanwhile in August the college course of bachelor of arts in philosophy was formally recognized by the Bureau of Private Schools. The classrooms were used for the first time on the 15th of November.
Spiritual direction, as well as counseling was generously provided by experienced Franciscan priests. Recreational facilities were not wanting either. Aside from the concrete basketball, handball, volleyball-tennis courts, the seminarians and the student-friars had their respective recreation rooms where, after the wear and tear of studies and work, they retired to refresh and rest themselves in order to have always a "mens sana in corpore sano."
As an apostolate, the seminary took active part in the spiritual and catholic formation of the people nearby. The student-friars accompanied the priests to the neighboring barrios on Sundays and holydays to act as commentators, lectors while teaching the people how to take a more active part in the liturgical celebration through songs. The friars formed the Secular Franciscan Order this year.
The school year 1964-65 saw the joining of the Blessed Sacrament seminarians to the OLAS student body. They lived, however, in their house at San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.
In 1968 another general minister, Fr. Constantine Koser made a short visit to the Philippines and stayed for the most part at OLAS.
In the opening of school year 1968-69, the theologate was transferred to Tagaytay with residence and studies at the Divine Word Seminary. Fr. Clement Vogt was director of theologians. The non-clerical brothers’ formation center was transferred to OLAS from the San Pascual Baylon House in Baybay, Leyte with Fr. Madian Schneider and Bro. Philip Wilhelm as director and vice-director respectively.
In May 1969, when the novitiate which was usually made after two years of college was temporarily closed, OLAS adopted the policy of letting the candidates finish college before entering the novitiate.
In 1970 the five Franciscan entities consolidated into vicariate with Fr. Silvestre Murillo, as the vicar and Fr. Bernard Fernando as pro-vicar. The announcement was made at OLAS by the outgoing general delegate. Then the filipinization process of OLAS began to take root upon appointment of Fr. Bernardine Leones as superior. He succeeded Fr. Erwin Schoenstein who was appointed master of novices with residence at San Francisco del Monte. Fr. Bernard Fernando succeeded Fr. Cayetano Sanchez as rector. Fr. Franco Mendiola and Fr. Roberto Bayaras and later on Fr. Antonio Ma. Rosales joined the faculty.
A third religious group, the Calced Carmelites, joined the college department in the school year 1970-71. The following year, the Claretians took the same move. Seminarians from the diocese of Imus began to be part of the resident candidates beginning school year 1972-73.
In 1973 OLAS was the site of the plenary council meeting held in April. The meeting decided among others the continuation of OLAS as college and the bringing down of theology back to OLAS. Incidentally, the college courses included behavioral sciences sociology and comparative religion.
Fr. Hugh Zurat assumed office as superior of OLAS as Fr. Bernardine took, on his office as superior of the vicarial house in Sampaloc, Manila. Fr. Murillo was re-appointed vicar with Fr. Bienvenido Baisas as pro-vicar. The latter assumed the rectorship of OLAS as Fr. Bernard became the director of lay students.
Beginning June 1974, the theology department was reopened at OLAS. All the Franciscan students, enrolled at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay, were brought down to finish their ecclesiastical courses here. The Calced Carmelites joined the Franciscan group in this venture. The Claretians had one student.
Another building was constructed to serve as the library and auditorium. It was finished before the school year 1975 began. The former library in the basement of the theology wing was converted into recreation facilities for daily interaction among the perpetually professed friars, professors and students. Due to the increase in population, one classroom in the theology wing was converted into the dining room of the residents and students of the theology department. Meanwhile, the Franciscan brothers’ formation center moved to Cebu City.
The diocese of Calbayog started sending some of their college students
to OLAS since 1974-75. It pulled them out, however, two years later.
The Claretians did the same thing. Thus, at the start of school year
1976-77, the college department was frequented only by Carmelite and
Franciscan seminarians, whereas the ecclesiastical department had students
from the same religious groups and from the dioceses of Catarman and
School year 1975-76 saw the birth of the field education program of OLAS funded at the beginning by Missio of Germany. It provided exposure programs for the student-friars to real-life situations to help them acquire and develop pastoral leadership skills. Meanwhile, a handful of OLAS student-friars started to live in Bagong Barrio, a slum area of Caloocan. That Baganyuhay (or Bagong Anyo ng Buhay) community attempted to contextualize Franciscan lifestyle. It ended, however, when the members were all ordained as priests and no student-friar opted for a similar life experience.
In late January 1976, OLAS played host to the concluding celebrations of the one-month seminar of Asian formators and the one-week meeting of the Asian major superiors, attended by the Franciscan general minister, Constantin Koser. Once again in late March and early April 1976, OLAS became the seat of the second vicarial chapter.
In 1977, the 3 hectare lot in front of the OLAS buildings was sold to a sisters’ congregation.
Sometime in 1979, the poultry adjacent to the machine shop was transformed into the La Verna House of Prayer. For a while, it served as a venue for recollections and a house of personal prayer. In 1982, this house became the residence of some student- friars who wanted to live in a non-seminary atmosphere.
In 1985, the seminary started the celebration of the Passover Seder, a Jewish celebration with Christian coloring.
In response to the more relevant Franciscan formation, the seminary started, in June 1986, the phase-out process for the theology department to give way to the Franciscan formation program which emphasized the common formation for all the Franciscan candidates, clerical and non-clerical. Since then, too, the seminary had for the first time in its history a Franciscan brother for its superior whom the Franciscan friars call guardian or local minister.
In April 1987, fund raising for the major repairs and improvements of OLAS buildings began in view of its 25th anniversary. A year after, the refectory was enlarged. Now, it can accommodate all the students, professors and formators of both wings. Both the college and theology wings and auditorium were repainted. The blessing of the renovated buildings took place on OLAS Day itself, the feast of St. Mary of the Angels, on the 2nd of August, 1988.
With the adaption of the ICTC (or Inter-Congregational Theological Centre) as part of the Franciscan formation of post-novitiate candidates, the use of the theology wing by the student-friars was minimized. However, together with their Carmelite and Redemptorist classmates, they occupied the place from time to time for orientations, evaluations, processings and classes.
Two groups of student-friars -the KASAMA and the KAPANALIG were integrated with urban poor communities. KASAMA started in Sauyo in 1989. A year later, it transferred to a better community in Krus na Ligas, UP Diliman. KAPANALIG began in Bago Bantay in 1990. The community rented a house which enabled the student-friars to have better interaction with the people. A third filial house, the KAPANATA, which was formerly attached to the provincial house became a post-novitiate formation house. Its original location was at 1199 EDSA but it was later transferred to Visayas Avenue, Tandang Sora. Due to the lack of a formator, it ceased to be a formation house and merged with KAPANALIG at the beginning of school year 1991.
The same year saw the coming of the SOLT college seminarians (Society of Our Lady of the Trinity) including their formators. To add manpower, the SOLT agreed to hire two laborers, one to work in the kitchen and the other in the laundry. OLAS also accepted seminarians from the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija to stay as interns. Also in 1991, OLAS opened its doors to male non-seminarians from the Novaliches area.
In April 1993, OLAS opened its graduate school program offering master of arts in pastoral ministry and master of arts in theology for the Redemptorists, the Carmelites and the Franciscans themselves. In the same year, the posts of the theology building underwent repairs as they showed some cracks. It was a way to ensure the safety of the occupants.
In 1995, OLAS started to accept diocesan seminarians as boarders while studying at other theological schools. On the same year, the construction of the covered court was completed.
In the school year 2000, OLAS accepted women as full time students of OLAS on an experimental basis. They belong to the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
The latest structure to be built was the Rieti House. It is a retirement
home of the elderly and sick friars. Work started in June 2000 and by
January 2001 it was ready for occupancy. Bro. Clete Riederer, Fr. Bede
Clancy, Fr. Bertram Tiemeyer and Bro. Gus Frazchzak were the first occupants.
In terms of justice and peace, OLAS supports cause-oriented groups. On certain occasions and if their help is solicited, the friars and seminarians join these groups’ mobilizations. In times of natural disasters like the killer quake in 1990, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and the flood in Ormoc, the seminarians spearheaded the solicitation of funds and relief goods at the nearby subdivisions.
OLAS students are taught manual labor. They have gardening as a part of their school requirements. They cultivate a vegetable garden. One time they cultured mushrooms. Any surplus in the production of mushrooms, pechay and other farm products are given free or sold at a very low price to the OLAS workers or given to the poor nearby.
The seminarians planted g-melina trees around the seminary’s perimeters. OLAS also enjoys the benefits provided by tall narra, mahogany, acacia, ipil-ipil, fir, butterfly and fruit bearing trees planted in the early and middle 70’s.
In terms of arts and culture, OLAS has produced talented friars like Fr. Antonio Ma. Rosales, Fr. Andres Ranoa, Fr. Generoso Pastidio, Fr. Cielo Almazan, Fr. Romeo Floralde, Rev. Calvin Bugho, and Fr. Chris Tibong, renaissance men all. A compilation of their original compositions, KUMPAS OLAS Volume 1, was released in the late 80’s. It was followed by 12 records cut by the Franciscan Dream Chorale, the seminary’s Schola Cantorum and other choir groups. Soon the second volume of KUMPAS OLAS will be released. More albums will be produced.
In terms of live performances, OLAS has produced many great shows like “Everyman ‘70,” “Rock Praises to the Lord ‘73,” “Give Peace a Chance ‘74,” “Francis: Minor Star ‘76,” “Frank Ass ‘78” “Jacob ‘80,” “Francisco: Kapatid ng Sansinukob ‘81,” “Pagsambang Bayan ‘85,” “Anamnesis ‘88” and “Scribes, Heralds, Troubadors ‘91.” OLAS spearheaded the inter-Franciscan celebration “Transitus” for the Great Jubilee Year 2000 in Luneta.
OLAS cultivated the talents of the famous church personalities who are known in the television and radio like Fr. Archie Guiriba, Fr. Anton Pascual and Fr. Eric Santos. Fr. Andres Rañoa and Fr. Baltazar Obico take turns in celebrating Sunday TV masses.
In forty years, Filipino and foreign priests and brothers have graduated from the seminary. Through these years, OLAS has accepted as students seminarians and sisters from Capuchins (OFMCap), Conventuals (OFMConv.), Claretians (CMF), Carmelites (O.Carm), Blessed Sacrament Fathers and Sisters (SSS), Augustinian Sisters (OSA), Oblates of Mary (OMI), Schönstat Fathers, Society of the Our Lady of the Trinity (SOLT), Missionaries of Faith (MF), Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Spirit (FSHS) as well as from the dioceses of Imus, Lipa, Manila, San Pablo, Malolos, Cabanatuan, Tarlac, Alaminos, San Jose, Capiz, Palo, Sorsogon and Calbayog. A number of Secular Franciscans (SFO) and lay people from the neighboring parishes also have taken some theological and scriptural and academic courses at OLAS.
Still to graduate are some of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Spirit (FSHS) of Fr. Archie Guiriba, some members of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (MSBS), the candidates of the Oblate Apostles of the Two Hearts (OATH), Franciscans of Our Lady of the Poor (FLP), Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception and Xaverian Missionaries (SX).
The seminary has served as a venue for meetings, congresses, recollections, retreats and workshop-seminars of urban workers, laborers, students and members of other religious groups. It has been host to many important gatherings and meetings of the Franciscans in the Philippines.
God bless OLAS.
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