Divine Word Seminary

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Divine Word Seminary
Tagaytay City
the Seminary's Chapel
Motto Witness to the Word!
Established 1933, transferred to Tagaytay in 1963
Type Catholic, religious seminary
Affiliation Society of the Divine Word, DWEA, CEAP, Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome
Rector Fr. Michael Layugan, SVD
Dean Fr. Randolf Flores, SVD
Students 233
Location Tagaytay City, Cavite, PhilippinesPhilippines
Campus 1
Colors blue
Nickname DWST
Website www.divinewordseminary.com
locator map of Tagaytay City

The Divine Word Seminary-Tagaytay (DWST) is a school of theology owned and administered by the Society of the Divine Word (Latin, Societas Verbi Divini or SVD) in Tagaytay, Cavite, the Philippines. It is a mission seminary whose primary purpose is to prepare missionaries for both the Philippine and foreign missions. Its students are mostly seminarians preparing for the Priesthood, and come from a cluster of around 14 autonomous affiliated houses of formation.

DWST offers the following degrees: (1) a four-year Theology course; (2) Sacrae Theologiae Baccalaureus or S.T.B. – diploma comes from Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome; (3) M. A. in Theology; (4) A.B. in Theology; and (5) Certificate in Theological Studies directed mainly to the laity.

DWST also hosts a house of formation for the SVD-Philippines—the SVD Scholasticate.


The Plan to Transfer To Tagaytay[edit]

With the idea of decongesting Christ the King Seminary, the Provincial Council sent the father provincial to scout a piece of land for sale in Cavite in 1954. The initial transfer to the proposed site would, however, involve neither the minor seminarians nor the theologians but the novices. The purchase of a 65-hectare land was effected in the middle of January 1957. In April 1957, then Superior General Aloisius Grosse-Kappenberg commanded that the “two departments must be separated, and that immediately.” The Provincial Chapter of December 1957, by a vote of 17 to 8, resolved that “the major department should leave the present Christ the King.” The following year, October 12, Kappenberg’s successor, Superior General John Schuette, decided to sell the 65-hectare land in Alfonso and recommended the purchase of a piece of land, between 13 to 15 hectares, in Tagaytay, 15 kilometers from Alfonso. Schuette’s recommendation was approved four months later in 1959 by the Generalate with an accompanying sum of ₧100,000 as a contribution towards the purchase. Which department, finally, to transfer?

With a push from Schuette, a decision was arrived at in the Provincial Chapter of 1963. A number of capitulars airing reservations voted 19 against 5 “in favor of retaining theology at Christ the King, and of moving out philosophy and novitiate as a unit.” Schuette, who was presiding at the chapter and who seemed to see the future better than the 19 capitulars, suggested that “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.” This initial decision did not prevail for long.

While lack of space in Christ the King was the original and most weighty reason to transfer, Rector Fr. Alphonse Mildner added as another reason the deterioration in discipline. Exaggerating a bit, he wrote the General: “The biggest seminary in the Far East and the worst in discipline, both in the minor and the major department… We have no more the best spirit in the major department.” An American confrere and professor, Fr. Bernard Telenko, added his two-piece advice: a stay of 10 to 14 years in one place is too long and the socializing with the opposite sex of scholastics excessive. The confreres agreed with Fr. Joseph Bette, the novice master, who was living with only one lung: “die Ruhe, die Kuehle, die Atmosphaere makes for an ideal place.” The argument that Manila offered excellent schools with top professors could be debunked “provided that the Society takes real care and interest in the seminary.”

On March 9, 1963, Schuette erected canonically the mission house in Tagaytay, and on March 12 the novitiate. The Holy Spirit was named patron of the seminary.

In Tagaytay: The First Days[edit]

On September 12, 1963, a Thursday and the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, the first group of pioneers arrived. They were two professed brothers; thirteen brother novices; Fr. Leo Muehl, their novice master; and Fr. August Smarzly, procurator. The house chronicler described Tagaytay some forty years 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.

The 44 clerical novices who arrived on November 7, 1963 were accompanied by Fr. Jose Vicente Braganza, socius to the novice master, Fr. Bette. Fr. Alois Lehberger, the in-coming and first rector, would assume his post on July 4, 1964. Officially appointed with Lehberger was Mildner, the new novice master. He would remain in office for twelve years. On June 15, 1964, Schuette and the Provincial Council voted viva voce for the transfer of all scholastics to Tagaytay, and ordered the construction of a new building for theology and that a church “would have to be built as soon as possible.” The philosophers left Christ the King on July 6, 1964. The week after, on Monday (July 13), the theologians followed suit even though the scholasticate building was under construction. All stayed jam-packed at the new novitiate building before transferring to the philosophy (Janssen) building in August 1964. The Tagaytay community then numbered 131 in all, clerical novices included. The first ordination to the priesthood, of Rev. Benjamin Raboy and Rev. Fernando Baral, took place on December 7, 1964 at Imus Cathedral.

Scholastics and Social Involvement[edit]

On August 13, 1967, the Pope John XXIII Training Center, now the postulancy, was blessed in the presence of Bp. Artemio Casas of Imus and Dean Jeremias 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 questioned. “Is the undertaking,” volunteered the treasurer general in Rome, “not a big bother for Tagaytay?” Understandably, seminary professors and formators also aired their reservations but, by and large, acknowledging the rationale of their young charges, allowed them with fatherly caution. Fr. Manfred Müller offered ₧38,388 for the construction of the center. On their own, the scholastics helped raise funds by holding concerts. Fr. Caloy Rodriguez, now a Trappist monk in the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky, used to sport cowboy clothes and to belt cowboy songs. 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. Human progress and development, after all, are not alien to the Church’s mission to transform the world. The barrio apostolate aimed at the creation of self-sufficient, independent Christian communities. The fratres’ association with the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) led not only to the establishment of local chapters and in the conscientization process of the farmers. They joined demonstrations for and with farmers. They linked with cause-oriented groups.

Rallies were directed against government malpractices and abuses against privileged oligarchs. In one mass protest against an extravagant wedding anniversary celebration where jetsetters and the Manila elite mingled, the police drove the scholastics with truncheon and water hose. Fr. Briggs Odtohan recalls a memorable bukol on his head. Edicio de la Torre, Charlie Avila, Max de Mesa, and Conrado Balweg were names identified with street rallies. The school year 1973 – 1974 produced the biggest ordinations in 50 years: 22 new SVDs. It must ultimately be said that the 1970s ushered in the glory days of the scholastics’ history of social involvement; the 1970s are justly the glory days of Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay (DWST).

An SVD Seminary or a Consortium[edit]

It was not unforeseen, in fact, not unexpected, that Divine Word Seminary located in scenic Tagaytay would evolve into something more, like into a central seminary. Casas expressed a desire for the SVDs to take over the diocese’s minor seminary and to send his major seminarians to Tagaytay. Bp. Alejandro Olalia of Lipa was of the same intent and willing to put up a formation house nearby. Bp. Wilhelm Duschak of the Vicariate of Calapan procured a three-hectare land for a formation and resthouse for the vicariate’s diocesan seminarians and priests. The Superior General was “out and out” for it. Other bishops, according to Duschak, have similarly shown an interest in the project and the Papal Nuncio is “fire and flame for a central seminary in Tagaytay.”

The dream of a common seminary failed to create a consortium of member religious congregations with shared authority and responsibility; instead, DWST developed into a cluster of autonomous affiliated houses of formation: eleven congregations and three from the diocesan clergy. They are the Clerks Regular of Somasca (CRS), Fil-Mission Seminary (MSP), Congregation of Jesus and Mary (CJM), Oblates of Saint Joseph (OSJ), St. Augustine Major Seminary (SASMA), St. Lawrence of Brindisi House of Studies (OFM Cap), San Pablo Theological Formation House (SP), Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME), Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol (TMP), Religious Tertiary Capuchins of Our Lady of Sorrows (Amigonians), Servants of the Paraclete, Society of the Divine Saviour (SDS), Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and a couple of lay auditors. The seminary is conducting presently a special program, the Certificate for Theological Studies, directed mainly to the laity.

Divine Word Seminary in Numbers[edit]

In its first 25 years of theology (1964 – 1989), Divine Word Seminary counted 690 graduates from the 4-year ecclesiastical course: 312 SVDs, 241 of the diocesan clergy, and 137 from various congregations and religious houses. In the next 25 years (1989 – 2014), the seminary graduated 954 students—264 more than the last 25 years. The SVDs numbered 244, less by 68 compared to the previous 25 years. The diocesan graduates experienced a perceptive increase from 259 to 500. The religious congregations still enjoyed a good figure of 183. In short, the last 50 years of Divine Word Seminary graduated 1,644 fourth year graduates; the presumption is that most, if not all, became priests. Of the 556 SVDs, 127 are presently in foreign lands, e.g., 28 in the Americas, 25 in Africa and 25 in Asia. The 741 diocesan graduates is a sizeable addition to the country’s diocesan clergy. The religious congregations, some of them new in the country, still gained 320 in the last 50 years. Today, DWST counts 255 clerical and lay students: 40 SVDs, 56 diocesan seminarians (from 13 dioceses), and 76 from different religious houses of formation. To this is to be added 83 lay students. The 83 laymen and women belong to the Certificate for Theological Studies which offers a 2-year course of excellent lectures in scriptures and missiology. Started in 2007, it now counts 101 graduates. Also under the umbrella of DWST is the Alternative Learning System which enrolls out-of-school youth.

The Council and the Chapters[edit]

Divine Word Seminary is a child of Vatican II and a happy fruit of the Society’s vision of the recent General Chapters. In many ways Divine Word Seminary anticipated as well as put into action the ideas of the Council. The Church’s fervor after Pope John XXIII’s reign excited the world and no less Tagaytay. Quite on their own, the scholastics—feeling freer, less legalistic, and full of initiatives—exhibited a relaxed attitude without being lax; their creativity, however, always was tempered by a sense of responsibility. Within the seminary structure the scholastics reorganized themselves, establishing the Forum in 1969, diversifying their apostolates into retreat giving, catechetical programs, social action groups, and social studies. Their outreach program revolved around the barrios of Tagaytay and neighboring towns. Individual fratres went for campus ministry in several non-Catholic universities in Metro Manila. In barangays and in schools, occasional vocation catch would come up for Christ the King. Within the seminary grounds the medical and housing projects of Brother Ignatius transformed fratres into instant medical aids and house inspectors. The city officials of Tagaytay, the City Mayors and their council believe that, from the very start of its existence until today, the presence and the various apostolates of DWST have contributed towards a peaceful life in the tourist community.

The concept of mission has profoundly evolved since the Louvain-Muenster controversy, until resolved by the “Ad Gentes” of Vatican II. A look at our last three General Chapters reveals that the concept of mission has further evolved into a finer and richer understanding. This contemporary concept, we can honestly say, perhaps with pride, is uniquely and properly SVD, and got clearly enhanced with the Society’s emphases given the terms “new evangelization” and “interculturality” in Chapter documents. The thrust of prophetic dialogue and its four characteristic dimensions towards our mission partners has rendered our scholastics more aware of the transformative power of mission. The harder and more challenging the mission area is, the more attractive to them. The cultural minorities are the preferred mission partners for dialogue. For regency and mission summer exposures, they go with the Mangyans, Palawanons, Muslims, Tingguians, Kalingans, and Subanons. The seminary itself plays host to Vietnamese, Indian, Malagasay, Indonesian, and Burmese students. The seminary is reliving the heritage of Fr. Arnold Janssen and our ethnologist Fr. Wilhelm Schmidt, of discovering God among primitive tribes. Preaching the good news and proclaiming salvation is singularly effected through the proclamation of the love of God. The establishment of the Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies (DWIMS) is expected to boost the missiological slant of the seminary. A pioneering project of the Central Province and the Generalate, DWIMS will attract ASPAC professors and students as well as members from different religious, missionary congregations, male and female, in the country. Because of its interconnection with the pontifical University of Santo Tomas, DWIMS is scheduled to grant post graduate ecclesiastical and civil degrees in Missiology. The research work and courses are designed to broaden and enrich our SVD insights of “new evangelization” and “interculturality” and “prophetic dialogue.” Divine Word Seminary will do its share to complement the academic programs of DWIMS.

Akin to interculturality is the internationality of our Society, observed in Divine Word Seminary studentry and, more importantly, in the professorial staff and the SVD community. Up to the 2000s, non-Filipino SVDs formed a part of the administration and professorial roster. Added to this were the Caucasian guest professors from different congregations. Advantages abound in an international community, not only the pleasant company on a personal and intellectual level, but on some other aspects. Our Arnoldus Library is a gift from Czechoslovakia via the SVD Dutch Province. The funds for the philosophy building, or retreat house, or the present DWIMS building came from the Generalate. One can still see the marks of the architech, Fr. Frederick Linzenbach in the four main structures of the seminary. Not many years ago, foreign professors visited and taught at Tagaytay through the initiative of the Generalate, in particular the secretary of education. The Society is much centralized, yet the office of the Superior General has always been for the advantage of the life and development of Tagaytay. Centralization means sharing each other’s assistance and support.

The Mission Seminary[edit]

Our Filipino SVDs found in various countries both feel at home and also sense a measure of triumph. And rightly so. The late Fr. Erasio Flores, for years a Consultor General, advances an observation: By force of history, the Filipino has had more ample exposure to other cultures, especially to western cultures; more perhaps, than all of his Asian peers. It is no surprise that he has kind of developed a natural capacity for accommodating other cultures. The Filipino is friendly, light hearted, cheerful, patient, condescending, a bit easy-going, qualities that can be so easily mistaken for being childish.

Divine Word Seminary has been from the very beginning always considered a mission seminary in parallel with Christ the King Mission Seminary. In Germany our seminary is called a “Missionshaus.” Rumor was a high prelate casually dropped a remark that DWST could be the second pontifical seminary in the country with specialization in missiology. The remark touches on a point not particularly known to many. In 1981 Pope John Paul II stressed the missionary vocation of the Philippines: “I wish to tell you of my special desire that the Filipinos will become the foremost missionaries of the Church in Asia.” This repeats what Paul VI expressed in 1970, and still years before, the wish of the mission pope, Pius XI. The same Pope encouraged Provincial Teodoro Buttenbruch in 1932 in his dream of setting up a “mission house” in the country.

Even as bishops desire that their seminarians receive pastoral training, they also expect the seminary to imbue in them solid missiological orientation. A number of religious congregations entered DWST precisely because it is strong in mission theology. With the Divine Word Institute on Mission Studies (DWIMS) in place, the seminary will hopefully lift the missionary awareness of the Philippine Church.

Divine Word Seminary, Next Semi-Centenary[edit]

Fifty years is only a measure of time, but it is intimately connected with the missionary nature of Christ and his Church. As long as there are mission partners to dialogue with and peoples to evangelize, our seminary does not see its demise in the foreseeable future. The number of vocations is diminishing everywhere, and our seminary does not expect any exception. It will survive and persevere for as long as the Philippines remains strongly Catholic. It will not die, it will just fade away in the bosom of God’s providence. Two questions persistently haunt us: vocations—I speak specifically of SVD vocations. The other is the flow of professors, i.e., SVD resident professors.

First: four hundred eighty SVD confreres scattered throughout the archipelago and the more than 50,000 students in our schools are no mean and useless numbers. We consequently have no reason not to tap the resources at hand so as to intensify recruitment campaign. Non-SVD religious congregations visit our schools and invite candidates for themselves. Why can’t we? They appropriate personnel just for this purpose. Why don’t we? We can certainly organize better, program our campaign proficiently. Second: right in Tagaytay, and unlike the previous generations, the scholastics manifest willingness to become formators and to proceed for further studies. The late Bp. Duschak once remarked on us SVDs: “Money they have for good buildings but not the brain for a strong faculty.”

With our DWIMS and with the prevailing great interest in mission studies, it is imperative that we strengthen our faculty. We should seize the day when we could demonstrate that our Society and Tagaytay are, in our vision and mission, truly missionary.

Academic programs[edit]

  1. Ecclesiastical Course (course for candidates for the priesthood)
  2. Licentiate in Mission Theology (run by the Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies)
  3. Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (degree conferred by the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome)
  4. AB Theology Degree (recognized by CHED)
  5. M.A. in Theology, Major in Moral Theology
  6. M.A. in Theology, Major in Missiology
  7. M.A. in Theology, Major in Sacred Scriptures
  8. M.A. in Theology Major in Systematic Theology
  9. M. A. in Theology: Major in Pastoral Ministry (non-thesis)
  10. M. A. in Theology Major in Mission Studies (Non-thesis)
  11. Certificate in Theological Studies (CTS)
  12. SVD-Alternative Learning System (SVD-ALS)


Rectors of the
Divine Word Seminary
Fr. Alois Lehberger, SVD, 1964–1969
Fr. Wenceslao Fernan, SVD, 1965–1966
Fr. Amante Castillo, SVD, 1968–1970
Msgr. Miguel Cinches, SVD, 1970–1973
Fr. Florante Camacho, SVD, 1973–1974
Fr. Herminio Ricafort, SVD, 1974–1979
Fr. Antolin Uy, SVD, 1979–1987
Fr. Herman Mueller, SVD, 1979–1980
Fr. Florencio Lagura, SVD, 1987–1990
Fr. Robert Orig, SVD, 1990–1993
Fr. Herbert Scholz, SVD, 1993–1995
Fr. Lino Nicasio, SVD, 1995–1996
Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD, 1996–1999
Fr. Antolin Uy, SVD, 1999–2002
Fr. Joseph Miras, SVD, 2002–2005
Fr. Wilfredo Saniel, SVD, 2005 – 2014
Fr. Michael Layugan SVD, 2014 – present

Board of Trustees (SY 2014-present)[edit]

Academic Council (SY 2014-present)[edit]

  • Fr. Randolf Flores, SVD - Chairperson
  • Fr. Michael Layungan, SVD - member
  • Sr. Miriam Alejandrino, OSB - member
  • Fr. Raul Caga, SVD - member
  • Fr. Felix Ferrer, SVD - member

Resident Professors[edit]

  • Sr. Alejandrino, Miriam, OSB, S.S.L., S.Th.D. - Scriptures
  • Fr. Caga, Raul, SVD, S.T.L. - Moral Theology
  • Fr. Corcuera, Atilano, Jr., SVD, S.L.L. - Liturgy
  • Fr. Crisostomo, Ronnie, SVD, S.L.L. - Liturgy, Dogmatic Theology
  • Fr. Ferrer, Felix, SVD, S.Th.D. - Fundamental Theology
  • Fr. Flores, Randolf, SVD, S.S.L., S.Th.D., Ph.D. - Scriptures, Dogmatic Theology
  • Fr. Heruela, Ross, SVD, S.Th.L. - Pastoral Ministry, Fundamental Theology
  • Fr. Javier, Edgar, SVD, S.Th.D. - Missiology
  • Fr. Layugan, Michael, SVD, S.Th.D., Ph.D. - Church History, Missiology
  • Fr. Pernia, Antonio, SVD, S.Th. D. - Spirituality
  • Fr. Saniel, Wilfredo, SVD, S.T.L. - Spiritual Theology
  • Fr. Uy, Antolin, SVD, Ph.D. - Church History

Affiliated Houses of Formation[edit]

  • 1) Divine Word Seminary Scholasticate (SVD)
  • 2) Fil-Mission Seminary (Mission Society of the Philippines)
  • 3) Missionaries of Our Lady of La Sallete (MS)
  • 4) Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales (MSFS)
  • 5) Oblates of St. Joseph (OSJ)
  • 6) Religious Tertiary Capuchins of Our Lady of Sorrows (Amigonians)
  • 7) St. Augustine Major Seminary (SASMA)
  • 8) St. Lawrence of Brindisi House of Studies (OFM Capuchins)
  • 9) Saint Paul Scholasticate (Barnabites)
  • 10) San Pablo Theological Formation House
  • 11) Servants of the Paraclete
  • 12) Somascan Major Seminary (Somascans)
  • 13) Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol


The School of Theology had graduates already from the school years 1964-1969, but there was no official appointment of a dean for the school. The school’s entity was closely associated with the rector, thus there was no official appointment for a dean until the start of the school-year 1969.

  • Fr. Randolf Flores, SVD- 2014–present
  • Fr. Felix Ferrer, SVD- 2013-2014
  • Fr. Alexander Muaña, SVD - 2008–2013
  • Fr. Michael Layugan, SVD - 2004–2008
  • Fr. Felix Ferrer, SVD- 1999–2004
  • Fr. Lino Nicasio, SVD - 1996–1999
  • Fr. Antolin Uy, SVD - 1995–1996
  • Fr. Lino Nicasio, SVD - 1992–1995
  • Fr. Guillermo Villegas, SVD - 1990–1992
  • Fr. Constante Floresca, SVD - 1988
  • Fr. Antolin Uy, SVD - 1987–1990
  • Fr. Florencio Lagura, SVD - 1985–1987
  • Fr. Herbert Scholz, SVD - 1981–1985
  • Fr. Reiner Franke, SVD - 1975–1981
  • Fr. Macario Magboo, SVD - 1972–1975
  • Fr. Frederick Scharpf, SVD - 1969–1972


A part of the Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay entity is the School of Theology. The school was commonly called the Divine Word School of Theology that eventually usurped the seminary acronym DWST that originally stood for Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay. However, at present its official title remains Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay.

In 1964, a government recognized degree of Bachelor of Arts, A.B. Philosophy and a Masters of Arts in Philosophy were offered. The titles were officially conferred by the then Secretary of Education Alejandro Roces on 28 June 1965. The theologians avail themselves to a four-year ecclesiastical course in theology at the said school. At the start of the school year 1976-1977, a degree of Masters of Arts in Theology was made available.

Early history[edit]

On 12 January 1982, an official recognition for the affiliation to the Urbaniana University by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Institutions ensued. This was ushered by an earlier visit of the Rector Magnificus, Msgr. Bogliolo of the Urbaniana University on 10 September 1977. Indeed a big step made by the school because through this affiliation, DWST was able to cater the degree Baccalaureate in Theology (S.T.B.) to its students.

Originally, the school was intended for the SVD candidates only, which happened from 1963 to 1966. However, starting from the school year 1966-1967, the school began accepting seminarians from various religious congregations and dioceses. At present, there are 16 houses affiliated to the school.

Recent history[edit]

Most recent developments of the school are: offering of AB theology government-recognized diploma starting from the school year 2005-2006, the acceptance of lay students and consecrated persons into the theological school, on-going curriculum and facilities upgrade, and contemplation on its possible autonomy from the seminary as a separate entity.


  1. ^ , Antolin Uy, "Divine Word Seminary: History, Perspective and Orientation Towards New Evangelization," Diwa: Studies in Philosophy and Theology 39 (2014): 69-77

Antolin Uy, "Divine Word Seminary: History, Perspective and Orientation Towards New Evangelization," Diwa: Studies in Philosophy and Theology 39 (2014): 69-77.

External links[edit]