Divine Word Seminary

Chapel of the Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City

locator map of Tagaytay City

The Divine Word Seminary is the Society of the Divine Word or SVD seminary in Tagaytay City, Cavite, Philippines. It is one of the biggest schools of theology in Southeast Asia in terms of the number of students or seminarians studying for the priesthood. It is also one of the oldest religious institutions in the city (located northeast). It is run by the Divine Word Missionaries, more popularly known as the Society of the Divine Word or SVD.


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 December30 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 newe 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 our property in Christ the King. The Rector (1958-64) of Christ the King, Fr. Alphonse Mildner, vehemently objected to Alfonso because of its distance and isolation in a province not particularly known for its peace and order situation. Taytay in Rizal was considered but abandoned in favor of Tagaytay City just 15 kilometers from Alfonso, 52 kilometers from Manila. The Tagaytay property was bought in 1962.

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 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 (18) 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 (9) aimed at the creation of self-sufficient, independent Christian communities. The Fi’atres’ association with the Federation of Free Farmers led not only in the establishment of local chapters but also in the çonscientization process of the farmers. They, the scholastics, participated in demonstrations for and with the farmers. The 1, 200- strong farmers’ cooperative (SMSK)(20) in Tagaytay is one direct result of the education programmes of farmers conducted by the barrio apostolate.

Guest Seminarians: a central common seminary

Seven Capuchin seminarians-philosophers joined the SVD classes at the beginning of school year 1966-67.(21) They were followed the next year by the Franciscans (OFMs) and the major seminarians from the Vicariate Apostolic of Calapan. Subsequently, other houses of formation were established and sent their students to attend lectures and fulfill the academic requirements for the priestly ministry. But there was a time when the authorities talked about a central, common seminary. Attempts were made to describe and define this kind of seminary but for all its beautiful vision, it did not push through. The attempts, however, reveal the advantages of being in Tagaytay as well as the thinking of prelates on priestly formation. One of the protagonists was Bishop Duschak, SVD, of Calapan.

Similar and related to the question of a common seminary and partly answering it was the request of the Friars Minor (OFM) to enter Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay as studentá (seven theologians) and as staff members (two professors of Exegesis). As Father Provincial Heinemann presented it, the Franciscans would like to join us to start a common seminary in the future, since they are convinced that such a seminary is the only answer to the post-Vatican II demands of seminary formation. They think of organizing a seminary on a twofold level: college level and theology level, but they will never be able to do it alone.

The plan met perfectly the desire that “our Fratres should not stay for about seven years at Tagaytay.” One center would be Tagaytay; the other, Franciscan, would be Novaliches, Quezon City, some 20 kilometers north of Manila.

The Generalate’s response (26) manifested no opposition in principle “to such a temporary arrangement” but urged “caution and prudence as well as a thorough study of all the aspects of such a project.” In particular, it expressed reservations; firstly, “with regard to whether the arrangement of another community’s living in the same house would work out well in the long run”; secondly, on a common seminary at two different, centers. The same misgivings were clearly voiced by Father Rector Lehberger. The Tagaytay SVD community then was not the easiest to handle. He asked the Provincial: “Do you really believe it will be better with the Franciscans in addition?” (27) All but one of the SVD professors were for accepting the Franciscan theologians and their professors. They came to Tagaytay on 29 June 1968. Both they and the five major seminarians sent by Bishop Duschak (they also arrived the same day) stayed with the SVDs under the same roof pending the construction of the Vicariate of Calapan’s Saint Augustine Major Seminary. As of February 1970, negotiations on an OFM-SVD common seminary have bogged down.

The dream of a common seminary did not materialize. It failed to create a consortium of member religious congregations with shared authority and responsibility; instead, DWS Tagaytay developed into a cluster of autonomous affiliated houses of formation. They are the Clerics Regular of Somasca (CRS), Fil-Mission Seminary (MSP), Focolare School for Priests, La Salette Seminary (M.S.), St. Augustine Major Seminary (SASMA), St. Lawrence of Brindisi House of Studies (OFM Cap), San Pablo Theological Formation House, Society of Our Lady of the Trinity (SOLT), Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol (TMP), and Workers of Christ the Worker (WOW). The SVDs committed themselves to providing the academic staff and facilities. It has remained a mission seminary whose primary purpose is to prepare missionaries for both the Philippine and foreign missions. Of the 312 SVD graduates, 100 priests and brothers are now in foreign lands. A good number of the other 374 non-SVD alumni has also received foreign assignments. A few students are non-Filipinos; the faculty, in the Society’s tradition, has consistently remained international.

The Oblates of St. Joseph (OSJ) in 2005 the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales (MSFS) in 2008) also began sending their seminarians to DWS to do theological studies.