Sunday, May 20, 2012
*294. MATER BONI CONSILII SEMINARY
YOU MATER HERE. Seminarians of Our Lady of Good Counsel Seminary pose for their class picture. The seminary was first located in Guagua, which dates this photo to the 1950-51.
Since 1950, hundreds of boys have found and fulfilled their calling in the premiere seminary of Pampanga, Mater Boni Consilii (Mother of Good Counsel) Seminary—or simply called “Mater Boni”, presently located in San Fernando. Its history spans a little more than 5 decades, involving 3 Pampanga towns and key characters that included 3 men on the verge of priesthood and a bishop who gave the impetus for the seminary’s foundation.
It all started with a visit to the newly-named Bishop of San Fernando, Most Rev. Cesar Ma. Guerrerro D.D. by seminarians Basilio David, Eulalio Yabut, and Antonio Ibay. When asked about the planned projects for the new diocese of San Fernando, the bishop revealed his dream to build a boys’ school where subjects like Math and English could be taught—not a seminary in the strictest sense of the word. But one thing led to another, and on 4 July 1950, a building (now known as the Rufino Cardinal Santos Bldg.) in Guagua was out up to house “Mater Boni Consilii”, a boys’s school so named after the good bishop’s favorite devotion.
Mater Boni was initially conceived as an adjunct to St. Michael’s Colleges as it certainly did not function as a seminary---the handful of student enrollees there were even issued report cards from St. Michael’s. Later, it adopted the secondary curriculum of San Jose Seminary that incorporated the study of the classics and the languages like Latin and English. As its curriculum evolved, so did the school. Eventually, Mater Boni was officially transformed into a seminary manned by no less than the 3 seminarians—now ordained as priests—whose visit stirred Bishop’s Guerrero into actualizing his vision : Fr. Basilio David (Rector), Fr. Eulalio Yabut (Spiritual Director) and Fr. Antonio Ibay (Procurator).
The seminary heads expected only about 5-6 initial seminarians, but to their surprise, 38 boys enrolled. It was clear that a bigger space was needed to house the growing seminarian population. In 1951, Mater Boni Seminary was moved to Apalit , but the same problem plagued the school: lack of funds, low salary scale for teachers. Newly-ordained priests were deployed by Bishop Guerrero to mentor seminarians, a job that held very little appeal.
It was only in 1956 that the full 4-year course was offered, but due to the inadequacy of the school, the students, in their de riguer black cassock and blue sash, never numbered more than 70. Inspite of all these, interest for the priestly vocation continue to remain high, which prompted the final relocation of the seminary to a bigger, better place in San Fernando in 1962.
The site in Del Pilar was actually part of a property owned by the Diocese of San Fernando at that time. The 10-hectare lot would come to be shared equally by Mater Boni and the Assumption College (now a University), established by Most Rev. Emilio Cinense. The seminary—which now comprises both a Minor and Major Seminary –has a number of primary edifices in its ground: a 3-storey Administrative Building, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Hall (housing classrooms, dorms, study halls and blessed by the Most Rev. Carlo Martini on 7 June 1964), and the Theology-Philosophy Building. A chapel, a library, a refectory and an auditorium complete its infrastructures.
In the course of 5 decades, Mater Boni has produced a number of Kapampangan high-ranking religious leaders that include Archbishop Paciano Aniceto D.D. of Sta. Ana, the late Bishop Jesus Galang, Bishop Roberto Mallari and Bishop Pablo Virgilio David. Through the institution’s portals also passed two Bishop Formators: Bishop Onesto Ongtiuco of Cubao and Bishop Florentino Lavarias, assigned in Zambales. Today, the seminary continues with zeal, its tradition of raising and molding young boys into well-rounded Catholic men of character--that they may be credits to God, the Church, the country and to the whole “Mater Boni” family.