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SEMINARY OF ST. PHILIP FOR MEXICAN STUDENTS

SEMINARY OF ST. PHILIP FOR MEXICAN STUDENTS. The Seminary of St. Philip, popularly known as the Mexican Seminary or the Seminary of San Felipe, a Catholic institution of advanced studies, was established in January 1915 at Castroville, Texas, to help dioceses in Mexico, whose candidates for the priesthood could no longer continue their studies because of the religious persecutions begun by Mexican political boss Venustiano Carranza. This seminary, dedicated to the model European priest St. Philip Neri and financed largely through the efforts of Monsignor Francis Kelley of the Catholic Church Extension Society, was housed in the former novitiate buildings of the Sisters of Divine Providence, who had moved to San Antonio in 1890. Bishop John William Shaw and Archbishop Arthur Jerome Drossaerts of San Antonio, together with Archbishop Quigley of Chicago, sponsored 108 Mexican students who entered the seminary during its first three years of administration. By May of 1918, when the seminary was discontinued in the belief that religious oppression in Mexico was coming to an end, fifty-nine of those seminarians had been ordained to serve as diocesan priests in Mexico.

Upon the accession of President Plutarco E. Calles in 1924, however, the persecution of Catholics in Mexico became more violent than before, and in 1929 the seminary in Castroville was briefly revived. The buildings that had been lent to the seminary were bought for it by the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio, and fund-raising drives were begun to secure the monthly support stipend of twenty-five dollars for each seminarian. Repairs to the structures were entrusted to the bishop of Sonora, Mexico, who was in exile in the Castroville area. During these negotiations the Mexican government, in the wake of the Cristero uprisings of 1927, was moving toward at least a temporary understanding with the clergy of Mexico. Under the administration of the Missionary Fathers of the Holy Spirit, a Mexican Salesian congregation, classes began in September 1929 with twenty-four Mexican students in the refurbished quarters, now known as the Second Interdiocesan Seminary of Castroville. The institution, sustained by contributions from the Knights of Columbus and the Mexican dioceses of San Luis Potosí, Mérida, and Saltillo, closed permanently in July 1930, when the exiled clergy and students returned to Mexico, where their own seminaries were gradually being permitted to reopen.

The old seminary grounds continued to be occupied by the Salesian fathers, and Salesian sisters from Mexico used one building as a novitiate. The seminary's well, provided by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who had held the property from 1918 to 1929 for their scholasticate, was eventually sold to the city of Castroville and used as its public water source. In 1938 the remainder of the original property was resold to the Sisters of Divine Providence, who renovated it into a grammar school for boys known as Moye Military Academy. In Mexico, from March 1925 to July 1926, eight numbers of a small Bulletin appeared, written by the ex-students of the "Seminario Nacional Mexicano de San Felipe Neri-Castroville, Texas." Its notes, historical materials, and affectionate reminiscences are a permanent record of the gratitude of Mexican priests, sheltered from persecution and helped to fulfill their vocations in Texas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. Luis Medina Ascensio, Historia del Seminario de Montezuma (Mexico City: Jus, 1962).

Ann Lozano

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Ann Lozano, "SEMINARY OF ST. PHILIP FOR MEXICAN STUDENTS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/iws01), accessed July 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.