The Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio was founded in 1903 as the San Antonio Philosophical and Theological Seminary by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Catholic missionary congregation of men, at the urging of the bishop of the Diocese (now Archdiocese) of San Antonio. The seminary's purpose was to prepare the candidates of the Oblate missionaries, as well as those from the Diocese of San Antonio and certain other dioceses in the southwestern United States and Mexico, for service as bilingual ministers. From the beginning the students have come from various national backgrounds. With the establishment of the Southern United States Province of the Oblates in 1904, the school became the responsibility of the new province, whose members at that time served in South Texas and Mexico.
In the fall of 1905 the teaching of the preparatory levels was added, and this new department was known as St. Anthony's College and Apostolic School (the present St. Anthony High School Seminary). In 1911 the Diocese of San Antonio arranged for the training of its students elsewhere. Since the number of Oblate students continued to increase at all levels, in 1920 the school site was given over exclusively to the preparatory department (minor seminary). The original school for philosophical and theological studies (major seminary, or scholasticate) was moved to Castroville, a few miles outside San Antonio, where, under the name Sacred Heart Scholasticate, it occupied the former convent of the Sisters of Divine Providence.
By this time the Oblates who graduated from the school were ministering throughout Texas, in northeastern New Mexico, and in parts of Louisiana. Revolutionary troubles in Mexico had occasioned their withdrawal from that field several years earlier, but they soon expanded their work into Southern California. Larger facilities were again needed for the school, and in 1927 it was moved to a new campus a few miles north of San Antonio and renamed De Mazenod Scholasticate, in honor of Bishop Charles Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Oblates in 1816. The school has remained at this site, now well within the city limits, as buildings have been enlarged and added. In 1943 Mexico once again became a missionary field for its graduates.
The first two decades after World War II brought a gradual strengthening of academic recognition. The undergraduate department was affiliated with the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., in 1947. The school was chartered by the state of Texas in 1950 to grant academic degrees, and a B.A. in philosophy was instituted in 1951. In 1962, as a result of an agreement with Our Lady of the Snows Scholasticate (an Oblate seminary in Mississippi), the philosophy program in San Antonio began to be phased out. In return, De Mazenod Scholasticate received the candidates from the Southern, Central, and Western United States Provinces of the Oblates into its master of divinity program (the first professional degree in ministry). Later that year the school was renamed Oblate College of the Southwest. In 1968 a new school charter was approved, a board of trustees was instituted, and the school was granted accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The late 1960s and the 1970s saw profound changes in the life of the school, mirroring those occurring in church and society. The number of candidates for the Oblate priesthood began to decline, and the other Oblate provinces gradually withdrew their students. Thus, the Oblate presbyteral candidates at the school dropped from fifty-four in 1967 to fifteen in 1972. Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, established for the education of priest candidates from several Southwestern dioceses, was experiencing similar difficulties. Consequently, Oblate College and Assumption entered into a collaborative arrangement in 1970, by which the diocesan candidates receive their theological and pastoral training at Oblate, while continuing to reside at and receive their personal and spiritual formation at Assumption. By fall 1972 the diocesan students constituted half of the forty-two presbyteral candidates at Oblate College. That same fall Catholic religious congregations of men began entering into the same collaborative arrangement for their own candidates.
In 1970 the first students from Catholic religious congregations of women had been accepted into the school for course work. Their numbers increased, and they were soon joined by laity. In 1976, to provide graduate theological studies to persons already in ministry, the master of theological studies was instituted; enrollment in this program steadily increased. To reflect more clearly the institution's evolving status, its name was changed to Oblate School of Theology in 1981. The school's degree programs were accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in 1982. During the 1980s new nondegree programs were developed for the ministerial and theological renewal of priests and religious sisters and the solid preparation of laity for ministry. All of these factors contributed to a gradual, if somewhat fitful, increase in enrollment. By the late 1980s the school had in its regular courses about sixty full-time and eighty-five part-time students-for both ordained and nonordained bilingual and multicultural ministry-from many Catholic dioceses and religious congregations, as well as from other Christian churches. The school's library is especially notable for its extensive collection of Catholic theological journals. The Oblate School of Theology had twenty-nine faculty members and 130 students in the fall of 1998. The school dedicated the Pat Guidon Center for Continuing Education, named for the school's president from 1970 to 1995, in the spring of 2001. William J. Morrell succeeded Guidon as president.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every penny helps.
Please make your contribution today.
Archives of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Southern United States Province, San Antonio. Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin.
Theological Seminaries and Colleges
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert E. Wright, O.M.I.,
“Oblate School of Theology,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
December 2, 2001