St Francis Xavier Major Seminary

St Francis Xavier Major Seminary

Location:  199 Ponggol Seventeenth Ave, 829645

College General Penang

College General Penang

The St Francis Xavier Seminary at 199 Seventeenth Avenue, Punggol Road, has come a long way since her humble beginnings in two other seminaries. Firstly it shared its history with its parent seminary in Penang, the Seminary of the Holy Angels (1810), commonly known as College General Penang. Secondly it shared the name and history of the St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary (1925) at 2 Punggol Road, Singapore.

In a way, it is not really two, but one history because many of the priests who studied at the College General received their initial formation at the Minor Seminary. In fact, nearly all the Bishops of the Malaysia-Singapore conference (before the 1980s) studied at one time or other at the Minor Seminary.

As recounted by Archbishop Yong, the Major Seminary was a gift from Divine Providence! As far back as 1975, Archbishop M Olcomendy had already bought four acres of land for the day when the Archdiocese should have its own Major seminary. He also had the foresight to send his priests to do post-graduate studies in Rome and elsewhere so that there would be priests on whom the Archdiocese could rely on to staff the Seminary.

In 1982 the seminarians from Singapore were notified by the Malaysian Immigration Authorities that their student passes would not be renewed. In the same year, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Apostolic Delegate for Malaysia, urged the Bishops’ Conference to sell the land of College General and use the money to build and run new seminaries since the upkeep of College General entailed an unnecessary waste of money. After much discussions, the land was finally sold off and the sale of College General land made it possible for the Bishop’s Conference to build four new seminaries, including the one in Singapore.

Thus, at the end of 1982, the Singapore seminarians, together with Malaysian theology students, began their big exodus from Penang to Singapore. They moved into the premises of the St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary (now known as the Catholic Spirituality Centre) and on 18 February 1983, a day that went largely unnoticed by the Catholics in Singapore, the Minor Seminary was elevated to the status of a Major Seminary, complete with its own department of philosophy and theology.

Meanwhile plans were afoot for the construction of the present Major seminary with Fr Noel Chin spearheading the challenge to build a Seminary worthy of the Archdiocese of Singapore.

At the ground breaking ceremony in Aug 1985, Archbishop Gregory Yong blessed the project and less than two years later, the seminarians moved into their new home. The new St Francis Xavier Major Seminary was officially opened and blessed on 28 January 1988. The first rector of the seminary was Fr Noel Chin and Fr Rene Nicolas was the first procurator.