St. Mary’s Seminary, dedicated to the honor of the Mother of Jesus, dates its origins from the charter establishing the University of St. Mary in the City of Galveston on August 23, 1856. The institution was transferred in 1901 to La Porte, and by charter amendments duly made and filed, the name was changed to St. Mary’s Seminary. With the completion of new buildings, the seminary was relocated at its present site in Houston on October 4, 1954.
In 1901, Bishop Nicholas A. Gallagher, the third Bishop of the Diocese of Galveston, established a school for boys located in La Porte, Texas. The school consisted of some thirty boys from grade six to high school, six seminarians, a four-priest faculty from the Basilian Fathers, and Dominican Sisters to manage the domestic duties. As vocations began to increase the bishop directed the construction of a concrete building to house the chapel, dining hall, offices, and dormitories. Due to needs in other areas of their ministry, the Basilian Fathers withdrew and diocesan priests then assumed the duties of the faculty. The seminary continued to prosper with the ordination of men to the priesthood highlighting the end of the school year.
Bishop Wendelin J. Nold marked the celebration of the golden anniversary in 1951 with two major announcements: The Vincentian Fathers would replace the faculty of diocesan priests, and a new seminary would be built in Houston. A fifty-acre tract of wooded land located at the present site on Memorial Drive was donated by the Laurent, Smith and Strake families. A fund-raising campaign yielded over three million dollars for the project. Maurice and Charles Sullivan were contracted for the architectural design and the Linbeck Construction Corporation was selected to do the construction.
On November 4, 1954, Samuel Cardinal Stritch of Chicago dedicated the seminary with a host of bishops, clergy, and local dignitaries in attendance. At that time the plant included all the present buildings with the exception of the library, gymnasium, and Nold Education Center. As with the seminary in La Porte, the number of vocations increased greatly. With gifts and donations from both clergy and laity, the furnishings were completed in 1958.
During the academic year of 1964-1965, the college seminarians began taking some of their courses at the University of St. Thomas which is under the direction of the Basilian Fathers. This process soon enabled the seminarians to take all their undergraduate courses at the main campus of the University of St. Thomas. To provide for the academic and physical development of these men, a new library and indoor gymnasium-auditorium were built. In 1966, Cardinal Joseph Beran of Prague, Czechoslovakia, presided at the formal dedication. The new library was named in his honor. During the academic year of 1968-1969, the theology department of St. Mary’s Seminary became the Graduate School of Theology of the University of St. Thomas so that graduate degrees could be awarded to the theology seminarians. This arrangement continues today.
In 1982 the Vincentian Fathers withdrew from St. Mary’s due to their personnel needs. Bishop John L. Morkovsky then appointed Monsignor Chester Borski as rector on May 20, 1982, and the administration and formation faculty became staffed by diocesan clergy. On March 26, 1986, the Dioceses of Galveston-Houston and Dallas reached an important agreement: St. Mary’s and Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas would unite so that St. Mary’s would be the theologate and Holy Trinity would be the college seminary. Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Thomas Tschoepe of Dallas signed this historic decision. The new arrangement was implemented beginning with the fall semester of 1986.
St. Mary’s dedicated the Bishop Nold Education Building on November 7, 2001. The seminary serves as a location for diocesan meetings, workshops, and seminars which provide continuing theological education. St. Mary’s Seminary continues its tradition of priestly formation. Rev. Brendan J. Cahill was appointed rector to succeed Msgr. Borski, effective June 1, 2001. Rev. Cahill served as rector with great enthusiasm and dedication for nine years. Due to an increase in seminarian enrollment, he began a master plan for the future growth of the Seminary. Cardinal DiNardo appointed him as Secretariat Director for Clergy Formation and Chaplaincy Services. Rev. Trung Nguyen was appointed rector to succeed Rev. Cahill, effective June 15, 2010. St. Mary’s Seminary is grateful to all its benefactors who have been so generous, especially to the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women for their spiritual and financial support of the seminary through the Catholic Clerical Student Fund.