The Notre Dame Archdiocesan Seminary started as a high school seminary in Kidapawan with a simple wooden structure built in June 1960. Its first rector was Fr. William McGrath, OMI with his assistant Fr. Hermenegildo Doronila, OMI. Among the first group of seminarians who started in Kidapawan is the current Archbishop of Zamboanga, His Excellency Romulo dela Cruz, DD.
Rudy Aristoteles who later became an Oblate and Fr. Marlowe Horlador, DCC were also seminarians during the pioneering years. The seminarians during that time attended classes in the Marist Brothers’ Notre Dame High School for Boys. Construction of the present seminary in Nuling, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao started in 1963 under Fr. Charles Prass, OMI. It was completed and blessed in December 1964 by no less than Rufino Cardinal Santos. The seminarians from Kidapawan transferred to this new home and started college studies at Notre Dame University in 1964. This was a noble idea of Bishop Mongeau – that his seminarians study in a regular university.
During that time there were four major seminarians: Alex Yap, Rodolfo Limbaga, James Oquendo and Rogelio Cañete. Along with them were 54 seminarians in high school. The first batch of seminarians studied for only two years at NDU. After which, they continued their philosophical and theological studies at St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary in Davao City.
It was only during the term of Fr. Thomas Crump, OMI (1965‐1972) as rector that the first group of seminarians graduated from Notre Dame University. Fr. Crump was a veteran formator from the Boston province of the Oblates, and a Latin expert. He was assisted by the formidable Dean of Discipline, Fr. Bill Dubuisson, OMI, who instilled work ethics among the seminarians with his memorable exhortation, “Chop‐chop, hurry, work, work.” Fr. Carl Kabat, OMI also served as a professor.
It was during this time that a newly‐ordained Oblate who just finished his studies in the United States also taught Latin. He is the current Archbishop of Cotabato, His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo. Among his students who are still active in the Archdiocese are Fr. German Tiaga and Monsignor Antonio Pueyo. Their history teacher was a young agriculture graduate who eventually proceeded to the major seminary and in 1987 became seminary rector, Fr. Rudy Relator.
Eventually, the American formators turned over the formation work to the Filipino Oblates. The First Filipino Oblate Rector in Nuling was Fr. Ruben Ma. Gomez, OMI who served as rector from 1972‐1974. He would then bring the seminarians to his favorite apostolate among the lepers at the Nuling Sanitarium and his visits with Muslim neighbors. For the year 1973‐74 the staff included Fr. Manuel Punzal, OMI, Fr. Romulo dela Cruz, Mr. Nestor Lemana, Mr. Loreto Sanoy, Sister Stella Marie, OND and later Fr. Relator. He was succeeded by Fr. Manuel Punzal, OMI.
It was during this time that a former high school seminarian under Fr. Crump came back after finishing pre‐med studies in Manila. He is now the Auxiliary Bishop of Cotabato, Most Rev. Jose Colin Bagaforo, DD. The Oblates run the seminary for sixteen years since 1960. It was only in 1976 that its products, the Diocesan Clergy of Cotabato – took over the seminary work. The first member of the Diocesan Clergy to be appointed as rector of the seminary was its first priest‐graduate, Fr. Romulo dela Cruz (1976‐1981). Assisting him were Fr. Antonio Pueyo, DCC and Fr. Daniel Ybañez, DCC who served as professors and spiritual directors.
It was during this time that two lay teachers who were teaching Mathematics and Science to the high school seminarians also decided to join the seminary and were ordained after studies at the Regional Major Seminary. Both of them be‐ came seminary rectors, Fr. Loreto Sanoy and Fr. Joel Baes.
There would be a succession of DCC rectors and formators after the term of Bishop Romulo dela Cruz: Frs. Pueyo, Relator, Ferolino, Sanoy, Baes, Coquilla, De Gracia, Fornan, and presently Fr. Benjamin Torreto. The longest serving rector was Monsignor Antonio Pueyo who served three terms (81‐82, 83‐87, and 97‐2000).
After fifty years, Notre Dame Archdiocesan Seminary has produced about eighty priests for the Dioceses of Kidapawan, Iligan, Ozamis, Manila and Cotabato. Some of its present alumni are also serving as missionaries in Australia, Canada, And the United States of America. Its lay alumni have distinguished themselves in almost all walks of life as farmers, businessmen, professionals and in government service. Indeed, there is much reason for giving thanks. Notre Dame Archdiocesan Seminary is a blessing to the Archdiocese of Cotabato. It continues to be the seedbed of priests of the diocese whose motto is, “Amare est Ser‐ vire”‐ to Love is to Serve.