“I have thought to build on a solid foundation. The work has not been intended for a day, but to endure many years after we are gone.”

—Most Rev. Patrick W. Riordan, Archbishop of San Francisco, 1884–1914


Having long admired their work in seminaries in Europe and in Baltimore, Maryland, Patrick W. Riordan, second archbishop of San Francisco, invited the Sulpician order to staff his seminary. On September 20, 1898 the seminary received its first students.


The seminary’s Department of Theology opened, setting into place the full twelve-year academic program. 1904 also marked the arrival of Henri A. Ayrinhac, S.S. as the new Superior. His 26-year tenure established St. Patrick’s as a major presence on the West Coast.


Within seconds on the morning of April 18, the seminary was severely damaged by the Great 1906 Earthquake of San Francisco. No one was killed or injured, but extensive reconstruction was required that would not be complete until 1918.


By 1921, the seminary had become crowded. St. Joseph’s College in Mountain View opened for the 1924-1925 school year to accommodate seminarians for their first six years of studies.


Archibishop John J. Mitty ordered a lavish and historic commemoration of St. Patrick’s golden anniversary, insisting on a visit to the seminary by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.


Following the end of World War II, a new wave of aspirants to the priesthood swelled enrollment at St Joseph’s and at St. Patrick’s. During this decade a program of Spanish language studies was established and the seminary was accredited for the first time by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


Following changes outlined at Vatican II, a “simplified” Rule of Life was adopted at St. Patrick’s. Though the initial changes to the rule were minimal, they changed the perception of the seminarians: The rule could change. Disruptions to seminary life multiplied. As an alumnus of the 1960s put it, “I felt we experienced 500 years in a period of 6 years.”


Despite the upheavals, St Patrick’s continued to be a dominant force shaping the Church from the Canadian border to Mexico. When the seminary celebrated its diamond jubilee, eleven of thirteen ordinaries of dioceses of the far-western states were “Men of Menlo.” Patrician alumni were also at work tending dioceses in Alaska, Arizona, and New Mexico.


Under the guidance of Archbishop John R. Quinn, St. Patrick’s field education system underwent changes including the introduction of an enormously successful pastoral internship program.


Father Rector Gerald Coleman, S.S. initiated the development of a spiritual formation program to support the goals of the Program for Priestly Formation: “To provide candidates for the priesthood … with a spirituality … rooted in a deep relationship with Christ, fostered by prayer, worship and commitment to the People of God.”


In the centenary edition of The Patrician, archdiocesan archivist Jeffrey M. Burns observed, “the faculty is more diverse and highly qualified, the student body is more culturally mixed, and the physical contours of the seminary have changed. What has not changed is St. Patrick’s commitment to producing a strong and well-trained clergy dedicated to serving the Church and its people.”


Extensive plans for renovation are executed throughout the seminary buildings, and to the chapel, including the restoration of lustrous wood floors hidden for decades under carpet.


In September St. Patrick’s Seminary celebrated 125 years preparing men to become Roman Catholic priests in conformity to Christ—through an integrated process of human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation that instills Spiritual Fatherhood, Fidelity, Holiness, Wisdom, Evangelization, Resiliency, and Compassion.