Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon is located at 6 Ton Duc Thang Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The Seminary was built by priest Wibaux and the Paris Foreign Missions Society since 1863 and was last restored in 1960. The Seminary has a large campus, in which there 2 main works: The Place for Priests studying and chapel. There is also a gallery of relics of the Seminary. The chapel is 30 meters long, 10 meters wide, 10 meters high, featuring a typical Gothic architecture style. In the present, the foreign Catholics staying in Ho Chi Minh City usually come here to pray.
Priest Théodore Louis Wibaux was born in Roubaix. On March 20, 1820, following family tradition, Father attended a law university. But when Father graduated from the law university, following God’s call, Father entered the seminary. Then in 1846, Father was ordained a priest. On November 24, 1857, Father Wibaux joined the Paris Missionary Society. On February 8, 1858, Father started to go sailing to Vietnam, until the beginning of January 1860, Father arrived in Saigon.
When Wibaux just arrived in Saigon, Bishop Lefèbvre took Father to look for a permanent settlement for the Saigon Major Seminary. Found it, they must pray to God and ask for permission from the government. It was not until mid-1862 that Governor Bonnard approved and on August 28, 1862, officially signed to give the Paris Missionary Society 7 hectares. The bishop left 4 hectares to the seminary and gave 3 hectares to the White House (Saint Paul De Chartre). While waiting for building the Seminary, Father Lefèbve entrusted Father Wibaux to look after the Provisional Seminary at Thi Nghe. The Seminary experienced many difficulties and moved to many places.
In 1863, Father Lefèbvre laid the first stone for the Saigon Major Seminary, the basis of Saigon archdiocese’s Catholic philosophy. Father Lefèbvre entrusted the responsibility to Father Wibaux to lead the construction. In July 1864, Father Lefèbvre inaugurated the chapel and facilities of the Saigon Major Seminary (at 6 Ton Duc Thang Street, District I today) designed and constructed by Mr. Nguyen Truong To. The work built nearly 150 years ago has still stood up to this day.
Nguyen Truong To (1828 – 1871) was born in Bui Chu, Hung Nguyen, Nghe An. When he was a child, he received education from his father at home, then he also received education from many Confucian scholar-teachers in the region. After that, he studied French and construction. He proposed many bold reform plans to Hue Court, aiming to get the country out of stagnation, moving forward to become a rich and powerful nation. Unfortunately, his proposition was not accepted.
Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon was formed by the merits of Bishop Lefèbvre, Priest Théodore Louis Wibaux, Designer Nguyen Truong To and the total parishioners in Saigon in the 1860s. They overcame many difficulties to achieve success. Since its establishment, the seminary has trained thousands of missionaries, contributing to bringing Vietnam country to a peaceful and happy place.