The History


The Founder: Fr. Pablo Villarroel. Fernandez, OP

Fr. Pablo was born on June 7, 1917 in Pedrosa del Rey, León, Spain. His parents were Luis Fernandez and Pilar Villarroel. He finished elementary studies in the same village and his secondary course at Colegio de Nuestra Señora del Rosario in La Mejorada, Olmedo, Valladolid, Spain. He joined the Order of Preachers and received the habit on September 8, 1932 in Avila, Spain, then made his first religious profession on September 24, 1933. He took three years of philosophical studies at Convento de Santo Tomas, Avila (1933-1936) and finished at Rosaryhill Convent, Hongkong, where he also began his Theological studies (1936-1939). He had his Solemn Profession on June 8, 1938. He was assigned in Wa-shington D.C., USA where he was ordained priest on May 31, 1940. From 1941 to 1962, he was assigned in Manila, Philippines. He returned to Spain for health reasons and stayed in the convent at Ocaña for two years (1962-1964). Finally, he was re-assigned in Manila in 1964 and remained there until 1991.

Fr. Fernandez obtained his Lectorate of the Order in Washington D.C. in the year 1941. In October of the same year, he received his degree of Bachelor in Philosophy and Letters at the Santo Tomas University in Manila. In the same University he also was able to obtain both his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in January 1945, and his Doctorate in Sacred Theology in November 1946. For thirteen (13) years he served as professor of Church History at the University of Santo Tomas; he also taught Christian Archeology, Church History in the Philippines and Oriental Theology.

Aside from his academic activities, he also attended to many pastoral ministries. He was Director of Religion and Religious Activities at both the UST Pay High School (1947-1953), and at the UST Education High School (1956-1958). From 1959 until 1961, he became Promoter of the Dominican Third Order. Three times he was given the assignment of Spiritual Director of the UST Central Seminary; first in 1957 to 1958, then on 1965 and from 1974 to 1989. He also served as Procurator of the Interdiocesan Seminary (UST Central Seminary): 1944-1947, Regent of UST Normal School (now College of Education) and Archivist of the Domi-nican Province of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary: 1951-1964; 1969-1973; 1977-1991.

Fr. Pablo was a lover of vocations. He founded the Secular Institute of St. Dominic on October 15, 1959 with Mo. Mercedes Llanderal, OP as co-foundress and eventually, the Secular Institute evolved into a Religious Institute called the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph. With the help of the then Bishop of Malolos, Most Rev. Cirilo Almario, DD, Fr. Pablo gratefully witnessed the canonical establishment of the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph as a Religious Congregation of diocesan right in 1988. He also supported the establishment of other religious groups in the Dominican Order and provided them with spiritual direction, conferences and retreats.

Famous as a writer and historian, he was a meticulous researcher. He wrote three books, namely: “Dominicos donde nace el sol” (Historia de los Padres Dominicos), published in Barcelona, “One Hundred Years of Dominican Apostolate in Formosa”, published in Quezon City and “History of the Church in the Philippines”, published in Manila. His doctoral dissertation entitled “Las Indulgencias en la Iglesia Primitiva” was published in Unitas in 1948. He wrote a series of articles for Boletin Eclesiastico de Filipinas (1970-1974), for Philippiniana Sacra (1966-1977), for Voz Estudiantil (1947-1956) and for Acta Manilana (1967, 1968). His writings also appeared in other publications such as Campo Misional: Organo de los misioneros de la Provincia, Diccionario de Historia Ecclesiastica de España, Huellas Dominicanas: Correo intervicarial dela Provincia de Nuestra Senora del Rosario and Life Today.

Fr. Pablo is indeed a man who has accomplished much in his life of service to the Church. However, this scholarly Spanish friar is more known for his rigorous ascetism, prayer, obedience, poverty, simplicity and his readiness to share his knowledge and expertise both spiritual and intellectual.

Fr. Pablo Villarroel Fernandez, O.P. joined his beloved Creator at the age of seventy-four (74), his 52nd year as a Dominican priest on June 1, 1992.

The Co-Foundress: Mo. Mercedes P. Llanderal, OP

Mo. Mercedes was born in Sta. Cruz, Manila on the 6th of March 1912 to Enrique Llanderal y Fernandez and Carmen Pastor y Teves. She studied at Centro Escolar de Señoritas (now Centro Escolar University) then took up a vocational course in dressmaking. Soon after, she was employed as a cashier at the Philippine Net and Braid Manufacturing Company in Manila. She was a deeply pious woman with an immense love for Jesus and a special devotion to God the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary and to St. Joseph. She bore in heart a strong desire to fulfill God’s will and was truly determined to carry it out willingly and joyfully. Sometime in 1951, she experienced an intense joy in her heart and felt that God wanted her to do something which was unknown to her. She pondered over this experience as she continued with her acts of piety and works of mercy with much fervor and joy. Six years later, in 1957, she had her first retreat at the Manresa Retreat Center in Quezon City and henceforth sought spiritual advice until she was directed to see Fr. Aurelio Valbuena, OP at Sto. Domingo Church, Quezon City. On August 2, 1958, she met with Fr. Valbuena, OP who advised her to join the Lay Third Order of St. Dominic, since her advanced age of 46 would hinder her entrance into any Religious Congregation. She was then told to see Fr. Pablo Fernandez, OP, Director of the Third Order of St. Dominic (Dominican Laity). It was on the 3rd of August 1958 when Ms. Llanderal and Fr. Fernandez first met. Miss Llanderal was admitted into the Lay Third Order of St. Dominic, and she willingly placed herself under the spiritual direction of Fr. Pablo, OP. Four months after, in December of that same year, Fr. Fernandez presented her with a plan of establishing a Secular Institute; she humbly and joyfully showed willingness to help in the fulfillment of the mission. On the 25th of that month, she, with other Dominican Tertiaries made their profession of private vows before Fr. Fernandez; preparations for the establishment of the Institute followed. On October 15, 1959, Miss Llanderal left her beloved family and with exemplary courage and humility, she formally started the Institute with another Dominican Tertiary, Miss Lourdes Ligunas and an elderly woman, through a common life of intense prayer, work and apostolate with the aged, the sick and the dying while residing in a building adjacent to the Sacred Heart Hospital in Looban St., Paco, Manila. With fidelity to their way of life and complete trust in God’s loving providence, Mo. Mercedes and her community, through the spiritual direction and guidance of Fr. Fernandez and the help of many kind-hearted individuals, endured the many trials and hardships they went through for the growth of the Institute. And eventually, through the years, the Secular Institute of St. Dominic evolved into a Religious Congregation, the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph and was canonically established as a Religious Congregation of Diocesan Right. True to her name, Mo. Mercedes had a loving and merciful heart. With love and joy she helped the poor, the needy and the sick. Her joyful spirit comes from her “determinada determinacion” (words of St. Teresa of Avila) or determined determination to please God; as she would often counsel the Sisters, “From moment to moment, God’s Will be done.” This she exemplified in various events of her religious life especially while undergoing trials and sufferings as a religious leader and while performing all kinds of tasks in the different houses of the Congregation from the Sacred Heart Hospital (1959-1964), Asilo de San Vicente de Paul (1964-1966) to the Diocese of Malolos. Her religious life mirrored the shining virtues of fortitude, joy, charity, humility, great love for prayer and regular observances, patience and perseverance. Mo. Mercedes passed away on April 17, 2001, leaving the legacy of forty-two (42) years of loving service to God and the Church, keeping the Congregation spiritually vibrant since its foundation.