Seminaries in the 'modern' sense were invented in the 16th century by the Council of Trent.
Thus the English College, which was founded as a seminary in 1579, was in fact part of a bold new venture to improve the formation of priests, combining the virtues of the three major 'routes' to ordained ministry that existed before, the university, the monastery, and the parish. Combining intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation, they sought to prepare young men for ministry in an environment that was becoming increasingly hostile following the Reformation. Indeed in England and Wales it was so hostile that the newly ordained priest risked death simply by setting foot on his native soil.
Seminaries still perform the same function, providing intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation for those discerning and preparing for priestly ministry. To those three areas of formation Blessed John Paul II added a fourth in his Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (PDV) - that of human formation. Of course human formation had always gone on in seminaries - living in community provides that to a significant extent, but PDV made it more explicit and hence gave it a greater focus.
Here at the English College we continue in that mission of forming man for priestly ministry in England and Wales. Once again we recognise increasing hostility to Christian ideals, values and institutions, sometimes caused by failings within the Church. We seek to form priests with courage and confidence, but also holiness, gentleness and humility, to spread the Gospel in England and Wales, and to minister to God's people there.