OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Day of vocations: the work of the Church to increase the quality of formation in Seminaries

Saturday, 24 April 2021 vocations   priests   formation  

Port Moresby (Agenzia Fides) - "Priestly vocations in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are increasing more in terms of quality than quantity", explains to Agenzia Fides, Fr. Jacek Tendej CM, Rector of the Holy Spirit Seminary in Bomana, Papua New Guinea (PNG) on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
In the Episcopal Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands there is: a major seminary (12 seminarians) and minor (96 sem.) diocesan seminaries in Vanimo; a regional propaedeutic seminary (29 sem.) in the archdiocese of Rabaul; a regional seminary in the diocese of Mount Hagen – philosophy and spiritual year; a regional seminary (54 sem.) in the diocese of Madang – propaedeutic formation; an inter-ocean seminary (53 sem.) in the archdiocese of Port Moresby – philosophy and theology for all the dioceses of PNG; and an inter-ocean seminary (42 sem.) in the archdiocese of Honiara for all the dioceses of the Solomon Islands. The Rector illustrates the renewed structure of formation introduced some years ago: "After two propaedeutic years, we continue in PNG with one spiritual year, two years of philosophical studies, one pastoral year and four years of theological studies.
After these ten years the seminarians go back to their dioceses and after around one year of pastoral experience they receive the diaconate ordination. Then after again around one year, the priestly ordination". From this it is clear that the process of formation is longer than in the other parts of the world. "One of the factors - explains Fr. Tendej - is the low level of the primary and secondary education in the country because of the lack of well prepared teachers. When in 1975 PNG become an independent country, the education also became nationalized, but without a sufficient number of prepared educational workforce. The number of private schools - in good part Catholic schools - is still decreasing and these schools are too expensive for the majority of the citizens".
"Most of the seminarians - he continues - come from the rural area where the faith was brought by the missionaries. Many of them come from the families involved in the Church activities as catechists or other lay collaborators. They have good traditional roots of Catholic faith, and now needed to deepen this by the seminary formation.
Another challenge in the intellectual formation is the language: "All the seminarians are using the language of the tribe (tok ples) as a mother tongue, and the major part of them are using Pidgin English a language born at the time of colonization. It is a very simple language to give orders, and now when used in daily life is even becoming an obstacle to a deeper thinking and communication because of a very narrow range of the vocabulary. English is for our students the third language, and they are still struggling because they use it only for study and not for daily conversations". Fr. Jacek highlights: "In spite of the above-mentioned challenges, I find my eight year service as missionary rector at Holy Spirit Seminary in Bomana very rewarding. The seminarians appreciate the discipline, the close relationship with them, and also our being with them during their activities as prayer, celebrations, works, sports, meals etc. They also express their gratitude for all works of maintenance, renovation, and beautification of the compound, the new equipment and the buildings of the seminary".
The Rector reports on the impact of the pandemic: "Since the beginning of the time of pandemic our seminarians are handling matters well. There is no panic, but rather a positive approach of more physical activities and higher hygiene of daily life. Last year we had introduced distance education by the administration of our theological institute, so this kind work and isolation restrictions gave us as formators more opportunity of deepen our relationships and spend more time together. This year after detecting in the country an increasing number of virus infections, we again have isolation and distance education, and that is a new challenge in formation for all of us. This second year of pandemic restrictions, up until now are not paralysing our formation program and our seminarians. We pray and hope we can continue this wonderful work of the formation of the clergy for the young Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Island. (PA-GL) (Agenzia Fides, 24/4/2021)