Preparing for Service

Editors’ note: In the June 2022 issue of ONE, Magdy Samaan takes us within the walls of St. Leo Patriarchal Seminary in Maadi, Cairo, where he meets seminarians in formation for the priesthood in the Coptic Catholic Church and the men who form them. All of the men have different reasons for “Following the Good Shepherd” into a life of service to the church and the community. Listen to Magdy’s impressions of his visit to the seminary in this audio report. A full transcript follows.

In the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the Catholic Church was growing rapidly in Egypt. In 1896, three Coptic Catholic bishops sent a letter to Pope Leo XIII, asking him to establish the seminary and shorten the period of study due to the great need of the church for priests.

The first seminary was established in Tahta, Upper Egypt, in 1899, and was called after Pope Leo. It was replaced in 1953 by St. Leo Seminary in Maadi, Cairo, which has continued to graduate priests and monks to serve the Catholic Church in Egypt. 

In this issue of ONE magazine, we visited St. Leo Seminary in Maadi and met with the seminarians and the teachers. 

The Coptic Catholic Church, alongside the other Catholic orders, have played an important role in serving the community in Egypt, building schools, hospitals, orphanages to serve the Egyptian community, and St. Leo is at the heart of this, graduating clergymen prepared for service. 

In the past decades, however, the number of people applying to study at the seminary decreased almost by half, comparing to three or four decades ago. The shortage of vocations is a global phenomenon, which the Catholic Church in Egypt hasn’t reached yet. But there are indications that year after another the number of the new vocations decreases. 

Until last year, the duration of study at the seminary was eight years: two years of preparation study, two years of studying philosophy and four years of studying theology. When I spoke with the seminarians about their vocations, each one of them spoke of his enthusiasm and passion for service. But after spending all this time studying, this passion may fade. This is in addition to the fact that most of these seminarians have completed their undergraduate studies. 

In my opinion, reducing the study period to four or five years will have a positive impact. And for those who need to gain more knowledge, the seminary could create post-graduate studies.

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