In the current edition of ONE, writer Anubha George visits Indian seminaries where future priests are studying. Here, she offers some personal reflections on the assignment.
Long winding roads; the green of the Kerala countryside; tall coconut trees and a flash of backwaters every few miles.
All this crisscrossing led us to three very different but equally important seminaries in Kerala. It is here that future generations of priests in India are being trained to devote their lives to Christ and community.
We had gorgeous weather on our travels. Kerala gets boiling hot and humid come end of February/early March. But the beginning of February is breezy, comfortably warm and the humidity is tolerable. We needn’t have worried though. The seminaries we visited: Mary Matha major seminary in Mannuthy near Trichur; St Thomas Apostolic seminary in Vadavathoor near Kottayam, and St. Francis Theological College in Thellakom had one thing in common — apart from training priests, that is! They all had lots of trees — coconut, banana, banyan, jack fruit, tapioca plants, to name a few. It was cool in these seminaries.
Another thing that struck me over and over again was the wonderfully positive energy in each of these places. They are all beautiful and imposing buildings, away from the maddening sounds of the city. It’s peaceful and quiet here. You can see why the church has chosen to train future priests here. There are no distractions. Just peaceful buildings located in quiet and small communities, where the young men learn how to support and bring people together.
The chapels in all three seminaries made an impression on my heart. It felt like Christ was present here. The Capuchin seminary chapel was designed by the men themselves. It showed the world turned into one single nest through the Divine.
The church respects the fact that an understanding of different religions is needed in this day and age of conflict and controversy. Interfaith understanding is encouraged. Brothers are taught about other religions and are trained in how to have fruitful and positive dialogue with people from other faiths.
The pastoral training is tough. It is long and many people quit. But those who stay are determined to make a difference. We met many such brothers and deacons. They are clear in their purpose — to live their live in the way Jesus did; to make parishioners see Christ in them.
All seminaries run programs to help communities, such as providing support to people with AIDS; helping poor and underprivileged do their school and home work; counseling families to sort out their family problems; and organizing retreats for spiritual guidance. Young people from the local communities are especially encouraged to participate in activities organized by the local parishes.
Visitors are always welcomed in the seminaries. At every seminary, we were offered a delicious lunch cooked with organically grown vegetables.
Three days. Three seminaries. Three villages in interior Kerala. Not once did it feel like a chore. We came away feeling refreshed from each of these places.
Read more about The New Priests in the March 2018 edition of ONE.