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March 13, 2020

Dean of the Seminary: Come study with us!

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

There’s a lot to learn at the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs (SJVUM) and course offerings are not just for seminarians or Christians.

Apart from seeking academic qualifications, courses are available for anyone curious about aspects of religion or the Christian faith. For persons simply interested in expanding their knowledge without doing exams, they can “audit” courses, which allows persons to “read according to your own leisure”.

“Come and study with us,” said Principal and Dean of Studies at the Seminary, Fr Arnold Francis in an interview at the Theological Institute of the Seminary, Mt St Benedict, where classes are held.

The SJVUM, is a campus of the Catholic Religious Education Development Institute (CREDI) and is an affiliated college of The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, which gives a degree or diploma upon completion of the required courses.

Fr Francis emphasised a sound knowledge foundation for Catholics to fulfil their evangelisation role. “Come and help us to proclaim the gospel—you can’t proclaim what you don’t know,” he said. And to provide sound teaching to others there must be an understanding of, “what we teach, how we teach”.

There are courses beneficial to catechists, persons teaching the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, and conducting retreats. He added, “This is the age where people want to know how…people ask more questions and you have to be able to respond, to throw light even if you don’t give the full answer”.

Apart from courses under theology, philosophy, history and ethics, the areas of Christian worship, pastoral counselling, ecumenism, Christian education, ‘Media and Religious Imagination’, ‘Mary in the Christian Tradition’, and ‘Comparative Religion’ are units for study.

He said of the courses in ecumenism and comparative religion: “We live in Trinidad and Tobago together and we have to work together for the common good and apart from that we have to come to know and appreciate rather than try to break down each other’s faith…while we may not believe the exact same thing, we learn to appreciate one another….”

Fr Francis said the Bible study module takes both a historical and contemporary look at the Bible.

“So we go back in the Old Testament and we try to understand the cultural setting…those who come here will realise when you look at the Old Testament so many things comes from religions around the area, so the Old Testament is already a kind of interfaith dialogue,” he explained. He invited anyone wishing to understand how the Church is run to try the Canon Law course.

The seminary needs Catholic support. Fr Francis said the $75,000/year quoted to educate a seminarian was a “conservative” estimate. There are currently 13 (diocesan) and 10 (Holy Ghost or Spiritan Fathers) seminarians going through formation.

They have to study for Theology and Philosophy degrees, which takes about five years. Living expenses e.g., meals, insurance, medical are provided. He said it was a “balancing act” to keep cost down; at present costs exceed revenue.

He disclosed that the library needs to be expanded, another classroom built, a librarian hired, and books purchased for the philosophy programme.

The seminary is working with the CREDI to introduce a Bachelor’s degree with a major in Philosophy and minor in Theology. Funding is also required to properly pay lay persons, clergy and religious who currently receive a nominal stipend.

“If you love your Church and you want your Church to go on, you have to support what your Church is doing,” Fr Francis said. He appealed for the public to enrol for courses and give donations. A special collection for the seminary will be taken at Masses and Services on the weekend of March 21–22.

Sign up for courses for the September semester. For more information contact: 662-4983 or email: