Rector Msgr Cuthbert Alexander gives an update on the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs.
Just before the seminary turned 75, in 2018, it returned to its home at Mount St Benedict, a visible and tangible sign of a Church alive.
In 2010, the seminary was temporarily closed because, with very few seminarians, it was too costly to run. The period of closure allowed for some renovations and general upgrade of the facility, which also allowed for its use as a conference and retreat centre in those intervening years.
During that time, four of our students went to the Dominican Republic where they completed their studies in philosophy and then came back home for theology, and to the St Joseph Parish where the seminary was housed for a brief time.
These four: Frs Lindsay John, Kwesi Alleyne, Stephan Alexander and Kenwyn Sylvester are among our most recently ordained. Seminary formation lasts normally six years; two years of Philosophy, three of Theology and a final pastoral year.
But today, seminarians are in the house—by the grace of God, 13 of them—a diverse group of men from the Caribbean region and countries of Africa, all studying for dioceses of the region. They are all men serious about this period of discernment, seeking each day to remain open to God’s grace.
Of this number, eight are studying for Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago), two Bridgetown (Barbados), two St John’s (Antigua & Barbuda) and one Georgetown (Guyana). From its beginnings as the Port of Spain Archdiocesan Seminary under the direction of the Benedictines, the institution has been regional in its soul and approach.
Seminary formation is built on four traditional pillars—spiritual, academic, pastoral and human— with each pillar or dimension needing to be kept in balance with the others.
The lessons learnt from the rearing of chickens and a hydroponic project to produce lettuce and other short crops; weekly pastoral ministry, including hospital visitation, prison ministry and aiding the work of the Missionaries of Charity Sisters at Laventille, are all important components of the human dimension and overall formation.
Our Seminarian Handbook says of this dimension that it seeks to promote “integral human development for personality maturation. Candidates become men who are well balanced so that their humanity can be a bridge for communicating Jesus Christ”.
The task of those of us guiding the formation process, Vice Rector Fr Steve Ransome and I, and the rest of the team, is to aid in the formation of future priests who have a deep desire for Christ and to see His kingdom flourish, men filled with missionary zeal.
This work cannot be done, however, without the support of you the reader and brothers and sisters in our parishes. We thank God for the parishes that continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life—every weekend.
Many groups and individuals continued to intercede for the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, even when no-one was in the house. Because of your prayers and financial contributions, the seminary and its seedbed, Aspirancy House at St Joseph, under the guidance of Vicar for Vocations and Priestly Formation Fr Matthew d’Hereaux, where men begin their discernment for one year, are both up and running.
It must be God’s desire that the seminary so prosper that closure never again becomes an option. It costs approximately $75,000 per annum (the 2019 figure) to maintain each seminarian over the years of formation, for tuition and living expenses. Please keep the seminary in your heart and mind this Lent.