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Changes at the Seminary…as new academic year begins

“A lot could happen in one year.” This was how Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon began his homily on the Feast of Our Lady’s Birthday on Friday, September 8, which also marked the opening of the academic year of the Seminary of St John Vianney & the Uganda Martyrs.

It was a triple celebration since the occasion, which falls within the 80th anniversary of the Seminary, also saw the rite of candidacy being conferred upon two men: Roland Joseph and Maurice White, both of whom are expected to be ordained deacons on September 23.

Joseph will be ordained to the permanent deaconate as a married man while White will be ordained to the transitional diaconate, before his eventual ordination to the priesthood.

Before family, friends, benefactors, staff, formators, lecturers and well-wishers, Archbishop Gordon made public mention of some of the changes that had happened over the year.

Fr Jason Boatswain was announced as the new Rector with Msgr Cuthbert Alexander, the new Vice-Rector. Archbishop Gordon also acknowledged the presence of Justin De Verteuil, Luke Walker and Daniel Machuka who are on their journey of discernment for the priesthood.

The young men are participating in the Aspirancy Programme under the present leadership of Fr Alan Hall who was announced as the new director, taking up the position from Fr Matthew d’Hereaux.

Also acknowledged were the new seminarians who would be living, studying, and discerning their vocations at the Seminary: Jameke Brown and Andu Henry for the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, and Ischemith Pierre-Louis and Anselm Iwuchukwu for the Diocese of Roseau.

The Archbishop’s open gestures of welcome mirror the spirit of the new Rector’s vision wherein the Seminary can be seen as a formative community: “This community moves away from merely a hierarchical model of formation exclusively for priest and religious [and] embraces the people of God in its shaping and forming [of] minds and hearts. This synodal expression of formation moves away from overemphasising the community of formators to welcoming the entire people of God who play an indispensable role as the formative community, whose role it is to bear witness to the reality of an integrated way of living the Gospel of Christ.”

This vision seemed to have come to life as the Mass featured participation from the people of God in the form of the lay students who offered intercessory prayers, including those of different denominations, Spiritual Baptist Mother Esta George-Wellington, and Stephanie Baldeosingh of the Presbyterian Church. Additionally, mention was made at the Mass of the non-seminarian religious students, like those of the Benedictine and Spiritan communities.

The ceremony was rounded off with tokens of appreciation being handed out to Susan Cumin, Norma St Rose and Msgr Alexander for their longstanding and generous service to the Seminary community. Special mention was made of Cumin who had served the Seminary well over 40 years as housekeeper.

Newly ordained Fr Augustine Kintu also received recognition at the ceremony. Both Frs Kintu and Matthias Ssajjabbi originally from Uganda and recent graduates of the Seminary were ordained for the Archdiocese on the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary, August 15.

A number of other stakeholders or agents of formation as they are referred to by Fr Boatswain including administrative staff, the finance committee, and the community of formators were acknowledged.

In the new synodal design of Seminary formation, Fr Boatswain articulates a Church enabled to widen its tent to include those on the margins, a sentiment echoed by Academic Dean Dr Adanna James who used the image of Mary’s womb expanding to radically include all people into community in her address.

As part of that inclusion, the Seminary’s new thrust sees itself expanding academically in its course offerings to put forward non-traditional courses such as Introduction to Catechesis and Spirituality, specially catered for the laity, to commence in October to run for six weeks.

Fr Boatswain upholds that theological formation continues to be the heart of the Seminary’s academic formation and  is meant for the entire people of God.