Preparing to Give Witness to the Resurrection and God’s Infinite Mercy

Future priests must be witnesses to the Resurrection and God’s infinite mercy, Pope Francis teaches, for ‘ultimately, it is not administrators and managers we are training, but brothers and fathers, who will accompany the people on their journey through life.’

These words of the Pope are cited with feeling by the rector of the Saint Francis Seminary in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in his annual report. For his most heartfelt concern is to train good shepherds, and the words of Pope Francis are an encouragement to him. Naturally, all the other subject disciplines are also taught, starting with philosophy, via Canon Law and right through to dogmatics.

But after 25 years of civil war people in Sri Lanka are in need of a helping hand and not a wagging finger. Love and Logos – this is his motto, in full agreement with the words of Pope Benedict XVI: Love alone is not enough; only when love and truth agree, is man made free.’

The seminary in Jaffna is almost 35 years old. Several times the seminarians were forced to flee during the war. They could take no more than a few books and other essentials with them. And yet despite these circumstances, 125 priests were trained during this time. At first there were just five of them; now there are 34 young men, and it is becoming very cramped.

At present they share two large dormitories. Yet the senior seminarians, who are close to ordination, ought really to have rooms of their own. For as the rector tells them, in the words of the Pope, ‘even if you lose everything else in life, you must hold on to your profound relationship with Christ in your hearts.’

That is why they need a room to which they can retire, alone in communion with Christ. So now the seminary is building a ‘theology block’ for these more senior students. We are supporting the project.

For in the words of Pope Francis, the relationship with Christ is the ‘guarantee of success, the way forward.’ By helping these seminarians in this way you will be showing them that Christ is indeed the Good Shepherd, who unites love and truth in
his Church.

But even seminarians cannot live on words alone. They must eat, drink, sleep as well. And eating and drinking are likewise opportunities for fraternal communion among the seminarians. So they also need a table to sit at and a chair to sit on. But even these are lacking in the seminary of Saint Francis Xavier in Lahore, Pakistan.

It has been in existence for 15 years, and there are numerous vocations. It has 92 seminarians preparing for the priesthood, including 18 students from different religious orders.

Already they have had to extend the refectory, and now they are still short of four tables and 25 chairs, plus another 25 chairs and desks for the study rooms. And there is an imminent need for another 40 beds as well. The diocese and the seminary between them have just about managed to fund the building work.

But now there is nothing left for the furniture. These Spiritual Fathers, these future witnesses to the Resurrection and God’s infinite mercy need to be able to sit at their desks and prepare themselves well for their ministry.

This article can be found in Mirror 0116.