Wanted in Papua-New Guinea: Seminary Professors

Appeals for Help in Formation of Young Clergy

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

ROME, JAN. 17, 2001 (Zenit.org).-
The Church in Papua New Guinea has crowded seminaries, but lacks professors to educate its candidates for the priesthood.

In order to inform European churches on the needs of this young Catholic community, Father Giorgio Bonazzoli, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and professor of theology at the Rabaul Seminary, has gone to Rome to launch his appeal for help.

The seminary is one of three in Papua New Guinea, which is in the eastern part of the great island of New Guinea, north of Australia, and extending over 500,000 square kilometers. Its population of 4.9 million includes 1.3 million Catholics, served by a total of 18 dioceses.

«During the first four years I gave Scripture classes; now I teach dogma,» Father Bonazzoli said. «Our seminary is young and does not have enough professors. The archbishop has given me carte blanche to find professors in Europe. We need them urgently.»

Father Bonazzoli had worked for 20 years in India, dialoguing with Hindus in Benares, Varanasi, where he studied at Sanskrit University, and worked to prepare a critical edition of the sacred texts of Hinduism in Sanskrit. He was also a professor at the Catholic University of Milan (1988-1992). For the past eight years he has been teaching in the Rabaul Seminary.

The seminary on New Britain Island covers the needs of five dioceses, with philosophy and theology courses that last six years, and has between 60 and 70 students. They do not live together but are divided in units of 10 or 11 students, with one teacher.

«An attempt is made to maintain the village structure, where there are elderly and youths,» Father Bonazzoli explained. «The members of each unit are not in the same year but selected from each year, with a certain sense of hierarchy. The older ones lead, give example, and also set the spiritual tone and make decisions. There are also ministers of prayer, work, games, kitchen, cleaning.

«Each unit has two small houses: In each one there are 12 rooms for the students. The teacher lives in the other one, which has the common services: chapel, kitchen, dining room, reading room, and games. The students themselves cook and, when they go to class, a cook comes at noon. They go out to teach the catechism and cultivate their own vegetable garden. Sometimes they go to sell the products at the market to earn a bit of money.»

These youths arrive at the major seminary when they are about 20 years old. After six years of study they are eligible to be deacons. They have a further year of work in a parish before they can be priests. Though dedicated to their pastoral work, their Christian faith is still in its infancy.

«We are still in the first or second generation that studies,» Father Bonazzoli said. «On many occasions, the faithful of the parishes might be considered ´Christian animists´; many believe in good and bad spirits of fishing, the sea, the forest, ancestors, animals, etc. Their mentality is still divided between the spirits and the God of the Bible.» Hence the need for well-formed seminary teachers.

«The teaching of theology is done, not without problems, in English,» Father Bonazzoli added. «It is an important mission, also for the preparation of future bishops of the country. To date, we have five out of a total of 18, with a local auxiliary here and there. More are needed, but they are not prepared. Professors are lacking.»

If professors do not speak English, PIME is offering to send them to one of its houses in the United States to learn it. Father Bonazzoli is also considering asking European professors to spend a year of their life in the education of the clergy of Papua New Guinea.

For more information, e-mail Father Bonazzoli at: giorgiopime@hotmail.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation