Challenges of priestly formation in the pandemic

Seminarian Samuel Bernard, who tested positive for COVID-19 after attending his father’s funeral service, was at the government quarantine centre. He had to delay his registration for the Year of Initiation (IA) for the start of the academic year on February 6.

March 11, 2022

Seminarians and aspirants of the initiation year for the year 2022.


KOTA KINABALU:
Seminarian Samuel Bernard, who tested positive for COVID-19 after attending his father’s funeral service, was at the government quarantine centre. He had to delay his registration for the Year of Initiation (IA) for the start of the academic year on February 6.

Bernard, 32, from Tuaran is a teacher by profession. Early in his journey of priestly formation, he suffered the loss of his father, who died on January 23 of this year.

Besides his personal loss, the outbreak of the pandemic two years ago also called into question his decision to join the priesthood. Although half of the classes were conducted online while he was an aspirant at the Aspirant Training House during the enforced pandemic lockdown, he has advanced in his priesthood training journey.

For new seminarian Jeremia Dumingu, 29, the pandemic lockdown was like life in prison with no outdoor activities.

But those restrictions benefited him as he struggled to overcome the challenges of the unprecedented pandemic. He found enough time to study, pray and meditate, and as a result he was rewarded with an unwavering prayer life and passed his MUTE exam on his second attempt.

Fully aware of the struggles and challenges of seminarians and aspirants, Bishop John Wong urged them to let the Word of God guide them. With encouraging words like these, he addressed archdiocesan candidates for the priesthood at the February 24 opening Mass of the academic year.

He suggested three ways to allow the Word of God to guide them:

1) cut off from everything that prevents us from drawing closer to God,

2) be salty, but

3) first be salted by Jesus and be at peace with one another. In short, they must let the Word of God guide them and inspire them daily to be salt and light to the world.

The spiritual directors of the IY and the aspirant formation houses, Fr. Mattheus Luta and Fr. Isidore Gilbert respectively, as well as the parish priest of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Paul Lo, concelebrated the Mass with the Prelate .

Guests were also present at the event, including volunteer speakers from MUET and OCDS members from the nearby Camel community.

During the communion address after Mass, the Archbishop thanked God for his generosity in calling 21 young men – nine of the year of initiation and 12 aspirants – to form themselves at different stages of formation and participate in the building the Kingdom of God.

Father Mattheus informed that no proper opening ceremony had been held for two years due to the pandemic. Even this year’s opening event was postponed from February 18 to February 24 due to some contestants being quarantined.

Father Mattheus referred to the document Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis concerning priestly formation.

There are four stages, namely, the propaedeutic stage or stage of the year of initiation, the stage of philosophical studies or discipleship, the stage of theological studies or configuration, and the pastoral stage or vocational synthesis, said the spiritual director.

He concluded on a note of hope that seminarians would be trained to be “a priest after the heart of Jesus”, that is, to be another Christ (Alter Christus), and asked for continued prayer for the seminarians. –Catholic Sabah