As the Pope’s official charity for World Mission, Missio is unique in its commitment to supporting each and every seminary in the missionary world; a challenge set by Pope Pius XI in 1922 and still embraced by Missio today. We also have a special relationship with seminaries in India, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. This message comes from Fr Quintus, Rector of Our Lady of Lanka National Seminary in Sri Lanka: 

We experienced considerable solace in 2023, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began to lessen. After two years of restrictions, the Seminary could once again run its formation programme smoothly.

Most of the activities that were halted, for instance, the pastoral activities and cultural events which play a key role in forming the character of the seminarians were resumed, bringing back normalcy to seminary life.

This year, we have 200 Seminarians who are studying for the Priesthood. It is with gratitude to God that 28 Diocesan Priests and 14 Religious Priests were ordained in 2023.

Struggles in Sri Lanka

Despite these joys, we have had our challenges. Sri Lanka is grappling with its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. There are shortages of food, fuel, and medical supplies. What is more, we are increasingly unable to import agricultural products such as fertilizers, so there is mass food insecurity. Inflation of food prices is at a record rate of over 90%, and nearly 4.5 million workers risk losing their jobs.

This insecurity has had a direct and huge impact on the life of the Seminary. It has been extremely difficult to manage the food expenses which almost amount to almost half of what we spend each year. Every other expense has gone up much beyond the budgeted amounts. These expenses created an extremely difficult situation and we struggled to manage the Seminary within the budgeted funds.

We are planning to further expand and develop the Seminary farm so that, while it can provide for the sustenance of the Seminary community, the excess can be sold to villagers to generate additional income.

Our changing world

Our Lady of Lanka is the premier House of Formation in Sri Lanka, supporting all the dioceses of the entire country in the formation of clergy. So the type of formation given at the National Seminary will have a direct impact on generations of Priests serving in the entire island.

As the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis [the Vatican guide to Priestly Vocations] states, social media and digital technologies are:

“an arena from which the pastors of the future cannot remain aloof, either during their formation or their future ministry” (No 97).

It further affirms:

“ease with the digital world are an integral part of the development of the … seminarian”, because “using new communication technologies, Priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ.” (No 97).

We are keen to integrate digital technology into the formation of our future Priests. But to do this safely, we need to update the electrical system and install a proper network system and other digital devices. We are in the process of preparing a plan to modernise certain operations with expert guidance so that we can run the Seminary in a cost-effective manner. This plan can be implemented gradually depending on the availability of funds.

Our hopes for the year

We began the new academic year on 2 October 2023 with utmost trust in the Lord that he will guide us to shape holy and committed missionary Priests, whose lives are configured to Christ, rooted in his Word and Sacrament, and dedicated to serve the People of God. To produce such Priests, we believe that updating the Formation Programme to make it more effective for the 21st century is a priority this year.

Christ is the way

In our modern world, people have so many questions about what is happening around them. They often have no meaningful and convincing answers. And so, a greater part of humanity today is in a state of confusion.

We Christians believe that there is only one direction in our search for meaning in the face of confusions and perplexities that we experience. That is Jesus Christ, Saviour of humanity.

Given this cultural backdrop, young men of this century who aspire to the priesthood must be deeply convinced that, amidst changing realities, Christ is still the Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6). The Catholic Priest in the twenty-first century need be convincingly Christ-centred and deeply rooted in Him, lest he himself becomes a sad victim or a part of that general confusion.

Our priestly ministry must emerge from this fundamental inner conviction, and not from any external compulsion – be that from an established religious system or from any other motive.

Leading students on a journey towards Christ

Such an inner conviction becomes a reality only when one experiences personally, and in the faith community, Jesus Christ as his own saviour and the saviour of his brothers and sisters.

We believe that one of the primary objectives of priestly formation is to lead the candidate to a deeper and more personal experience of Jesus Christ, which becomes the basis of priestly spirituality and the paramount qualifying factor of his priestly identity. In the life of the candidate to the priesthood, this Christ-experience becomes transformative, gradually configuring him to the image of Christ the Supreme High Priest, by the working of the Holy Spirit, the primary agent of all priestly formation.

Forming the Priests of the future

We, as a team of formators, are studying and praying in consultation with Bishops to make our formation programme more effective and relevant to our pastoral contexts. This year we have planned to introduce certain specific elements so that our formation can more effectively form Priests who serve the pastoral needs of the twenty-first century.

Please pray with us that we may have divine guidance in our endeavour to prepare holy and committed missionary Priests, whose lives are configured to Christ, rooted in His Word and Sacrament, and dedicated to serve the People of God.

Fr Quintus, Rector 

Message from a student:

I am indeed very glad and happy to express my heartfelt gratitude for all the support that you, my benefactors, extended to me and my brother Seminarians both spiritually and financially. We make it a point to offer our prayers daily for our benefactors as a community. We thank God for their generosity while invoking the blessings on their families.

To know that someone is praying specifically for my priestly journey is a great source of strength and encouragement, as it is a journey of many challenges and numerous difficulties.

In Sri Lanka, many parents cannot afford the expenses involved in our priestly formation. All we receive in the Seminary is thanks to the generosity of benefactors like you. We are aware of the sacrifices that you make to contribute towards our priestly formation.

Our country is going through an economic crisis that has made our lives difficult. Amidst all these difficulties we, the seminarians, are able to continue our formation smoothly because of your support.

While we pray for you, the best way to thank you is to become committed and holy missionary priests who will serve the people in our communities. You can be rest assured that your generosity will bear fruit through our priestly ministry. ‘Thank You’ for all you are to me and may the Good Lord richly reward your generosity.

Br Roy