Sierra Leone is still struggling to emerge from its state of near-permanent crisis. The consequences of the terrible civil war, from 1991 to 2002, are still painfully evident. During this civil war, approximately half the population were forced to flee their homes and thousands of people were killed.
One still sees people today with a missing arm or foot, hacked off by the rebels of the so-called “Revolutionary United Front.” Countless women were raped, and many children born of rape were left to wander the streets, helpless. The economy is ravaged by poverty, unemployment and corruption and today this country of West Africa is still one of the poorest in the world – a poverty only exacerbated by a series of natural disasters, above all the devastating Ebola epidemic of 2014.
While some 70% of the population are Muslims, the Catholic Church is nonetheless widely respected, especially for its many schools and the selfless help it has provided to so many people, regardless of race or religion. It is help that is urgently needed. At the same time, the Church is very careful not to neglect the spiritual and religious dimension, and is accordingly stepping up its efforts to promote vocations and provide a solid formation for its future priests.
The Diocese of Makeni covers a vast area of over 14,000 square miles, though it has only 25 parishes. It also has a minor seminary – a form of school that precedes the seminary proper. Here, young boys who feel a calling to the priesthood attend school and are given a normal academic formation. But in addition to their ordinary schooling, they are also introduced to the religious life. This includes daily Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours (or Divine Office – the daily prayer of the Church), regular personal prayer and spiritual accompaniment.
Each month there is a retreat day and at the end of each semester the youngsters take part in a longer spiritual retreat. “The spiritual formation is at the heart of their education,” says the rector of the seminary, Father Peter S. Kanu. Attention is also paid to psychological and social-cultural aspects of their formation, since the training for the priesthood has to address the whole person. “Our future priests are being trained not only for the local Church but also for the universal Church,” the rector explains.
Many of the 40 priests currently working in the diocese also attended the minor seminary here themselves and, happily, every year there are one or two or even several priestly ordinations in Makeni. This is the fruit of an intensified vocations apostolate.
“We spend some time in the parishes and schools, talking about vocations. We believe that this apostolate inspires the desire in the hearts of these boys to devote their lives to God,” Father Peter adds.
Now world economic factors are also impacting on the life of the seminary in this desperately poor country. Prices are rising almost daily, and it is a struggle for the seminary to make ends meet. Above all they need school textbooks and Bibles. We are proposing to help the seminary with a contribution of $3,200, so that they can purchase the necessary materials.
Will you help provide teaching materials for these future priests as they prepare to serve God and others in a poor and struggling Sierra Leone?
We are sure they will remember you in their grateful prayers.
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