The seminary, established in 1963, is located about ten kilometres from Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. In February 2018, we began the academic year with 45 seminarians from different dioceses of the country. Holy Spirit Seminary is the formation center for the seminarians from all the dioceses of the country. Our seminarians attend classes at the Catholic Theological Institute. Nine of them are studying philosophy and 36 of them theology. Before coming to this seminary, many of the students were involved in formation at Saint Fidelis Seminary in the Archdiocese of Madang or had studied in one of the regional seminaries. In addition to the academic program, the formation program also includes a year of spiritual formation and a year of pastoral formation, thus a process of at least ten years.
The formation team is composed of four priests: Father Andrew Bili Rossi (Diocese of Bougainville) is the spiritual director; Father Peter Silong (Diocese of Kimbe) is the pastoral director; Father Marcin Wróbel, CM (Province of Poland) is the vice-rector; and I, Father Jacek Tendej, CM (Province of Poland) am the rector.
The current academic year began on 5 February with a spiritual retreat that was directed by Father Justin Ratsi (a member of the Marist Congregation). The theme of the retreat was: Rediscovering God’s Call. On 12 February, the academic year began officially with the celebration of the Eucharist, presided by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Kurian M. Vayalunkal.
Apart from studies, the seminarians participate in all the activities of the human, spiritual, and pastoral formation.
I was appointed Rector of Holy Spirit Seminary in January 2014. The three first years were, for me as rector and for the Holy Spirit Seminary community, a time of many changes in the rules and life of the seminary, and also a time of wide-ranging renovation of the infrastructure. The formation year 2017 was the year of general stabilization in both areas. First of all, I would like to highlight that last year, 2017, was more peaceful and with more familiarity of daily life and formation. We, as formators, felt more united, living as a community with the seminarians, having good relationships. During several interviews and talks with the seminarians, I was content that they themselves appreciated the fact that the priests were living in unity. This is actually a very important factor of genuine formation, more important than a hundred beautiful homilies. In my opinion, we, as formators, were living as good friends, with joy and serenity. I appreciate very much the positive approach of the spiritual director and the politeness and good sense of humour of the vice-rector. In August, the pastoral director, who is very committed to the seminarians, joined our team. This atmosphere has radiated onto the community of the seminarians.
In my opinion, the seminarians were more disciplined and more committed to private and community prayer. We did not experience serious behavioural, spiritual, or academic problems. They were well motivated to do their best in the four pillars of seminary formation.
The regular formation program consisted of daily Eucharist with a homily, prayer of the breviary, meditation, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, weekly benediction with biblical reflection by the seminarians of the last year of theology, prayer of the rosary, conferences led by the formators’ Bible sharing, the way of the cross in Lent, monthly recollection days and community meetings, and personal meeting and talks with the spiritual and pastoral directors and the rector. In the month of October, we accompanied the faithful from Holy Name of Jesus Bomana Parish, in praying the rosary. Reflection on its mysteries was delivered by the seminarians of the second year of theology. We also had several celebrations, such as the Holy Spirit Seminary feast, Chrism Mass in the cathedral, and 400 years of the Vincentian charism. We visited interesting places like the Parliament, the Jewish farm, the Mount Eriama water plant. We had interesting meetings with specialists from different sciences, psychologist, and evangelizers. The seminarians had the possibility of playing different sports.
This year we concluded the general renovation of the seminary’s buildings. In 2017, we finished the maintenance of the seminarians’ dormitories and restructured the visitors’ rooms in the staff house. The Goodwill Company did the renovation of the church, laundry hall, and the ancillary staff houses. Finally, at the end of the year, the gathering hall was repaired. All the work was done by three local handymen. The seminarians’ dormitory was renovated and painted from outside by the inmates of the Bomana Prison. The last and most meaningful point of this process was the installation of the new tabernacle in the church. The Apostolic Nuncio’s blessing of the tabernacle, the smallest but most important building in the seminary, concluded the maintenance.
Personally, this was a special year for me for two reasons. In October, I went to Rome to participate in the International Symposium marking the 400 years of the Vincentian charism and, after graduation, I preached the annual retreat to 46 diocesan priests from three dioceses of the Solomon Islands in the Visale pastoral centre in the diocese of Honiara. For me, it was an extraordinary new experience, challenging, but also very rewarding.
I would like to emphasize that we had very good collaboration and mutual understanding among the members of the staff and the community of seminarians this year. I hope and believe that, through positive example and also different daily problems, with help from Above – the Grace of God and the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit – we, as formators, will be able to help the seminarians in their self-formation to be good, holy, committed, and responsible followers of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Father Jacek Tendej, CM