Haiti Seminary hardship

Tuesday 9 April 2013

At present there are 267 seminarians receiving their training in the somewhat precarious makeshift premises of the national seminary of Notre-Dame d’Haiti in Port-au-Prince. Below is a letter written by Fr Guy Boucicaut the rector of the seminary  about the current situation of the seminarians there.

THE period since the earthquake of 12 January 2010 has been really difficult for the Grand Séminaire Notre Dame in Haiti. It is true that aid has arrived here and there to meet the urgent needs of our seminarians, but there's still a lot to do. These difficulties are also accompanied by evident blessings in the life of one or other seminarian.

The major difficulty encountered in our new accommodation is the place itself. Indeed, after the earthquake we did not know where we should relocate the seminary temporarily. Eventually, after much reflection, discussion and prayer the administrative board of the seminary opted to relocate to Lilavois pending final reconstruction. In the beginning everyone was in tents with all this involves: heat during the day, the formation of shanty towns, crowding, lack of privacy etc. Since we are in the countryside it has not been possible to move around in the rainy season because of the mud and the puddles. On top of this there are the large numbers of mosquitos which plague us wherever we go. A few months later the Apostolic Nunciature of Haiti provided us with sturdier and more inhabitable tents. It was only last January that our 158 theology seminarians were able to move into corrugated metal huts, which enabled us to escape the unbearable heat of the tents. On the other hand, it was not possible in these huts to lead the kind of personal life essential for individual meditation with privacy, silence etc. because the seminarians are living 5 to a hut. It's better than before but the environment is not adequate in terms of providing suitable educational facilities. The solution is undoubtedly to rebuild the seminary at a location selected by the bishops of Haiti so as to make our educational community more viable and to create a framework more appropriate for educational purposes. But how long will we have to wait for this reconstruction project to be completed in view of the poor financial resources of the Church of Haiti?

Even so, it should be emphasized that, thanks to the profound motivation, courage and confidence of the candidates, this time in the wilderness for the Grand Séminaire is turning more into a time of grace.

Blessings experienced by seminarians
The Church of Haiti is experiencing more and more callings to the priesthood. The number of candidates is growing from year to year. We thank the Lord for this great gift which he continues to make to our Church.

Seen positively, the fact is that the seminarians want to be educated and be taught. They are open to education, and they have the desire to enter into the various dimensions of education. Two things are necessary for this: being motivated and having models. When it is explained to them why this is, when they see the sound reasons for one or other aspect of their education, they are willing to enter into it with enthusiasm and determination. Above all they need models. From the individual encounters with them I can summarize in two sentences what most of them tell me: "Here we live under difficult conditions and it's not always easy. But the seminary is not merely beautiful buildings. It is also and above all the fact that the priests are there for us and live with us." The seminarians like others are very aware of the precarious nature of the geographic environment of their education, but they transcend the problems to give the best of themselves. That's why I salute their heroic courage, their willingness to become educated and their determination to go forward despite the winds and floods in order to achieve the heights to which God calls them.

All those involved in education (seminarians, priests, bishops) give of their best for the advancement of the local Church, according to their individual situation and position. The Holy Spirit, the prime protagonist, is always present in this work since it is He who inspires and shows to each and all the way to follow in accomplishing the missionary task. May God accompany them all and give them the strength to go forward. May we always be faithful to Him and serve the Church, the reward for which is in heaven!

The seminary wishes to express its eternal gratitude to all the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need for the regular and valuable financial support they grant to our institution every year in the form of subsidies for our seminarians' education. We pray for them and ask the Lord to bestow on them all the blessings they need to accomplish their mission on Earth.

We entrust to our patron, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the present and future of our seminary so that it may be the will of God that is fulfilled and not the will of man.

Père Guy Boucicaut is the rector of the Grand Séminaire Notre-Dame in Haiti.

Article and photos courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need