Spiritan makes his way back to Malawi in a roundabout way

  • September 28, 2011

Spiritan Father Locky Flanagan tries to lead by example as spiritual director at the Inter-Congregational Seminary, a philosophy seminary in Malawi, Africa.

“I try to look at the seminarians and what they seem to be seeking is to know the Lord and to follow Him and I have to live it out myself,” Flanagan told The Catholic Register from Ireland, where he was attending a niece’s wedding.

Flanagan’s most recent stint in Malawi began in early 2009. But prior to this, he served in the southern African country for 10 years — in the 1980s and then again in 2000.

He came to Canada from Ireland in the early 1970s and his work here included service as pastor at both Holy Cross parish in Guelph, Ont., and St. Joseph’s parish in Scarborough. In 2005, Flanagan was elected the provincial superior of the Spiritans, which lasted for three years. It was after this he was invited to return to Africa once more.

This time, he went to Malawi as the number of vocations was “growing bigger” than the manpower available, he said.

Flanagan is pleased to see the Church is manifesting life and growth.

“The fact that there are vocations and young men interested in applying to be accepted into the formation of young priests is appealing,” he said.

Along with the Spiritans, the philosophy seminary is run by four other missionary congregations, including the Combonis, the Montforts, the Carmelites and the Missionaries of Africa, he said.

About 100 students are enrolled for the upcoming year, which starts this month. Of those, 20 are interested in becoming Spiritans.

Besides serving as spiritual director to the seminarians, Flanagan teaches anthology and spirituality classes.

But Flanagan’s desire to serve overseas had been present in him since he was a teenager.

“When I first thought of the priesthood… I was wanting to go to some place like Africa or Brazil. So (this) has in some ways answered the need for something that was there in me since I was younger.”

One thing that strikes Flanagan is the happiness that accompanies ordinations.

“This year we had two ordained,” he said. “We had our first Zimbabwean ordained as a Spiritan… And there was a great joy and celebration,” with people dancing, singing and undulating, he said.

After all his time in Malawi, there are many things Flanagan enjoys about his every day life: he likes working with the young men and the warmth and friendliness of the people.

“And the pace of life is a bit more relaxed than other places, so that suits my temperament.”

This article is part of our Call to Service special feature.

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