Spiritan seeks aid for Malawi seminary

  • December 18, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Missionary work seldom evokes the thought of spiritual direction at a seminary, yet that is exactly what Fr. Locky Flanagan is preparing to do in Malawi in the new year.

The Spiritan priest from Ireland has served two stints as a missionary in the southern African country, both in the early 1980s and then again in 2000 — a total of 10 years. When he wasn’t serving in Malawi, Flanagan was based here in Toronto. But his recent decision to spend at least the next six months again in Malawi to spiritually guide the seminarians has also extended to a desire to help out financially.

“What (the seminarians) pay is very little to what it costs and the challenge is the seminary is a specifically Catholic thing so few development agencies would fund that,” he said.

It costs about 3,000 Euros ($5,076 Can.) to house each seminarian for a year, Flanagan said, and each order has an average of 30 students. However like many other regions of Africa, Malawi is host to extreme poverty.

With the poor seminarians in mind, Flanagan began fund-raising this fall. He asked friends to sponsor him on the Camino pilgrimage in Spain if they could not go themselves. He was able to raise $1,600 for the seminarians, although he continued asking for donations at parishes upon his return to Toronto in hopes of raising at least $10,000.

Flanagan said the seminary has come a long way in recent years, having opened a school of philosophy. However, it wouldn’t compare to many seminaries here. The library is not up to date, seminarians cannot afford their own computers and must sleep four men to a room. Seminarians also help look after maintenance of the grounds while growing some of their own food.

“We’re trying to staff (the seminary) as well as we can so that is one reason why they asked to have a spiritual director,” Flanagan said.

The seminary is run jointly by five religious orders, the Spiritans, the Monforts, the Carmelites, the Combonis and the Capuchins, who must be attentive to the difference in preaching needed in some areas.

“Priests in Malawi must learn to preach the Gospel with regards to development and involve the people in addressing the needs. In many cases this involves informing them of funding through agencies that would help to improve their quality of life.”

But as he pointed out to a parishioner in Toronto who approached him after his appeal, many of these seminarians could end up ministering in Canada, where there is a shortage of priests.

Flanagan said he is looking forward to living amongst the people of Malawi yet again, who are no strangers to poverty and diseases like AIDS.

“Having been there before, the people are great, they’re very friendly and welcoming despite the hardships — it’s the warm heart of Africa,” he said. “It’s relatively peaceful because there are no natural resources to fight over.”

To donate funds for the seminarians in Malawi, contact Flanagan at lockyf73@yahoo.ca or visit www.spiritans.com .

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