The Spiritual Year Seminary

Among programs in Nigeria and in Awgu diocese for formation of diocesan priests, the Spirituality Year Seminary is unique.
"Any man who desires to come to me will hear my words and put them into practice.... He may be likened to the man who, in building a house, dug deeply and laid the foundation on a rock. When the floods came the torrents rushed in on that house but failed to shake it because of its solid foundation." (Lk 6:47-48, NAB). The purpose of the Spirituality Year is to allow each seminarian to lay such a foundation for his priestly life. "The aim of this time is to develop a relationship of deep communion and friendship with Jesus. In this time they receive the benefit of a catechesis that is deeper than the teaching he gives to the people (cf Mt. 13:11); also he wishes them to be witnesses of his silent prayer to the Father (cf. Jn 17:1-26; Lk. 22:39-45)" (Pastores Dabo Vobis 42).

Its pillars are built on -


Time spent before the Blessed Sacrament is central to the year - time when each man can encounter the living presence of Jesus in profound silence. This encounter flows from and leads back to the celebration of the Holy Mass and is supported by recitation of the Divine Office, teachings on prayer from the Catechism and from great spiritual masters.

Community Life

The seminarians pray, study, work and recreate together - growing in self-knowledge, forming friendships and growing in the mutual sense of being called to share in Christ's call and mission. Of special note shall be media fast. As a sign of turning from the world and toward Christ, men in the Spirituality Year give up the use of phones, television, computers, popular media and other electronic devices. (On Saturdays they are allowed access to these - so that they may stay connected to family and friends to a reasonable degree). A new freedom is invariably experienced, as well as a stilling of one's heart.

Intellectual Life

The type of study involved in this year is transformative. Hours are spent in the classroom, where Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the great spiritual classics, the Documents of Vatican II and the Church's teachings on the nature of priesthood are explored.

Pastoral Life

The apostolic program is also notable. It has two dimensions. Every holiday, seminarians are expected to assist in their parishes of origin or domicile. They are to return to the seminary with completed forms from their parish priests that they were available for this service. During long vacations, they are again officially posted to parishes and institutions by the diocesan vocations Director. During this time, they could live in the Parish house or in private homes rotating from one station to the next. This period is crucial- seminarians' practice what they have learnt and the people of God among whom they shall eventually work as Priest get to know them and vice versa. In all of these periods, seminarians' experience a unique time of grace in which they are able to practice placing themselves in the complete providential love of the Father.

Come and See

In Pope Paul VI's Decree on Priestly Training he states: "In order that the spiritual training rest upon a more solid basis and that the students embrace their vocation with a fully deliberate choice, it will be the prerogative of the bishops to establish a fitting period of time for a more intense introduction to the spiritual life" (Optatum Totius, 12). At the Diocesan Spiritual Seminary, we desire to providing the Bishop the opportunity to give his seminarians this "more solid foundation" by dedicating an entire year to the seminarians' development: the Spirituality Year.
One of the sentiments most often expressed at the end of the Spirituality Year is: "It's a great year - a real gift." The gift is that of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the opportunity to enter more deeply into His Most Sacred Heart, to listen to His voice and to respond. It is a year of building one's house on Rock.

Project Description

The effort of the Church to get mankind to return to God would be futile unless it is accompanied by a return to the priest, that is, by 'the recognition of the minister of Christ and dispenser of the mysteries of God. In the light of the above, Cardinal Suhard in his monumental pastoral letter on the holy priesthood "Priests among Men", proposed and convincingly defended the urgency of the 'rediscovery' of the priesthood for the church in the modern world. The church in the modem world is characterized by "deep and rapid transformations in the societies and diversity of contexts in which she announces the Gospel and witnesses to it, by the promising number of priestly vocations being seen in some dioceses… (and) by the concern of (some other) Bishops and their communities about a persisting scarcity of clergy".

That the Church in the modern world has priests and yet lacks priests is an irony which is expressed in the age-long saying of the 6th century pontiff, Gregory the Great that the world is full of priests yet it is rare to find a labourer in God's vineyard. There is a general lack of priests because even where they abound, they are not always doing the work demanded by their priesthood although they accepted the office. But the new evangelization proposed for today's world needs priests as its initial new evangelizers.

The theme of the rediscovery of the priesthood can be interpreted along the call of John Paul II for the church today to re-live with renewed commitment all that Our Lord did with the Apostles. The Pope believes that the urgency of a new look at the contents and methods of priestly formation amongst other factors makes such renewal very imperative. It is an invitation for priests to be more authentic to our Lord's timeless calling to mission. That theme was already adumbrated in the documents of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and by various popes and synods of bishops prior to John Paul II.

Of all the documents given by the Magisterium of the Church on the topic of the renewal of the Catholic ministerial priesthood, John Paul II's Pastores Dabo Vobis is possibly the most influential. In it the venerable Pontiff elucidate the need for a renewed commitment to the formation of the Catholic priest and outlined its basic content for the Church in the modern World. That apostolic exhortation has long been acclaimed by many as the magna charter for priestly formation for today and has become the main source of inspiration for the present program of formation for this seminary.

The rediscovery of the priesthood is a crusade against the whirlwinds of secularism, anti-clericalism, mediocrity and all the scandals that tarnish the very glories of the priesthood and adversely affect the evangelizing mission of the Church in modern times. In our local church, the general opinion is that things must change. This opinion is captured by Fr. Lawrence Madubuko when he stated, "from our experiences from seminaries both as students and also as formators and pastors and as people receiving the work of priests, as people who have been served by priests… we are convinced of the need to make our priests better"

Effective pastoral care of souls and the general evangelization of people, which incidentally is the summary of the missionary mandate of Christ to the Church–"go ye and make disciples of all nations" (Matt 28:19) – is undoubtedly the ultimate purpose of sound priestly formation. As John Paul II himself rightly stated, "without priests" and that is to say without well formed and informed priests "the church would not be able to live out that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and mission in history… an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world" The apt words of late Professor Dondeyne say it all; "the Good News is not credibly announced by disgruntled and discontented messengers".

The Objectives of a Spiritual Year Seminary

• To develop students general attitude to religion and put them in path of conversion and of personal touch with Christ and the B.V.M
• To encourage the study of the Holy Scriptures
• To initiate the candidate into the art of self discovery and the discernment of their own vocation
• To encourage industry, love for learning and the pursuit of excellence
• To promote the spirit of charity and self sacrifice among seminarians
• To develop team spirit among seminarians through shared labor and other responsibilities
• To teach students to say properly basic prayers and instill in them competence and confidence
• To help them serve at mass, benedictions and assist in the other sacraments
• To encourage the knowledge of basic catechism among priestly candidates
• To up-grade the level of discipline in them by reawakening natural virtues and the African sense of culture like the traditional respect for one's elder, the sense of community and sharing, etc
• To curb the outwardness and noise of the society in the formation of seminarians
• To spot out characters which are clearly incompatible with priestly discipline

Aims of a Spiritual Year Seminary

 Production of disillusioned priestly candidates who are mature enough to take the bold step of furthering into the major seminary
 Development of the culture of openness and sincerity among seminarians
 Recruitment of enthusiastic candidates for the Priesthood in Awgu diocese who have a deep sense of religion, love for service and for the people of God
 Creation of a formation atmosphere which can produce people that would think like Christ, speak like Christ and act like Christ in all situations, and would always prize Christ and the ministry above all else.

Primary Target Group of the Project

 Young males of the diocese who are desirous of serving God as priest in the order of Melkizedek
 Graduates of the minor seminary formation who have decided to progress their priestly formation
 Seminarians who are ready for the major seminary formation and would need spiritual disposition and training.

Justification of Project

 The proposed spiritual year shall promote priestly spirituality
 Promote priestly piety
 Promote African culture and moral values in the context of priestly formation
 The spiritual years seminary shall apart from housing seminarians, be used for the training of catechists and other pastoral workers when the seminarians are on vacation.
 The spiritual year seminary shall house the yearly all priest retreat of the diocese. (The Awgu diocesan all priests retreat until now is organized in a formation house in another diocese, a situation which is not optimal and ideal for a young diocese)
 The spiritual year seminary shall also double for intermittent priest recollection according to plan and similar spiritual gathering of other organizations
 The Nigerian Bishops Conference rotates its meeting and conferences from one diocese to the other. The spiritual year seminary so proposed shall afford our diocese accommodation for the Bishops' at such a time their meeting and conference will be held in our diocese.
 In particular, the spiritual year seminary shall be a formation and training house for seminarians, but it shall be an open formation house of the diocese for other needs and groups, as need may arise, and according to plan, without interrupting the smooth flow of the seminary.

Sustainability of Project

This project shall be sustainable. For the first 10 years of operation we hope earnestly that Missio Aachen shall continue financial support in respect to running and operational costs, maintenance services and payment of salaries of workers and staff. The diocese through an organized contribution in food and beverages shall ensure that the project is sustained. It is also expected that the seminarians on formation should be able to pay a token as sign of their sharing in the Victimhood of Jesus, whom they profess to preach.

Planned Outcome of Project

Seminarians trained in our spiritual seminary shall:
 Understand the spirit of mission and evangelization
 Imbibe the universal call to holiness and as such be ready and willing to serve the Church beyond the confines of our diocese
 Have the uniqueness and character peculiar to priests trained in our diocese and thus be competent to respond to the specific issues of mission and evangelization confronting our diocese
 Address the many questions of the faithful in our diocese and lead them to faith and to discover Christ
 Show good understanding of the culture of our people and interpret them in the light of the Gospels
 Be at home with the socio- political and economic challenges and opportunities within their circumstances and positively enhance them for overall transformation and human development.
 Be able in the spirit of new evangelization to confront positively the growing trend in syncretism and Pentecostalism in our sub region
 Be empowered in a deep spirituality rooted in the scriptures and the traditions of the apostles to continue the mission of Christ "Go, baptize and make all nations my disciples.

Financial Cost/ Plan

Copyright 2013 Awgu Diocese