“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.” Optatam Totius, 12.
“The purpose and specific educational form of the major seminary demand that candidates for the priesthood have a certain prior preparation before entering it. Such preparation, at least until a few decades ago, did not create particular problems. In those days most candidates to the priesthood came from minor seminaries, and the Christian life of the community offered all, in general, a suitable Christian instruction and education. The situation in many places has changed. There is a considerable discrepancy between – on the one hand – the style of life and basic preparation of boys, adolescents and young men, even when they are Christians and at times have been involved in Church life, and – on the other hand – the style of life of the seminary with its formational demands.” Pastores Dabo Vobis, 62
These two statements could be considered the basis of the existence of St. Mary’s Propaedeutic Seminary which is situated in Molo. The seminary aims at introducing candidates to the priesthood to the intense formation they will undergo as they prepare for sacred orders.
The post-synodal apostolic exhortation of Pope St. John Paul II goes further to express the aim of this preparatory year: “Spiritual formation…should be conducted in such a way that the students may learn to live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Those who are to take on the likeness of Christ the priest by sacred ordination should form the habit of drawing close to him as friends in every detail of their lives. They should live his paschal mystery in such a way that they will know how to initiate into it the people committed to their charge. They should be taught to seek Christ in faithful meditation on the word of God and in active participation in the sacred mysteries of the Church, especially the Eucharist and the Divine Office, to seek him in the bishop by whom they are sent and in the people to whom they are sent, especially the poor, little children, the weak, sinners and unbelievers. With the confidence of sons they should love and reverence the most blessed Virgin Mary, who was given as a mother to the disciple by Jesus Christ as he was dying on the cross.” Pastores Dabo Vobis, 45
In 1985, under the chairmanship of the Archbishop Raphael S. Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki, of happy memory, the Kenya Episcopal Conference (the predecessor of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops-KCCB) decided to found St. Mary’s Propaedeutic Seminary.
65 acres were hived off Baraka Agricultural College in Molo and the seminary was started with a group of 126 seminarians. The pioneer Rector was Fr. Joseph Taylor assisted by Fr. Zachariah Pazepharapil sj as the General Spiritual Director and Fr. Joseph Kaberia as a Formator. The three priests were responsible for a large group of seminarians. The shortage of staff has continued to plague the seminary over the years.
The motto, vision and mission of the seminary
The motto is of the seminary is “May it be done to me according to your will” which is often rendered in Kiswahili as “Nitendewe upendavyo”. Its vision is to provide a strong spiritual foundation to future priests. The mission is expressed in three points:
- St. Mary’s Seminary is a Roman Catholic Seminary whose mission is to prepare men for the ordained priesthood through human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation.
- To prepare priests for the new evangelization and to serve the pastoral needs of the church.
- Provides formation to prepare candidates for priesthood, enabling them to respond to the particular needs of their local communities.
From Candidate to Seminarian
Diocesan candidates to the priesthood are all required to do the propaedeutic year which runs from August to May each year. Upon successful completion of their studies in Molo, the seminarians then proceed for their philosophical studies.
A man who perceives a calling to the priesthood and wishes to be admitted to the seminary is required to ask his Bishop to accept him as a candidate for the seminary. This request is normally done through the parish priest where the prospective seminarian regularly attends Mass. The parish priest will then forward the request to the Bishop through the Diocesan Vocations Director. This procedure is important because the parish priest is the one who knows the prospective candidate and he (the parish priest) will be the one to vouch for the suitability of the person wishing to join the seminary.
The seminarians in Molo are drawn from all the dioceses in Kenya. The seminary is currently able to hold a maximum of 75 seminarians. This low capacity is a most serious bottleneck in the desire to have enough priests in the country and is one that most urgently requires to be addressed. Although Christ the King Major Seminary in Nyeri does offer this propaedeutic year (also referred to as spiritual year), it only has a capacity of 60. Thus, the total number of seminarians that can be admitted in any one year is 135 whereas applications from around the country are well above this number.
Life in the Seminary
Great importance is given to the spiritual formation of the seminarians. To this end, the following are the exercises that are done in the seminary:
- Daily morning, evening and night prayers, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, the way of the cross every Friday, voluntary fasting during Lenten seasons.
- Meditation (personal and guided)
- Weekly meetings in the small Christian communities
- Weekly spiritual and rector’s conferences
- Holy hour on Thursdays and Sundays
- Monthly recollections/retreats and one to one spiritual direction
To ensure mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) there is a good dose of manual work in the seminary farm and sporting activities.