Building an academic foundation
As noted previously, Fr. Tom Cassidy is assisting with the formation program in the Indian District until early March. Today, he writes about the SCJs’ seminary in Kumbalanghy:
I thought today I would spend a little time describing the life of a seminarian here at Kumbalanghy. The name of our seminary is Dehon Bhavan. This is one of three minor seminaries the SCJ Indian District operates. Due to the amount of land the SCJs were able to purchase when they were looking to open up a seminary in this part of Kerala, facilities for physical activities are somewhat restricted.
Minor seminaries use to be very common in the United States; we had two in the US Province: one in Lenox, Mass., and the other at Donaldson, Ind. I taught at Divine Heart Seminary in Donaldson for two years as a scholastic (1966 to 1968) and then again as a priest I served as principal from 1973-1977. After Vatican II the minor seminary system in the States slowly began to disappear, though there are still some around, including St. Lawrence run by the Capuchins in Wisconsin.
I can understand why here in India the minor seminary continues to make sense as a lot has to do with the quality of education available to students. By using good schools, the foundation is laid for future academics in both philosophy and theology. In addition, English language skills are necessary for theological studies, and since English is the common language of all our Asian entities it is important for Indians to know it so they do not become isolated from the rest of the congregation.
Here at Kumbalanghy there are two education tracts going on at the same time. First there is English. There are about five students who are currently here spending at least a year learning English. One of them is a bit older then the typical minor seminarian as he completed a bachelor’s degree prior to his joining the SCJs. The others are more typical teenagers of high school age.
The second tract is high school. These students travel by bus each day to a Catholic high school for their studies. When they have completed the required program of studies they will move to Cochin where we have our house of philosophical studies (Dehon Vidya Sadhan).
Here is the official outline of the purpose of Dehon Bhavan as described in the SCJ Indian District Directory of 2010.
‘The SCJ Candidate students come from all parts of the state of Kerala, although at times there are students from other parts of India. The SCJ formation program is designed to introduce the candidates to the fundamentals of SCJ Spirituality and Religious Life, and to experience different kinds of ministry. During this time they also attend outside classes to receive their High School diploma at the end of the two year program at Dehon Bhavan.”
The House Language is English. As noted in their directory, while most students come from Kerala, not all do. India is a country of many languages and cultures and someone coming from the state of Andhra Pradesh would not know Malayalam. Since the SCJs are drawing students from several areas of the country they need a common language and since English is important for studies and communication with SCJs in other parts of the congregation it is also the common language of the district. In India the official common language is Hindi.
English is still a very important language in the country, especially for commercial reasons. Often you see advertisements for schools that specialize in English language and instruction. I’ll close with a picture of one such advertisement right in front of our house.