It is a symbol of great success; a pinnacle of amazing friendship in grooming future leaders in the church and society in general. It signifies excellence in education provided by the Catholic Church.
And, recently, it celebrated 50 years of its existence in serving the church and the nation. St Kizito Seminary in Malirana, Dedza District, has become another pillar of strength in the development of the church in Malawi.
Its beginning was unique and sprouted from a dream by a unique person, the late Bishop Cornelius Chitsulo. He was the first Malawian priest to become bishop and the first one to wax the Malawi national flag with blessings when the country attained its independence.
Genesis of the dream
In early 1963, the late Bishop Chitsulo – as head of Dedza Diocese – had a dream of having a minor seminary in the diocese.
It started on his return from Rome, Italy, when he visited the then minor seminary of Kasina. Chitsulo announced that the Holy See had promised to bankroll the construction of a new minor seminary.
The new structure would cater for the then 180 seminarians drawn from the three dioceses of Lilongwe, Dedza and Mzuzu.
At the end of January 1968, St Kizito Seminary opened its doors and it was not long before the institution started contributing to the development of this country.
When Chitsulo died on February 28 1984, he left behind a legacy that has gone on to produce the movers and shakers of the church and the country.
In terms of priesthood, the seminary has so far produced about 90 priests and four bishops. Notable among these are Archbishop Tarcizius Ziyaye, Remi Ste Marie and late bishops Joseph Zuza and Emmanuel Kanyama.
The school has also made a fair share of contributions in decorating professions such as law, journalism, banking, politics and the Judiciary with human resources.
Thirteen rectors have seen over the administration of the seminary since its inception up to date. Fr Franz Stoffel, who was the first rector and served from 1968 to 1973. Fr Peter Chifukwa is the current Rector since 2012.
This year, the school celebrated a golden jubilee that was held recently at its campus. Thousands of people graced the occasion and among the high-profile figures in attendance were the country’s Vice- President Saulos Chilima, bishops Ziyaye and Ste Marie, priests and other alumni serving in other sectors.
Ziyaye was one of the students in the first intake to the new seminary and the first priest from the institution to be consecrated bishop.
He feels proud to be associated with the school.
“It is one of the schools that have always performed well,” Ziyaye says while recounting his days at the school.
“I pray that the school continues to offer high quality education to our seminarians as well as shape their priesthood paths,” he adds.
During the golden jubilee celebration, Ziyaye took the opportunity in asking parents to refrain from forcing their children into priesthood, saying this noble duty is a calling.
Out of over 1,000 students the seminary has trained, only 90 have gone on to become priests.
“This is because some children are forced to become priests when they don’t want. So, some drop out on the way,” Ziyaye says.
For those who took the different direction, they have ended up serving the country in another way.
Dominic Khumalo, an alumnus currently working as research assistant at Chitedze Research Station in Lilongwe, says St Kizito Seminary helped him a lot in shaping his adult life.
“I went there to become a priest but not everyone is called to serve the church’s flock. But I owe my success to the school and rectors for moulding me into who I am today,” Khumalo says.
He says the school goes beyond education by empowering learners in how to approach various dimensions of life.
Chifukwa says the vision of late Chitsulo as the founder was to enable young boys to access quality education at a low fee irrespective of the status of their families.
“The spirit of the school is to serve those in need,” says Chifukwa, adding that the ordination of some of its ex-students to episcopate is one of its greatest achievements.
Dean of studies at the seminary, who is also Communications Officer for Dedza Diocese, Fr Henry Makawa, says the school’s motto, which is “Friends we are on the way”, strives to provide good, integral and quality education to its students.
“As an institution, the school imparts academic information that goes towards shaping learners to become better members of society,” says Makawa, also an ex-seminarian of the school himself.
Just like other institutions, the journey has not been rosy for St Kizito Seminary. Continued decrease of annual subsidy from the church has always raised fears of fee increment, thereby defeating the whole mission of the seminary of offering quality education at a low fee.
Secondly, it is the tendency of enrolling at the institution just for the sole purpose of attaining quality education.
“Most children just come for the education not the calling of priesthood. At the end, you have, many students changing their mind to go the other way,” Chifukwa says.
Beyond a priesthood centre
Apart from being a place for grooming future priests, St Kizito Seminary is engaged in other social and economic activities critical to the development of the nation.
The institution engages in crop and livestock production to sustain itself. It manages half of its 300 hectares for maize production and rearing of animals for consumption and commercial purposes.
Cattle, goats, pigs and local chickens are some of the animals under domestication for nutritional value and income generation.
“Currently, we have 30 pigs, 45 cattle, 22 goats and a good number of local chickens,” says Fr Alfred Mbocho, Agriculture Coordinator for the seminary.
According to Mbocho, the seminary is contributing tremendously to the agriculture sector through seed multiplication of maize and soya bean.
The seminary is currently in a seed multiplication contract with Seedco Malawi. In the last farming season, the school planted 15 hectares of maize seed, which is yet to be harvested. But it has already harvested 10 hectares of soya it grew in the same season.
Students are often encouraged to participate in agricultural activities and learn modern farming practices through the school’s farmers club whose patron is the agriculture coordinator.
The journey into the future calls for financial independence for the institution to sustain itself, that is the message from Chilima, who was the guest of honour during the golden jubilee celebrations.
The institution intends to improve its farming activities as one way of minimising the purchasing of other food items such as maize and beans. This move is expected to offer a guarantee of self-sustenance, according to Chifukwa.
“To achieve this, we need to intensify our maize and animal production in order to minimise our expenditure on procurement of food items,” he says.
The seminary also plans to motivate more vocations to priesthood through intensification of talks with students, parents and faithfuls.
“We want to reach out to many boys for their involvement in a formation that should prepare them as potential future priests,” Chifukwa says.—Mana