Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 13, 2000
Nfld. seminarians end in Alta.
St. Joseph's Seminary to train quartet for Nfld. diocese
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
For the first time in its history, St. Joseph's Seminary is a Canada-wide seminary.
The seminary acquired that distinction in September with the enrollment of four seminarians from the Diocese of St. George, Nfld.
The four were acquired by St. George's Diocese from seminaries in the Philippines and Nigeria. They join seminarians from Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the Yukon currently studying at St. Joseph's.
Upon ordination, the four, 30-year-old Eugene Nnoli from Nigeria and Filipinos Gary Lee, 24, Anthony Siawingco, 26, and Cipriano Bongo, 25, will be assigned to parishes in the St. George's Diocese.
In an interview, the happy and outgoing seminarians, said they ended up in Edmonton more by chance than planning. They were initially assigned to St. Augustine Seminary in Toronto but, according to Siawinco, they came too late for registration. "Admissions were already closed," he said.
Rather than making them wait another year to begin their studies, St. George's Bishop Raymond Lahey contacted St. Joseph's.
All St. Joseph's rector Father Luc Bouchard knows is that "the bishop sent them here."
"I think he heard about our seminary and wanted to try us."
However it happened, the four are delighted they ended up at St. Joseph's, saying they have been made to feel extremely welcome by the formation team and their fellow seminarians.
All of them come from hot, tropical climates and came completely unprepared for the Alberta weather.
"They supplied us with everything we needed," noted Nnoli, who is doing his third year of theology at St. Joseph's. "They made us feel at home. People here are really wonderful, very friendly."
Lee, who is doing his first year, agreed. "These are very lovable people," he said. "I'm very grateful to the formation team. We are so blessed to be in this place."
The four have a lot in common. They studied in Church-run schools as children, attended Mass regularly, had devout parents and served as altar boys.
Siawingco, currently completing his last year of theology at St. Joseph's, served as an altar boy in his parish for at least five years and the priesthood was always on his mind.
He entered a seminary in 1992 with the idea of becoming a missionary in Africa. Through the Internet he found out that there was an acute shortage of priests in Newfoundland and decided to offer his services to Bishop Lahey.
"I did not expect the bishop to reply, but he did," he recalls.
Lee's vocation started when he was four or five years old. "All I wanted was to become a priest," he recalls. "I never thought of anything else."
He entered the seminary as soon as he graduated from high school in 1993. His own bishop approached him to come and serve in Newfoundland and after some thought he decided to take the opportunity. "That's where God is calling me."
Bongo studied in a school run by Canadian nuns in the Philippines. He entered the seminary in 1996 but left it after three years to join the work world. After three more years of working for big, successful companies, Bongo found his life was meaningless.
In 1999 he decided to return to religious life but a seminarian friend told him to write to Newfoundland instead. He did and received a welcoming reply from Lahey.
Nnoli studied in mission schools as a young boy and went straight to a minor seminary. He wanted to become a foreign missionary so the offer to come to Canada came as a blessing. "I'm committed to serve the Lord anywhere, even if it's the end of the world," he said, half-jokingly.
The four speak perfect English and said their fate is in the hands of the St. George's Diocese. "How long we stay in Canada depends on the bishop," Siawinco said.
Currently there are 36 seminarians at St. Joseph's, including 10 from the Edmonton Archdiocese. Of the 36, 27 are in residence and seven are doing their pastoral internship in their own dioceses.
Ten of the seminarians are studying to become priests for the Edmonton Archdiocese. Bouchard, the seminary rector, predicts one ordination for Edmonton in the next few months.