Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 11, 2002
Seminarians adjust to life in a new land
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Adjusting to life in Canada is difficult for seminarian student Anthony Siawingco.
Originally from the Philippines, Siawingco came here because of our priest shortage.
"In the Philippines they have thousands of seminarians," Siawingco told the WCR.
Studying for Prince Albert Diocese, Siawingco is in his last year of seminary formation at St. Joseph while doing a pastoral internship in Nipawin, Sask.
Siawingco, 27, originally entered the seminary in 1992 with plans to become a missionary. Then, scrolling the Internet, he read about Canada's lack of priests. The young man re-assessed his plans and decided to emigrate.
Culture shock hit. Food was a major surprise. Sawingco was used to eating hearty meals, not having just soup and a sandwich for lunch.
Our weather is another shocker. He's still getting used to bundling up when the temperature hits -25C.
"(But) the most important adjustment that I have to make is to think the way Canadians think," Siawingco said." If I want to convey the message of Jesus Christ, if I want to fulfill my priestly vocation, I have to at least get into their world."
James Bankole comes from Nigeria and has been in Canada for almost one month. He was close to finishing his theological studies in Rome when he received an invitation from a priest in Regina, whom he met on a plane trip to Rome.
Preparing for a missionary life and a member of the Claretian Missionaries, the 29-year-old Bankole never thought of coming to Canada. But his path crossed with the Regina priest for a second time. Believing the Lord is guiding him, Bankole decided to come to Canada and be a missionary. At the moment, Bankole is taking ESL, a preaching course and other pastoral theology courses offered at Newman College.
"I have full confidence that I will be able to do my best and serve the people of Regina," he said.
Immigrant seminarians come in two streams. One stream, like the two previous seminarians, comes directly to the seminary from his country of origin. The others spend some years in their new country before entering the house of formation. Deacons Malcolm D' Souza and Huy Nguyen of Calgary belong to the second stream.
Nguyen was 16 when he moved to Canada with his parents from Vietnam, while D' Souza, from India, was 33 when he emigrated.
Interested in the priesthood even as a young boy, Nguyen waited until high school graduation before acting on it.
Those years were the beginning of Nguyen's "enculturation to Canadian culture and the Western culture," as he watched TV shows and read newspapers.
Nguyen was 18 when he started at the seminary in Mount Angel in Oregon. "I was young and I know I need to learn a lot, so I was open to anything."
It was an American setting, but the seminarians came from different cultures and different ages. At times it was "overwhelming because there were just so many things to learn," he said.
What binds these men from different cultures is their common goal and purpose. "We share the same conviction that we are disciples of Christ," Nguyen said. "We want to share the love of God with other people by serving them."
At the seminary, Nguyen was encouraged to embrace both of his cultures. "Being in touch with my own real identity is crucial because what flows in me is still Vietnamese blood, although I have grown to love the Canadian way of life."
D' Souza was in Canada three years when he realized he wanted to be a priest. Studying at Christ the King and then later at St. Joseph, provided D' Souza with rich experience he can use for his ministry.
"It is all about keeping an open mind and an open heart," D' Souza said.
"Although the transition from one culture to another is always difficult and painful, we need to see the bigger picture."
We need to understand Canadian culture. We need to realize we can no longer do things the same way we do things back in the old country, said D' Souza. "We need to make some adjustment, but of course it also important that the host culture is accepting, tolerant and flexible."