Back in History: Formation of PRS

THE Pacific Regional Seminary was established in 1970 to educate young men in the Catholic Church who wanted to become priests.

An article in The Fiji Times on February 2, 1999, said the decision to set up the seminary was made at the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici or CEPAC) in 1968.

Though established in 1970, the seminary was officially recognised in 1973 when it moved to its present site along Queen Elizabeth Drive, in Suva Point.

The number of students who have enrolled at the institution has increased since its inception. In fact the numbers had doubled in the first four years of its opening.

In 1996, 123 students enrolled to study there.

The aim of the institute is to provide spiritual, theological, moral, and pastoral formation for its students.

Those who entered faced a challenging study period ranging from six to eight years.

Diocesan seminarians spent four years at PRS before being sent to their own diocese for a year. They would then return for two more years.

Religious seminarians spent two years at PRS before they were sent out to their novitiates for a year. They returned for two more years then spent one year out in the field.

Once they returned, they would spend two more years studying at the PRS. “Only those who become religious priests would take three vows; poverty, obedience and chastity,” said the rector of the Marist College, Father Seluini.

“That meant that if from tomorrow, if the Pope allowed for priests to marry, only diocesan priests would be able to marry.

“But a person who thinks this is the life for him has until his ordination to pull out. In the meantime, his performance is continuously assessed by those at the seminary.”

If the institution found any reason to dismiss a trainee priest, it would.

The theory aspect of study covered three main areas — systematic theology, biblical studies, and moral theology. Human studies, philosophy, canon law, liturgy and Christian ethics were included.

Students were given practical exercises as part of their training. They would visit the sick in hospitals, inmates in prisons, elderly and the handicapped.

They were taught the use of mass media, how to preach in and out of the seminary and the administration of the sacraments. Students were then sent for pastoral training in parishes.

The period applied for those especially in the Diocesan College, while the Marist College had its own program. Spiritual training on the other hand looked at the student’s cultural environment, their experiences of the ministry and academic progress, personal relationships and the stages they had reached in discipleship.

In the cultural aspect of their training, the lives of students, their culture, customs and traditional norms and background were highlighted as they played an important role in the conditioning of spiritual growth.

Students were requested to reflect on their experiences in life, their families, their communities and identify values that led to receiving faith or strengthened their faiths during orientation and even between courses.

“In some cases, the gospel challenged their culture.”

There was a lot of discipline required and though temptations existed, they needed to fight their own demons. “Temptations will be with you until you die, and it can be difficult fighting them.

“But prayer is at the heart of our lives, and we are always instructing them on ways to go about beating temptation.”

Father Seluini said the rewards of choosing the vocation were more spiritual nthan emotional.

“It is the joy you experience knowing that this is what God is asking of you. It is the joy you feel when you help people overcome difficulties and seeing them grow as individuals.

“Whatever gifts or money you get has to be shared with everyone else.”

Father Seluini, for example, can get gifts and cash amounting to as much as $2000 each month. He gave all this to the Marist College bursar. The only money he received was $50 a month as his pay.

“Qualification wise, they need at least a pass in Form Six to be accepted.”

A diploma was presented after the first three years of studies. Programs offered included a Diploma of Theology and a Bachelor of Divinity accredited by the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools.

Students could also sit a five-hour exam and that would have allowed them entry into the Urbaniana University in Rome.

  • Compiled by: Pekai Kotoisuva

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