A.N.O. Ekwunife, CSSp
Integration of Traditional African Values in Priestly Formation

Fr A. Ekwunife, CSSp., belongs to the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers. He lectures at the University of Nigeria in the Department of Religion. His address is: Department of Religion,University of Nigeria, NSukka, Enugu State, Nigeria.



In this article, I intend to examine the Western style of priestly formation, in time perspective, within the Nigerian context. I shall also identify some of the African traditional values relevant for the integral formation of Catholic seminarians in Nigeria and then give some suggestions appropriate for the modern Nigerian situation in view of creating a wholesome formation for future priests at all levels. To do this, I shall use the following format:

(i) Priestly formation in time perspective: The Nigerian experiments (ii) African Traditional Values and priestly formation in the Nigerian context (iii) Practical suggestions for an integral Priestly formation in Nigerian seminaries (iv) Conclusion.

Why priestly formation?

The primary goal of formation in Catholic seminaries is to produce men who will be intellectually, socially and spiritually equipped to be effective instruments of evangelization after their ordination. The seminary is expected to train capable priests, who, in response to God's grace, can collaborate with their Bishops and superiors in serving God's people throughout the world. The importance of formation was recently stressed by His Holiness John Paul II in his, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithfull, as follows:
... the 'seminary' in its different forms, and analogously the 'house' of formation for religious priests, more than a place, a material space, should be a spiritual place, a way of life, an atmosphere that fosters and ensures a process of formation, so that the person who is called to the priesthood by God may become, with the sacrament of Orders, a living image of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church ... (Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 42).

According to this Papal observation, the end-products of Catholic priestly formation ought to be men who, in every way, will be "a living image of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd ..."; Jesus Christ, the Formator of all ages "who is the same today as he was yesterday as he will be for ever" (Heb 7:24). Seminary formation in any age has to reflect this image of Christ. To do this, there are bound to be changes based on this basic question: How have the African seminaries, in general, and Nigerian ones in particular, faced the challenges and adjusted to the inevitable changes in the formation of their priests? Before answering this question, it is necessary to reflect briefly on how Jesus maintained these two elements when forming the Apostles. From the four Gospels the following characteristics can be identified in the way he did it:
Great intimacy with the group, aquaintance with the contemporary culture of the period, se-rious concern about their spiritual, religious, moral, social and economic welfares and creation of team spirit and co­operation among them.

His attitude towards the Jewish law, beliefs and customs is a perfect example to seminary formators in Nigeria and other African countries of what their attitude towards traditional African beliefs, practices, values and customs ought to be. Our Lord's words, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish, but to complete them" (Mt 5:17) indicate that he moved from the known (cultural outlook) to the unknown (God's total outlook) (cf. Mt 5:21-48). By so doing he was preparing his Apostles to be his ambassadors throughout the world (Mt 28:18­20). The formation of his future ambassadors was culture bound and pastorally oriented. This is the reason why Vatican II challenged the Episcopal Conference of each region to ensure that in the programme for formation:
... the general regulations will be adapted to the circumstances of time and place, so that priestly training will always answer the pastoral requirements of the particular area in which the ministry is to be exercised. (Optatam Totius, n. 1).

A brief history of seminary formation in Nigeria

Seminary formation in Nigeria can be divided into the following three epochs:

(i) The early beginnings (1930­1960)

From the scanty literature available and the interview with one of the pioneers (the Very Rev. Fr N. Orakwudo, CSSp.) of this early period, the following features of seminary formation are characteristic:
Isolation after an over­cautious selection and instant dismissal, paucity in numbers, foreignness of the general curriculum and unquestionable obedience on the part of the seminarians who were determined to persevere despite all odds. The spiritual orientations were purely devotional without any depth in theology to prop them.
From the time they entered the seminary till their ordination day, the seminarians were isolated from their people, their traditional cultures and institutions. They were imbued with foreign cultures and manners. Their formators, who were foregn missionaries, may have been sincere and dedicated to their duties, but they could only give what they had, even though it was biased against anything African. Hence, seminarians were trained to be very fluent in speaking English and Latin, but inarticulate in their own native languages, ready to imitate their formators' foreign cultures and manners but unable to study their own African religious culture. They were being trained, consciously and unconsciously, to despise the very cultures where they were to work after their ordination. Having been trained in an atmosphere that was hostile to their environment, these great pioneer priests could not be expected to inculturate the Gospel message in Africa. According to historian, Casmir I. Eke, the prevailing thought orientations and attitude of formators at this period towards the seminarians could be summed up as follows:
The history of the pioneer Igbo seminarian is one of heroic tenacity and humility in the face of great difficulties. For these pioneer seminarians, the most painful test came not from external circumstances; family opposition, Igbariam mos-quitoes, painful manual work, inadequate teaching, but from the deep ambivalence with which they were viewed by the expatriate missionaries - an attitude that helped to retard the early growth of the seminary (Obi, C. A., et al (eds.), A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria 1885-1985, Onitisha Nigeria: Africana-Fep Publishers Limited 1985, p. 306).
The epitome of the beneficiaries of this formation in foreign mould is our beloved late Bishop John Cross Anyogu, first Bishop of Enugu (1962­1967). He was ordained a priest in 1930. From my brief experience of this great man, I can conclude that, "He was every inch an Irish/Englishman with an African skin". This era of seminary formation in Nigeria lacked contextual orientation because of the formators' failure to take into consideration the cultural environment of the seminarians. This had repercussions on the pastoral out­reach of these pioneer dedicated African priests who did not receive an integral formation.

(ii) The post independence period (1960­1980)

This period was characterized by indigenisation, vocation boom, structural growth and a minimal tacit positive attitude towards the African religious culture. Since I was one of the beneficiaries of seminary formation within this period (1962-1970), I can best describe it as a "mixed­whole". We went through contradictory experiences of what was supposed to be and what actually was. For example, in spite of the inculturation of Church liturgy being the trend, the people expected to carry out the necessary changes as future priests were made to believe that the ideal liturgy was either in English or Latin.
Strict discipline and blind obedience were enforced while individual initiative and creativity were smothered. After Vatican II and the Nigerian civil war, cultural adaptation and African theology became the common concern although in the seminary, life remained the same. Philosophical lectures were given in Latin using, Di Napoli, as the main text book. Often the professors used English for illustrative purposes. There was little or no effort to relate the African experiences of the seminarians to the curriculum of the seminary. In one of the books recently published by the 1970 Bigard priests, (Ekwunife, A.N.O., Nwosu V.A., and Nzomiwu, J.P.C. (eds.) Renewal of Priestly Life and Ministry: The Nigerian Experience, Enugu: SNAAP Press Nig. Ltd., 1995, pp. 43-57) V.A. Nwosu recounts his personal experience of "A Journey to the Priesthood". Here he emphasizes that even though indigenisation of Church personnel, liturgy, theology and life was on paper the main concern at this period of seminary formation, in reality the seminarians were made to believe the contrary. The following unchangeable elements in formation: classical training in Latin, English and foreign customs were supposed to be within what was erroneously regarded as the ideal. The changeable ones consisted of expansion of seminaries, structural buildings and recruiting more seminarians for training.
Noting the Igbo flair for the Latin liturgy and foreign manners, Ozigbon advanced two reasons: Igbo love for the exotic and the traditional but mythical belief that Latin is the language of the Church" (Ozigboh, I.R.A., Igbo Catholicism: The Onitisha Connection, 1976-1984, Onitisha, Nigeria: Africana-Fep Publishers Limited, 1985, pp. 37-38). He concludes by observing that:
The genuine religious interests of the Igbo Church have been made to suffer because of the misleading administrative jargon and metaphor that regarded Latin as "the language of the church". The Christian Church is Catholic with a unity in diversity rather than in comformity (ibid., p. 38).
If seminarians are trained to regard only foreign cultures as ideal, they can not be effective in their pastoral duties after ordination. The active concern for the poor and marginalised of society as well as the permeation of the Gospel message which, according to Pope John Paul II should influence: ... many different issues of family life, fundamental human rights and duties, justice and peace, development and liberation, culture and learning, (Pope John Paul II, "The priest should be the leaven in the Nigerian Society of Today", L'Osservatore Romano English Edition, March-April 1982, pp. 11-12) cannot be implemented because formation in our seminaries is given a wrong approach to cultural values.

(iii) Modern period (1980 and beyond)

The number of junior and major seminaries which have come up throughout the whole country during this period shows that these are the most viable years in the history of seminary formation in Nigeria. Below is the table of the statistical data of admissions to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, when the philosophy campus was temporarily separated from the theology faculty for the 1976/77 session. It has been taken from one of the historical accounts of the Catholic Church in Nigeria (Makozi, A.O., and Afolabi Ojo, G.J., (eds.) The History of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, Nigeria: Macmillan, 1982, p. 113) covering the whole of 1976/77 - 1980/81:

New Admissions
No. on Roll

























The table shows a steady growth in the number of ordinations to the priesthood in one of the major sem-inaries in Nigeria. If this number is added to the ones ordained in other major seminaries in the country at the time, the immense efforts of both the missionaries and the ordained native clergy can certainly be appreciated. In an Epilogue to, The Centenary History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria, the editor not only saw the finger of God in this phenomenal numerical growth of both the local clergy, religious and laity, but went on to add that:
The people who had been in darkness have indeed seen a great light. Responses to the Gospel message have witnessed a fervour and tenacity that astonished the very missionaries themselves. Perhaps the people discovered in Christianity, what seemed to be lacking in their traditional religions (Obi, C.A., et al., op. cit., p. 393).
This quotation reveals the negative attitude of both formators and the seminarians in the 1980's towards the traditional religion and the culture that sustained it. The people were viewed as "being in darkness". Even though the formators were indigenous clergymen, the quality of formation still lacked deep cultural orientation which would encourage dialogue with African Traditional Religion and culture. This observation is further confirmed by the fact that on 25 March 1988, the President of the Secretariat, Non­Christian Religions, Vatican City, Rome, issued a letter to the Episcopal Conferences in Africa and Madagascar urging them to see to it that the study of African Traditional Religion was included in the curriculum of seminary studies ("Echoes from Vatican City, Rome, Italia" in Beyond Frontiers, Vol. 2, n. 1, 1989, pp. 14-16). The letter was meant to introduce changes in the history of Seminary Formation in Africa, especially in Nigeria. It was a positive step towards remedying the negative inbuilt attitude to traditional African culture and its religions although this will take centuries to eradicate. The question to be seriously addressed is: How far has this instruction been implemented in seminaries throughout the continent? It is still doubtful whether the study of African Traditional Religion has found its way into the curriculum of junior seminaries in Nigeria or any other African country. Some major seminaries give it attention for only a semester while others for a session. This scanty attention is, of course, not enough to prepare candidates for a sincere dialogue with their African religious culture.
Native dances and indigenous liturgies are organised in minor and major seminaries, but the problem lies in the goal of these activities. In seminaries, dance is seen as a mere cultural exercise without sacred implications. It never occurs to the performers that these traditional dances are celebrations that are associated with sacred realities. To inculturate these dances, their theological, mystical, sociological and cultural aspects have to be studied by the performers. But, to this day, most people still view indigenous liturgy in seminaries as a distraction from the classical liturgy.
Priestly formation still retains its ambivalent character even in modern Africa. The unchangeable elements are sought along some imaginary foreign ideals that are counter productive to priests after their formation. But, glaring changes can be observed in the number of intake, expansion of visible structures and recruitment of qualified professors. However, what is actually needed is an integrated formation which takes cognisance of resilient and relevant African traditional values for a wholesome formation of future Church leaders in Africa.

African traditional values and priestly formation

If local seminarians are to have an integrative or holistic formation in an African context, the following African values should be introduced into the curricula of both major and minor seminaries:

(i) The sense of the sacred

In African traditional conception, the sacred is not so much a category that is opposed to the profane, as Eliade maintained (ibid., p. 15), but a way of looking at reality in its wholeness. Traditional Africans regard the entire cosmos, when viewed in its totality (invisible and visible) as sacred. The invisible penetrates the visible through a unique Being, God, known in various African ethnic languages as: Chukwu, Osebuluwa, Chineke, Ezechitoke Abiama (Igbo), Olodumare (Yoruba), Kwot (Nuer), Soko (Nupe), Onyame (Ghana), Mawu (Fon), Ngewo (Mende) and so on. All realities: invisible (divinities, ancestors, spirits) and visible (man, animals and inanimate objects) become sacred when viewed in their total relationship to the unique wholeness of God. The individual in a society is sacred from the perspective of his/her relationships with the totality of beings around him/her. The African family is sacred because it reflects wholeness in unity of being. Certain persons, objects and places are sacred because they manifest this wholeness of being either symbolically or in actuality. A masked figure is sacred on account of its relationship to the invisible sacred reality it is representing. Certain trees are sacred either on account of their structure or their mode of existence which reflects life in its totality. Human speech becomes sacred when viewed in its relationship to the speaker and the totality of human beings. Newell S. Booth, Jr. was certainly right in observing that: "in Africa the sacred is manifested not so much by separation as by unity" (ed., African Religions a Symposium, New York, London-Lagos: NOK publishers Ltd., 1977, p. 7). Places and things are sacred in so far as they reflect the unity of the beings which they symbolize.
For the African, the sacred is not only associated with power, but it is also affiliated with the highest values in human life such as: honesty, justice, gentleness, patience, endurance, perseverance, sincerity in one's word, etc. A sacred person is expected to mirror these values. For example, Onyishi (the eldest man in the village or clan in Nsukka sub­culture area of Igbo land) is such a person. He wields spiritual power on account of his relationship with the invisible ancestors of the clan. As such, he is expected to reflect most of the ancestral virtues and values in his code of conduct. He lives apart in a house jointly built by the members of the clan and sustains himself with fruits from the common ancestral land which he cultivates till his death.
People's attitude towards the sacred is generally to keep a respectful distance without severing relationship completely. According to Rudolf Otto, "The sacred attracts and repels" (The Idea of the Holy, London Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1923, p. 25). To maintain cordial relationship with the sacred implies the observance of a certain code of conduct on the part of humanity.
In Igbo culture, this respectful distance is best translated by the word 'Nso' (taboo) while the sacred is translated as 'Aso'. When a taboo is broken, it becomes 'alu' (abomination or pollution). If this taboo is directed against the land divinity, it becomes nso ala or ana (pollution against the land divinity). Ritual cleansing through confession of guilt with appropriate sacrifices is then made to restore the 'Aso' of the culprit. Often the diviner gives the guidelines on how to remove the abomination.
The emphasis on the African sense of the sacred has far-reaching effects in the formation of Catholic seminarians. It will create in them an attitude of deep respect for the things of God and anything associated with God like the liturgy, devotions, studies, etc. It will also foster in them a great appreciation for the value of the human person, the most sacred of all creatures. This explains why crimes like murder, abortion, calumny, disturbance of harmony, wanton destruction of neighbour's property, etc. are Nso (taboo). To be involved in any of these is to pollute the Aso (sacredness) of the society. Humanity is sacred because of its vital link with transcendental realities of the world in its wholeness (Aso). Some of the ways through which Africans internalize the sense of the sacred and the sacredness of a human being include: worship, covenants with divinities and others, oath taking, sacrifices, prayers, initiation ceremonies and periodic festivals. Stimulating the sense of the sacred in seminary formation will help priests to respect the sacred of non-Christian religions in their apostolic and pastoral duties. This may lead to dialogue with non­Christians on the need for respecting Christian sacred values.

(ii) Corporate existence (nwanne, umunne, umunna)

The sense of the sacred is concretely manifested through the African concept of corporate existence. This can be translated in Igbo as nwanne, umunna where the term nwanne has many connotations. In one sense it means children of the same parents (umunne). In another sense it applies to half brothers and sisters in a polygamous family. Yet, at another level it stands for the extended families of a putative ancestor. By extension it also applies to people from the same town, area and circumscription. Distant relations become nwanne by virtue of one covenant or common interests. But, here the concept of nwanne is an abstract way of describing corporate relationship.
J.S. Mbiti (African Religions and Philosophy, London, Ibadan, Nairobi: Heinemann, 1969, p. 108) seems to have exaggerated when subsuming the individual in the corporate existence of African society. He/she remains an autonomous person who acts responsibly although his/her actions are governed by what may be regarded as "sensus commune" (communal sense). He/she takes into account the general aspirations, values and customs of the community to which he/she belongs before making a personal decision. These are ultimately rooted in transcendence or the sacred in its totality. Perhaps, it is in this sense that this affirmation of John V. Taylor becomes meaningful:
The sense of the personal totality of all beings, and of a humanity which embraces the living, the dead and the divinities, fills the background of the primal world­view
... This is the context in which an African learns to say, I am because I participate. To him the individual is always an abstraction; man is a family (The Primal Vision Christian Presence Amid African Religion, London: SCM Press Ltd., 1963, p. 85).

Catholic seminaries in Africa need to emphasize the sense of community living and values to cut across ethnic and social boundaries. This has to be given a christological interpretation of the concept of neighbour as found in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:29­37). The seminary should be a school where the traditional African family and neighbourly spirit are nurtured and sustained. However, this sense of community cannot be fostered without a deep sense of justice.

(iii) A sense of justice

It is not an exaggeration to say that justice is at the hub of the human interactions in Africa. For Africans, justice is more than the Aristotelian idea of giving each one his/her due. The Igbo, for instance, look at justice as "Ikwuba aka oto" (literally meaning to keep the hand straight) in society. The straight hand is a metaphoric way of expressing, "Say the truth without fear or favour; give to everyone what he/she is supposed to have; maintain fair relationships with your neighbour, never tilt the balance in ontological relationships and so on". The Igbo ofo ritual symbol, on which Ejizu has thrown much light as far as its functions in Igbo traditional society are concerned, is one of the ways through which social control is ritually effected and internalised. Traditional religious leaders like priests, diviners, elders of all shades, etc. use it to prove their sincerity in discharging their duties. People will then respect them according to their truthfulness and sincerity. That is when they become real fathers of the society.
A sense of justice has to be instilled in the formators and seminarians in the seminaries throughout Africa. The idea of 'leave all judgements to God' while an injustice is perpetrated fails to prepare future priests who, according to His Holiness Pope John Paul II in his allocution to priests and seminarians of Nigeria at Enugu (1982) ought to bring about "justice and peace". For priests to fraternise with those in society overtly or covertly labelled 'men of dubious character' in the guise of the dictum 'Chukwu g'ekpe' (God will judge) is failing in the pursuit of justice. Peace cannot exist where justice is abused. African seminary formators have a duty to give their students a practical orientation to this African sense of justice during the seminary training.

(iv) Sincerity in one's commitment to a cause

Traditional African cultures attached great value to sincerity in one's words and pledge. It was an allied virtue to justice. The Igbo often say that oji ofo na ogu (he is with ofo and ogu i.e. justice, truth and sincerity. Ogu is often symbolized by a knotted tender palm frond (Omu). (A brief explanation of the meaning of Ogu could be found in Donatus Ibe Nwoga, 1984 Ahiajoku Lecture, Owerri: Culture Division, Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, 1984, p. 21).
Traditional African cultures cherished someone who was always truthful and who stood by his/her word no matter the odds. Such an individual was entrusted with community responsibility and leadership. People needed him/her especially when the going was rough. He/she was often addressed as: 'Onye Ezi Okwu' (a truthful person), 'Onye aka ya kwu oto' (a just person); 'Akwaa akwulu' (a person who perseveres in the face of difficulties).
Seminary formators need to encourage seminarians to express their views sincerely without fear of expulsion. This can be done by challenging them to be true to themselves. An atmosphere of insecurity and fear created through threats will suffocate sincerity among seminarians. The lgbo idea of covenants (Igba Ndu) with either divinities or with others in the society is mainly based on this virtue of sincerity. Priests and seminarians in Africa have to be living examples of this virtue to counteract the rampant cult of hypocrisy and cheating that is taking root throughout the continent.

(v) Good leadership

The end product of seminary formation in Africa ought to be an integrated mature priest; the equivalent of Onyishi in Nsukka sub-culture area or Atama/Eze Mmuo (king in the management of spiritual reality). This presupposes that he is quite conversant with traditional African values which make for good leadership. Some of them were pointed out earlier in this article. In the light of the Gospel message, the priest has to visualise, interiorise and practice these values. In doing so, he imitates Christ, the Good Shepherd, who came not to destroy traditional resilient values, but to complete and fulfil them. An integrated African priest has to be culturally, socially, psychologically, intellectually, spiritually and affectively mature to be relevant in modern African society.
There are many leadership qualities which could easily be identified. Francis Cardinal Arinze, in the letter cited earlier, identified the following six African values: "sense of the sacred, respect for life, sense of community, family spiritual vision of life, authority as sacred and symbolism in religious worship ...". Idowu associated many of these African values with the Yoruba concept of 'Iwa' (character). Indeed there is hardly any good textbook on African traditional religion that does not reflect on some African moral values.

Suggestions for developing an integrative priestly formation programme

(i) Overhauling of the present formation programme

African Traditional Religions and cultures must form part of the seminary curriculum, not only in the major seminaries where it is given scanty attention for the moment, but even in the minor seminaries. This requires trained personnel in African Traditional Religions, anthropology and sociology at graduate level. Merely being an African and a native of a place does not qualify one to be an effective interpreter of African Traditional Religions and Cultures. For effectiveness, special training is necessary. The programme of studies ought to span at least three years in the minor seminaries. It should be designed for senior secondary school leavers so that they can take it as one of their subjects in their final examination.
The study of both philosophy and theology in the major seminaries needs to be culture bound. African Traditional Religions and cultures ought to be the spring­board of philosophical and theological studies. For theology to be faith seeking, it needs to reflect this faith in the context of the African situation now. This is the only way it will be relevant to the people of this age. It has to be able to address itself to some fundamental problems on the continent today like, the greed for money and the pomp attached to it. The theologian in formation must, therefore, study traditional African values in view of reinforcing honestly acquired wealth and its correct usage. Findings in this area will serve as a basis for a Christian theology of wealth in an African perspective. Given the seriousness with which priestly formation ought to be taken, the one semester or even one year allotted to African Traditional Religions and cultures in the seminary curriculum is not enough. Seminary curriculum designers need to address this immediately.

(ii) Re-considering the mediums for instruction

Seminary formation ought to be given an African thrust in: the lectures, liturgy and general life. Lectures can be given in the language of the ethnic group where the seminary is situated. The tendency, so far, has been to maintain the use of foreign languages, forgetting that the Formator of all formators, Our Lord Jesus Christ, used the local language of his people to form the first seminarians, the Apostles. The argument that in an institution which harbours many ethnic groups, one has to import a universal language that is acceptable to all, does not seem satisfactory.
In many international seminaries in countries like Italy, France, Germany, England and America, the official language is the local language of the place. Why not try to imitate them in that sphere? African oral traditions are potential store­houses for this revolution in the language of lectures in African seminaries. As A. Shorter rightly pointed out, "... The traditional literature of Africa is very important to the priest, catechist, religious educator for an understanding of the mind of those to whom he is transmitting the Christian message ..." (African Culture and the Christian Church, London - Dublin: Geoffrey Chapman, 1973, p. 83). Fr Arazu's efforts in his Abu­Oma Nke Bible (Psalms in Igbo) translation set to Igbo melody are commendable. Others need to emulate him to come up with creative African theology and liturgy in an African language. The unchangeable elements can be based on faith in God and in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The concrete expression of that faith must be culture bound. In this regard the following recommendation of the Vatican II Fathers to theologians is appropriate:
... theologians are now being asked, within the methods and limits of the science of theology, to seek out more efficient ways provided the meaning and understanding of them is safeguarded - of presenting their teaching to modern man: for the deposit and truth of faith are one thing, the manner of expressing them quite another ... (Gaudium et spes, n. 62).

(iii) Creating a home within the seminary

The atmosphere pervading the whole seminary formation has to be that of a family spirit. The formators, led by the rector, are expected to create this spirit. They ought not to distance themselves from the students. Rather they have to win the latter's confidence at all levels as they share life together. Decisions on vital matters must be taken after prolonged dialogue and consultations on both sides. The sense of communal spirit has to prevail. No student should be expelled for expressing his candid opinion on matters affecting his welfare. The era of blind obedience has gone. Instead, formators have to encourage responsible obedience after mature deliberations. They are to be good listeners taking cognisance of valuable contributions of students on vital matters. Students ought to see in them real fathers of one family who can be approached freely, without inhibition. According to Dalrymple, the full formation of students in theology, personality and spirituality calls for doing away with special privileges on the part of the formators in order to:
Have one regime for living: one common room, no distinction about eating and waiting at table, no privileged goings out and coming in for some which others cannot have, the same rule of life for prayer and worship for all, treating everyone the same as members of one family from first year student to rector" (J.B. Dalrymple, "Formation in the Seminary", Supplement To The Way: Christian Formation, n. 6, May 1968, p. 49).
The excessive hierarchical set­up in seminaries needs to be abolished. This may not be possible with regards to the hierarchy of functions like the priestly function, deacons' function, professors' duties, etc. However, the hierarchy of status which breeds a domineering spirit ought to be done away with at all stages of formation. This timely warning of Our Lord to his Disciples should always be reflected upon by both formators and seminarians:
You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No, anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:25­29).
Viewed from the African context, Our Lord's words can be given a family connotation where parents and elder brothers/sisters make many sacrifices to see that the younger siblings grow up to maturity. The latter appreciate the sacrifices made for them by contributing their quota for the welfare of the family. Periodically, family meetings are held to review and renew the activities of the group and advise the erring one. Where a truly African spirit of nwanne (brotherhood) is created and fostered, members feel at home.
Archbishop John Onaiyekan in one of his reflections on "The Priesthood and the African Synod" suggests that instead of having large seminaries for our teeming seminarians in Nigeria, it may be better to have some small size seminaries for qualitative formation. While this suggestion may not be feasible now in the Nigerian context, the infusion of the African family spirit in seminary formation is imperative (cf.: Mbefo, L.N.C.F., and Ezeugu, M.E., (eds.) The Clergy in Nigeria Today, Enugu: SNAAP Press Ltd. 1994, p. 102).

(iv) Deepening prayer life in the seminary

At all levels of seminary formation, the seminarians must participate in the recitation of the Office of the Hours and be assisted to cultivate a spirit of personal prayer. The Manual of Prayers in junior seminaries can be replaced by a condensed Office of the Hours. Seminarians ought to familiarize themselves with this main prayer of the Church at all levels of their training. The Office can be translated in the local languages of the continent with an Afriean melody to accompany its recitation. If Christians from Europe and America have succeeded in inculturating the Office of the Hours, why should Africans not imitate them by giving an African flavour to the prayer of the Church?


The deficiencies in most seminaries in Africa are largely caused by the non­inclusion of timeless African traditional values in the curriculum of seminary formation. If Jesus, the Formator of all formators accomplished his gigantic task through the prism of the Jewish culture and yet became relevant to the European and American seminarians as Jesus of today through their culture, then he can equally and should be relevant to African seminarians as Jesus of today and tomorrow through their cultural mould.
The great efforts of seminary formators in building the local Church are indeed commendable. But, there is need to give more attention to a global African orientation in seminary formation for forming qualitative, integrative and mature African priests. The seminary curriculum should be aimed at deepening faith in the God revealed by Jesus Christ which is then expressed within the African context. This will highlight African traditional values which can be a basis for understanding Jesus, the Formator of all formators.

Ref.: AFER African Ecclesial Review, vol. 39, n. 4, 1997.