A major seminary in south India is set to celebrate its centenary on June 29.
Archbishop Antony Pappusamy of Madurai and chairman of the Board along with Archbishop George Antonysamy of Madras-Mylapore will lead the Mass at St. Paul's Seminary, Tiruchchirappalli, Tamil Nadu.
The chief guest for the celebrations will be M. Appavu, a Member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
“I am greatly honoured to send my heartfelt greetings of joy to St. Paul’s Seminary, especially on the historic occasion of its centenary celebrations,” said Archbishop Pappusamy.
The seminary will remain etched in the hearts and minds of all alumni and the Catholics who witnessed and continue to find the missionary zeal in the priestly candidates from this institute, he said, adding, that it has made epoch-making theological, spiritual, missionary, and pastoral contributions to the Tamil Nādu and universal Catholic Church.
“St. Paul's Seminary has provided me with three distinct perspectives—both as a student, professor of pastoral theology and Dean and now as president of the Board of Administration. All these have reinforced my belief that the seminary has redefined the Catholic mission in the context," explained Archbishop Pappusamy.
“It continues to provide the seminarians with the opportunities and challenges that enable them to inculcate in themselves the values of faith, concern, commitment and service honed with knowledge and understanding,” Father Andrew De Rose, Rector told RVA News.
“While thanking God for His abiding presence with us and appreciating those who support us, we hope to carry out the mission of empowering the future priests—‘set apart for the Gospel of Christ,’” he said.
Brother John Bosco M, a seminarian of the diocese of Dindigul, said, "I am honoured, proud and privileged to have graduated from St. Paul's Seminary, one of the most widely known seminaries in Tamil Nadu. It trains candidates for the periphery."
Apart from the high level of training provided here, seminarians have been actively involved in the holistic development of the people. The seminary has a significant number of outstanding achievements that inspire seminarians to come here for their formation," he added.
St. Paul’s Seminary was founded on June 8, 1921, by Jesuit Bishop Augustine Faisandier of Tiruchirappalli, and he had adopted as its motto the words of the Apostle Paul, “Set apart for the Gospel of Christ” (Rom 1:1).
In 1922, it was given canonical status by the Madurai Mission of the Society of Jesus.
After it was established as an inter-diocesan seminary in 1938, it became the provincial seminary of the Madurai ecclesiastical province, comprising the dioceses: Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Thoothukudi, Kottar, Kuzhithurai, Palayamkottai, Sivagangai and Dindigul.
There are also candidates admitted from other Indian dioceses, religious congregations, and laypeople from different parts of Tamil Nadu.
The theology section of the seminary became affiliated with the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on December 4, 1975, thus enabling students to earn a Baccalaureate in Theology.
A board of bishops from the Madurai Ecclesiastical province of the Church took over the administration of the seminary on March 29, 1978.
In June 1985, St. Paul's Seminary became exclusively a theologate, with the philosophy department gradually phased out.
Over the last 100 years, as many as 1746 priests have been ordained, of whom 25 have been consecrated as bishops.
There are 53 Religious sisters and 19 lay people who are also trained in St. Paul’s Seminary.
Up until March 2021, 1003 students have earned the B.Th. degree and 31 students have completed their Licentiate.
In 1995-1996, during the Institute's platinum jubilee year, it initiated a postgraduate program leading to a Master of Theology degree (M.Th.). Since then, 27 individuals have received their M.Th.
The seminary was elevated to an Institute of Theology and aggregated to the Pontifical Urban University, Rome, by the Congregation for the Catholic Education on February 8, 1997.
To promote contextualized theology that is appropriate for the Indian and Tamil Nadu context, yet still faithful to the magisterium.
Together with the staff, the board of administration decided to request that St. Paul's Seminary be separated from the Pontifical Urban University Rome, and consolidated with St. Peter's Pontifical Institute, Bengaluru.
The Pontifical Urban University granted the requested de-aggregation on May 31, 2005, and aggregation with St. Peter's Pontifical Institute in Bengaluru has been approved with effect from July 23, 2009.
Justin Diraviam, then Archbishop of Madurai, founded Christ Hall Seminary on July 13, 1970, with De La Salle College run by Christian Brothers called located in Karumathur, Madurai.
In 1978, this college was transferred to the Jesuits by the archbishop Justin Diraviam after diocesan seminarians from all over Tamil Nadu attended it for their studies.
Students from all dioceses of Tamil Nadu and some from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and North Indian states enrolled in this philosophate.
Due to the increasing strength, it was necessary to limit the admission of seminarians as time passed.
In June 1983, St. Paul's Seminary, Tiruchirappalli, became a provincial major seminary for the archdiocese of Madurai, with the philosophy department in St. Paul's closing in March 1984.
An autonomous philosophate was started on the Christ Hall campus in June 2006 based on recommendations made by the apostolic visitors of the Holy See in 1999, following a review of the situation.
From the academic year 2015-to 2016, the philosophy department of Christ Hall Seminary has been integrated into St. Paul’s Seminary, Tiruchirappalli.
Due to the seminary's centennial celebration, the board of administration has decided to upgrade the theological studies to become the St. Paul's Institute of Theology.
St. Peter's Pontifical Institute, Bengaluru, has provided the Congregation for Catholic Education with the institute's revised statutes. - Anbu Selvam
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