The National Seminary Philosophate finished its fourteenth academic year. Day to day running of the Philosophate is the responsibility of the Director of the Philosophate. Fr. Rector is overall in-charge and the person responsible to the governing body, i.e. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka. There was co-ordination of work with the Director and staff of the Philosophate and formation work was done as one integral body with the Rector and the entire staff. Fr. Rector also addresses the students of the Philosophate at least 4 times during the year. In July 2014, the Philosophy students after the introduction of the third year of Philosophy, sat for their Baccalaureate in Philosophy Examination for the first time and out of 27 students who sat 14 passed with “Magna cum Laude”.
Conferences on discipline and different aspects of formation are been taken for Philosophy students. The Director and the Magister Spiritus of the Philosophate takes conferences and attended to their other aspects of spiritual formation.
In the Theologate, it is the Vice Rector who is responsible for the day to day running and discipline of the Seminary. The Rector is in overall charge of the Philosophate and the Theologate. Theology students have spiritual conferences by the Magistri Spiritus. Fr.Rector addresses them on Mondays regarding general guidelines, Church teachings on priesthood and other topics that are relevant to community life.
The four priests namely Frs. Robert Jayathilake, Alex Costa OMI, Fr. Cyril Joseph and Fr. Camilus Coorey continue to be responsible for Spiritual Direction, together with few other members of the staff. Spiritual formation is given its prime of place in the formation programme. The students while participating in community prayers and spiritual exercises are also given opportunity to conduct their prayer and meditation at group level under the guidance of their moderators. There were special days of prayer and fasting, organized by the initiative of students, for particular reasons other than days specified by the church.
The final year (4th year) students having completed their studies in the Seminary leave for their respective dioceses on 10th July. Each diocese provides them with pastoral practice under the direction of their Local ordinary. That pastoral practice will continue even after the Diaconate which is conferred in the Seminary at the end of October, till such time they are ordained Priests, according to the norms of the Church.
Religious Communities affiliated to the National Seminary
During the running Scholastic year there are 92 Religious students coming from 14 Religious Congregations for their academic/intellectual formation, to the National Seminary. They are the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), Sylvestro-Benedictines (OSB), Blessed Sacrament Congregation (SSS), Third order Regular Franciscans (TOR), Voluntas Dei (IVD), Claretians (CMF), Rosarians (CR), Order of Friars Minor Congregation (OFMC), Redemptorists (CSsR), Cistercians (O.Cist), Order of Friars Minor Community (OFM) OFM Conventuals, Salvatorians (SDS) and Dominicans (OP).
Among the staff members there are 30 religious priests (permanent and visiting) from the Oblates, Sylvestro Benedictines, Redemptorists, Jesuits, Blessed Sacrament, Dominicans, Third Order Regular Franciscans and Voluntas Dei. Their contribution is a sign of cooperation in the intellectual formation of our students, both Diocesan and Religious. We need to maintain this momentum by giving more and more opportunities for the younger clergy to be trained in various disciplines and sacred sciences so that there will not be any vacuum created in formation.
Efforts at Inculturation:
The National Seminary has seminarians from the two major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka – Sinhalese and Tamils. The work of inculturation takes place mostly through the Sinhala and Tamil cultural academies – Gonsalvez Sinhala Academy and the Gnanapragasar Tamil Academy. The cultural academies help the students to develop their talents in speech, writing, singing and drama. All Sinhalese students study Tamil and all Tamil students study Sinhalese. Thus the other vernacular is considered a pastoral language. Efforts are made to see that all students have a working knowledge of the pastoral language. These language classes are conducted twice a week in Sinhala and Tamil. There is a Father in charge of this section. Aspects pertaining to inculturation are also taken up in the Missiology class for Third year of Theology. The study of the Theology of Religions also touches upon the aspect of inculturation. The need to evangelize the local cultures is often reminded.
On certain days liturgical celebrations are conducted in Sinhala and Tamil. These liturgies in Sinhala and Tamil are organized by the respective cultural academies under the guidance of the Father in charge of Liturgy. On annual cultural days and on special cultural occasions e.g. Festival of Lights, Harvest Festival, special cultural Masses are organized. Efforts are made at inculturation without changing the structure of the Holy Mass as instructed by the Roman Missal. There are two periodicals in Sinhala and Tamil published by the Sinhala and Tamil cultural academies.
Access to an adequate library is an essential part of formation to the priesthood. An indispensable instrument for study, both for Professors and Students, is a well-furnished library with test books and periodicals which provide informative and formative material. The Apostolic Constitution “Sapientia Christiana” of the late Holy Father Pope John Paul II strongly emphasizes the need to have an adequate Library in every Major Seminary.
The Libraries of the National Seminary both at the Theologate and at the Philosophate have a stock of nearly 32,000 books and a large number of bound volumes of periodicals. Annually we are subscribing to about 90 periodicals and out of them about 25 we receive in exchange for our Seminary journal “Living Faith”. We have a General Reference Room, Staff Review Room, a Special Collection of rare manuscripts and Ola Leaf Writings and a Sri Lankan Section at the Theologate.
Every year at the beginning of the Academic year to encourage the use of the Library, instructional programmes are conducted. The annual library days were held both at the Philosophate and Theologate.