In Kenya, web-savvy seminarians with no Internet

NAIROBI, Kenya — Can you imagine being in a master’s or PhD class in a college that did not have access to the Internet?

That, in essence, is the situation at St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, which doubles as one of Kenya’s national seminaries and the seminary of the Archdiocese of Nairobi.

Fourth-year theology student Richard Odhiambo is among the 125 men studying for the priesthood at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Nairobi. Odhiambo looked up for a photo while studying for an exam in moral theology. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Fourth-year theology student Richard Odhiambo is among the 125 men studying for the priesthood at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Nairobi. Odhiambo looked up for a photo while studying for an exam in moral theology. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Someone donated 27 refurbished computers to the seminary, but the more than 100 students basically use them as word processors, said one seminary official.

Father Dunstan Epaalat, the IT department coordinator at the seminary, said the latest estimate for a one-time wiring of the seminary was just over $8,000 — well outside the seminary budget.

One professor at the seminary indicated that students are quite Internet savvy and have even fixed his computer. Seminarian John Abraham Ayieko told a delegation from the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States that social media is very important, and that future priests will be writing blogs like his to evangelize.

“We might not meet the youth of the world in the church, but we meet them on Facebook,” he said.

The seminary’s library has fewer than 10 rows of bookshelves, and most of the books are very old. One student was studying for an exam associated with the Pontifical Urbanian University with an inch-thick sheaf of papers containing a handwritten outline and notes.

Father Joseph Njoroge Ngugi quizzes seminarian Samuel Lima on his Greek lesson during a class at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Nairobi. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Father Joseph Njoroge Ngugi quizzes seminarian Samuel Lima on his Greek lesson during a class at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Nairobi. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Father Celestino Bundi, head of the Pontifical Missionary Societies in Kenya, said St. Thomas Aquinas seminary is a recipient of aid from the Society of St. Peter Apostle, one of four agencies associated with the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Father Bundi and Msgr. John E. Kozar, head of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, meet at the Vatican to go over applications to the various funds and choose projects that exhibit the most need. Msgr. Kozar told the delegation of mission directors from the United States in mid-February that in some seminaries around the world, students might only have a bowl of rice for a meal, or they might be eating exposed to the elements.

In a meeting Feb. 18, Msgr. Francis X. Blood, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, asked Nairobi Cardinal John Njue for advice on prioritizing all the mission appeals that cross his desk back home.

“Projects that focus on deepening of the faith” take priority, said the cardinal. In addition, he said, “the issue of the formation of the priests is so vital,” because “if the priests are shaky” when facing the challenges to the church, it will “trickle down.”

Pope’s book to be released at the Vatican March 10

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI’s new book, “Jesus of Nazareth. Part Two. Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection,” will be launched with a Vatican press conference March 10, the Vatican press office announced today.

In an unusual move, the press office will open in the evening to host the 5 p.m. conference; a morning press conference would have conflicted with Pope Benedict’s annual Lenten meeting with the clergy of Rome.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet (CNS/Paul Haring)

The Vatican said the pope’s new tome on Jesus will be presented by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Claudio Magris, an Italian scholar and essayist whose research has focused on German-language literature.

The pope’s first volume on Jesus of Nazareth looked at the period between his baptism and the Transfiguration and was published in 2007; a third volume, reportedly already being written, will look at Jesus’ childhood.

Canadian who advised Vatican on nuclear disarmament nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Douglas Roche, an adviser to the Vatican on nuclear disarmament and the threat of nuclear weapons for more than two decades, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

A former Canadian politician and ambassador from Canada to the United Nations Disarmament Commission, Roche was nominated by the International Peace Bureau in Geneva.

The organization, which is dedicated to ending all war, said its nomination was based on Roche’s devotion throughout his public life to disarmament.

“Aside from existing Nobel laureates, it is hard to think of a single individual who has worked as hard for disarmament as he, and with such persistence and determination, at the top levels of world politics,” the organization said on its website.

Roche has served as a member of the Vatican’s delegation to the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and its preparatory meetings.

He also has worked alongside members of Pax Christi International and Pax Christi USA on disarmament efforts.

David Robinson, executive director of Pax Christi USA, told Catholic News Service he was excited by the nomination.

“He’s been an ally of Pax Christi,” Robinson said. “This is a big deal.”

The Nobel committee will announce its selection in the fall.

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