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.
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 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.”