Already facing a shortage of priests, the Catholic Church in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, has closed a portion of its seminary, leaving dozens of young men stranded on the road to the priesthood.
St. Paul’s Major Seminary in Juba can accommodate only 64 students. They are in the final two years of theological studies and have been transferred from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, from which the South became independent in 2011.
Given growing harassment and repression of southerners and Christians in the mostly Islamic North, church leaders decided to move the students to Juba. Most of the seminarians are from South Sudan anyway, and seminary officials were worried they would not be granted visas if the seminary continued to operate in Khartoum.
To make room for the theology students in Juba, scores of seminarians enrolled in philosophy courses have been sent packing. This comes after a Vatican emissary came to Sudan and South Sudan earlier this year and gave the seminary a failing grade in its orientation of young priests and the quality of its academic program.
Many South Sudanese students spent years in exile or surviving in the bush, so the quality of their education is uneven. And the new country’s decision to make English the official language, including in the schools, has made the transition difficult for citizens speaking only Arabic and tribal languages.