Uganda: vocations grow at seminary inside refugee camp

 Priestly vocations continue to grow in northern Uganda, a region scarred by over 20 years of civil war between the government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The rector of the Alokulu Seminary in the Archdiocese of Gulu, Father Cosmas Alule, says the formation house, located within a camp for displaced people, has 126 candidates and expects more in the next semester. There is still a large number of interested young people, but the capacity of the seminary is limited, Fr Alule told the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, based in Germany. He said some Christians had repeatedly called for the seminary to be moved to a new site, for reasons of security, but the priest believes that it is good both for the displaced people and for the seminarians that the institution remains within the camp. "We are not going to abandon the suffering; we want to show our solidarity with the people", he explained, adding that the future priests should share the lives of the ordinary people and "bear witness for Christ in the existing situation". And while it is true that every priest belongs to the Universal Church, he is nonetheless rooted in the concrete situation of his own people and society and it is there that he must bring the Gospel to the people, the rector said. Residents of the camp go to the seminary to collect water or to use the football pitch. At the same time the seminary is protected by the people who sometimes warn the seminarians of rebels or soldiers lurking in the area. The seminarians on their part engage in pastoral work in the camp, Fr Alule said. Alokulu Seminary receives students from different dioceses all over the country. This, too, is an advantage, says the rector. Since the war has raged above all in northern Uganda there may be some seminarians from other parts of the country who are not aware of it. Through their immediate contact with those who have been affected by the war, the future priests are able to appreciate their suffering. Fr Alule is optimistic that the situation in northern Uganda will continue to stabilise. Peace talks are progressing. The biggest challenge for the church is to help those people who have lost all hope as a result of the war and to restore in them a sense of faith in a better future, he said. Source: CISA

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