SIERRA LEONE – Minibus for the one and only seminary in the country
To this day Sierra Leone is still suffering from the consequences of its bloody civil war. The economy and the infrastructure have been utterly ruined, and over 70% of the population are living in poverty today. And the situation was made still worse, of course, by the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in 2014.
The civil war, which lasted from 1991 until 2002, left around half of the country’s approximately four million inhabitants as refugees, while thousands of people were killed. The Catholic Church in the country also suffered extreme material damage. Parish houses, monasteries, convents and other Church properties were left in ruins, ransacked, looted and destroyed by the rebels. Not for any discernible religious motives, however, but from sheer destructive fury, according to the rector of the Saint Paul’s seminary in the capital Freetown. The seminary had to be moved several times because of the civil war, in order to escape the fighting and the rebel attacks, and was left in the end with nothing.
In 1995, still during the war and after being forced to move several times, the seminary was finally re-established on a rocky area outside the capital Freetown. It is still there to this day, and it is here that young men from every diocese in the country – and also from the Gambia, which has no seminary of its own – are training for the priesthood today.
There are still numerous challenges to be overcome, however. One is the difficulty of transport, since the situation of the seminary outside of the city, which was an advantage during the time of the civil war, is now a disadvantage. For all the various needs and activities outside the seminary now involve travel over not inconsiderable distances. For example, on Sundays the seminarians help out in the various different parishes of the capital, in order to better learn the practicalities of parish life. Then there are the shopping trips, doctors’ visits, journeys by members of staff to the seat of the diocese and to other dioceses as well, and many other reasons besides. And the three vehicles available to the seminary were by now old and subject to frequent breakdowns – with the added problem that repair costs were becoming astronomically expensive. And so Father Matthew Kanneh, the rector, turned to ACN to help.
Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to give 23,800 Euros for a new minibus. This vehicle has now arrived and is giving vital service for the seminary. Both staff and seminarians are delighted, and the rector has written to thank you all on behalf of the entire seminary. He writes: “The vehicle has arrived safely. We are extremely grateful and promise you that we will do our very best to use it well to fulfil our pastoral work and to further the formation of the future priests of Sierra Leone and Gambia.”