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B.C . 69, Camp,
St Michael’s Minor Seminary has been a mother that nursed the child, a father who disciplined, a teacher that taught, a friend who consoled, a lover who gave the warmth of love, a fortress that guarded, a house that sheltered and above all a winepress where we as young ones, were pressed and turned into the most sweetest wine or a clay in the potters hands shaped, molded and backed to be a beautiful pot.
For the period of five decades, this seminary has unfailingly sent out to the world men of God, and witnesses of faith. She has worked tirelessly towards her divine calling and continues to witness God to people. For all those of us who had our happy days here, have memories attached to every corner of this campus.
History and Origin
St. Michael's Seminary was the brain child of the second Bishop of Belgaum, Dr Fortunato De Vega Cutinho, the Council Father of Vatican II, and a real visionary, who named this institution after his predecessor, Late Bishop Michael Rodrigues, the first Bishop of Belgaum. Bishop Fortunato laid the foundation stone for this prestigious home of love, the cradle and the nursery of formation for the future priest on 8th December 1966. The foundation stone was blessed and was laid by the late Valerian Cardinal Gracias of Bombay. From then like a mother, St Michael’s Seminary has opened her arms to take her sons together in her bosom. But this was not the real beginning.
This institution had its humble beginning in ‘NIRMALA NIKETAN’ in Belgaum Bishops house compound. On 5th June 1965, in the Fatima Cathedral, the Late Most Rev. James Robert Knox, the Papal Internuncio of India, along with Bishop Fortunato, several priests and a sizable congregation witnessed this inauguration. The official approval and blessing of the Holy Father was read out in Latin and English by the late Fr Agapit Monterio, and then the blessing followed. The first Rector was the Late Fr Manuel Alvares, and the first batch of students numbered eleven.
In the lexis of Late Msgr. Everist Mascarenhas, who describes this inauguration as a humble beginning; we see today a prophecy fulfilled. (voice over) “And you... least among all, shall be great and exulted… and from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people” (Lk 2:6).
By the end of December 1970, with five priests on staff and 28 students moved in to the present building consisting of four rooms for the staff, four class room, eight living rooms, 01 refectory, 01 hall as chapel. Late Fr Maurice Mascaerenhas, the then Rector, laid the foundation stone for the chapel today- on 16th November 1992. The chapel was blessed and inaugurated by Bishop Ignatius Lobo on the feast of the Arch angels, on 29th September 1993. Under the financial support of Bishop Bernard Moras (Now the Arch Bishop of Bangalore) and the supervision of Fr Derek Fernandes (Now the Bishop of Karwar) major repair works were undertaken in years from 1992- 2002. Replacement of the doors and windows, construction of roofing on three sides above the former terrace, construction of 2 big halls above the present refectory, kitchen and garage with asbestos sheets, additional guest rooms and a new frontage to the seminary were constructed. The conclusion to the renovation work was laying red oxide cement tiles from the main gate to the seminary, and branching out to the chapel on one side and to the garage on the other. Today it has 1 beautiful chapel, twelve rooms, five study rooms, four halls and nine guest rooms and can accommodate many number of people in its arms. Constant renovation and maintenance have added to the beauty of our Alma Mater. Latest being the construction of the cemetery, the final resting place for the priest of the diocese under the instruction of Bishop Peter Machado and able monitoring of Fr. Joseph Rodrigues the Rector, has 40graves.
It is said, the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. St Michael’s Seminary, a wide spread campus on 8 acres of land at Machhe is heaven today. Once an open land is now a paradise and is the result of the sweat and toil of young seminarians, who under the guidance of rectors, and experienced staff members have toiled to convert a jungle into a garden. The mango plantation on the front, the play ground at its back and cluster of teak trees around it, tickles us to grin. This campus makes us thing beyond the landscape. The unfathomable peace, serenity of heart and the sweet scented smell of dustless breeze is in contrast to none. It has indeed been a gift to everyone who stooped to stop by St Michael’s.
Formation at St. Michael's
For all those of us who had our happy days here, have memories attached to every corner of this campus.St Michael’s Seminary has tirelessly strived to provide all round formation to make then worthy to be potential and productive citizens of their mother land. The life in St Michael’s seminary can be described in four principle foundations. These four interconnected principles on which the life here revolves are:
The purpose of human formation is to assist the seminarians in the task of becoming men of integrity with personality necessary for priestly ministry. The community life, various activities concentrate here on forming a good Christian full of faith and love for God and his fellow beings. Seminarians are assisted to grow in true freedom, moral character and above all rooted to grow in truth fidelity.
Daily mass, mediation, Prayer of the Church, Rosary and other spiritual activities were not mere exercises but have oriented to develop conformity with God, Self and the other. One does remember the regular spiritual talks and directions that have assisted to grow in relationship to God. This relationship invited to encounter the love of god in our lives and share it with other.
The staff at the seminary strived to trains the seminarians to be competent and well-disposed for their future ministry. Deepening of faith is sought through study of scripture, catechetic, and spirituality. Knowledge of Latin, English, Kannada and Konkani is insisted through grammar, prose and composition, speaking skills, public oratory, and phonetics. Church history, Salvation history, Catechesis, Music, singing and voice formation is part of ministerial formation. Travelling on cycles and bus in the chilled and rainy mornings and in hot sun of the afternoon to Belgaum city to Rani Parvati Devi College, Gogte College and St. Xavier's PU College for Secular studies in arts and commerce is a part of the sweet memories.
The Yearly two weeks of exposure among the people in the missions, living with them, eating either by cooking or what was offered by the people. The pastoral activity constituting of teaching, (scripture, catechesis and English) training the faithful for the proper liturgical celebrations, cleanliness, and activities of community building. Special emphasis being laid on children ministries, especially with Alter servers, training them to serve at the Altar and forming and inspiring their minds to discern their vocation to the priesthood. In the end of the day sleeping on the floor with the music of the mosquitoes yet enjoying all of it and spreading the message of joy no doubt made us tough.
Life has not only been study and prayer at St. Michael's. Field work and gardening has been a part and parcel of life at the Alma Mater. One cannot but remember being bulls to plough, sowing of seeds, plucking weds and digging to plant. The awaiting to play foot-ball, laughing at someone skidding on the wet ground, playing volley-ball, scoring runs in cricket, sometimes winning and sometimes loosing yet enjoying the victory and the loss with a sporting spirit. Indoor games like Table-tennis, carom, chess, etc, relaxed our minds.
Events to remember
Though it is not possible to remember every event there are few landmarks in the history of this seminary which we remember never to forget; and forget not to remember.
Silver Jubilee Celebration : On the 3rd and 4th January 1991 about 60 priests concelebrated the Holy Eucharist with Bishop Ignatius Lobo and bishop Stanly Fernandes the then Bishop of Ahemdabad was an important land mark and a joy of home coming for many Michaelites.
Ruby Jubilee Celebration (2006): It was an event of great admiration. St Michaels’s has unfailingly sent out students aspiring to be in the vineyard of the Lord. After four decades About 40 priests from the Diocese of Karwar, 35 and more from the Dioceses of Ahmadabad, Baroda, Gandhinagar and few from the Arch Diocese Bombay and Norbertine religious, 60 from the diocese of Belgaum had already enjoyed the warmth of her bosom. On date there were 39 students in the seminary and about 17 studying in the major seminaries.
Bishop Stanislaus Fernandes SJ, the then Arch Bishop of Gandhinagar, in his letter dated 31st October 2006, writes ‘If the catholic home is the cradle where the vocation sprouts, St Michaels’s seminary is the crèche where the vocation is nurtured’.
Till date number of Rectors and staff members have strived to form 200 priests and hundreds of Alumni capable of being good citizens on whom the nation counts for help, guidance and upliftment of the down trodden. Our hearts over flow with noble words and tongue as nimble as the pen of a scribe to write the names of 2 Bishops, Bishop Peter Machado the Bishops of Belgaum and Bishop Derik Fernandes, the Bishop of Karwar Diocese who were nursed in the bosom of St Michael’s Seminary. It is not contribution but dedication and selfless pouring forth. Praised be God.
B.C . 69, Camp, Belgaum-01, Karnataka, India.