Friday, February 12, 2010

The Metropolitan Seminary of Warsaw

Whilst in Warsaw Father Zbigniew arranged for us to visit the Metropolitan University College Seminary of St John the Baptist. The tourists just direct people to the Carmelite Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. It was, of course, a Carmelite Church but is now the Seminary Church - not a bad chapel for the approximately two hundred seminary students!

I was very pleased to find this painting of our parish patron St Simon Stock receiving the Brown Scapular from the Blessed Virgin:

The students are in separate groups for Philosophy and Theology, reflecting the different stages of spiritual development and expectations in terms of prayer life, and each has its own chapel. Below is the beautiful chapel for the theology students:

The Rector, Father Krzysztof Pawlina, invited us to his study for tea and cheesecake where we exchanged opinions about the formation of seminarians and the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. Father Pawlina gave me a present of his book "Kandydaci do Kaplanstwa Trzeciego Tysiaclecia" (Candidates for the Priesthood of the Third Millennium). His study is of course written in Polish but a summary in English, German and Italian is contained at the end of the book.

In this summary we read that the average age of men entering the seminary in 2000 was 20. Average students come from a town and from a middle class family. Their parents are of modest professional and educational backgrounds. Their parents' average level of education is secondary level. Only one in ten have parents who have been to higher education institutions.

The majority were altar servers in their youth. They desire to serve God and the Church and seek holiness. They are not motivated by achieving status and are not afraid of poverty or being objects of ridicule.

"The future priest is quite observant and critical, also in relation to modern priests," observes Fr Pawlina. "He can see their faults - especially too much materialism, lack of humility, wrong attitude towards people, passiveness, and formalism." I wonder if this is youthful criticism. I did experience a little pre-occupation at times with 'formalism' but, by and large, the priests I met during the last week were zealous and hard working. Fr Pawlina continues describing the attitudes of today's seminarians: "And, what should a priest stand out by according to a young seminarian? So what is his ideal of a priest? Above all, he is to be a persistent man, constant, patient, obedient, forgiving, and modest. He should stand out by his diligence, courage, and piety."

The attitude of seminarians seems to be one of self-sacrifice and sincerity. I'm sure that if Fr Pawlina's book were available in English it would be an excellent contribution to the study of the identity and role of priests in this millennium.

Father Krzysztof Pawlina (centre) and Fr Zbigniew Sajnóg, parish priest of St Joseph's in Warsaw (right).

Incidentally, cassocks are normal dress for both staff and students.


  1. What a nice post! Beautiful surroundings and chapel. I expect that given the average age of the seminiarian their parents would be in their late 40s and 50s - which is probably why more of them didn't have a chance at university education - because before the fall of communism, you had to walk a mighty fine line with the communists to get it. i.e. humanities and liberal arts would have been relative wasteland having to eat up a lot of Marxist twaddle. Even the math / scientist types had to tread a careful line.

    How many seminaries are there in Poland?

    [Don't English students wear clericals in the classroom?]

  2. Your assessment of average age of parents is spot on, and your analysis of the reasons why they have average educations seems to make sense. Every diocese would have its own seminary. No, English students don't wear clericals, period.

  3. WHat's the reason English students don't wear clericals? I would think it would get them used to it -- and being perhaps treated a little differently in the community! [Particularly those who've progressed as far as the theologate!] When do they start wearing them? Diaconate?

  4. Gem - Woah. This wasn't North Korea, you know. My mum's family had their flat raided by the UB, my dad's dad was ex-AK, and nearly lost the right to practise his profession (for political reasons)(and you got points for family background when your application for university was considered); one has an MA, the other a PhD. Mum was a piously practising Catholic. (And that paternal grandfather had a university chair created specially for him, and that not at KUL.)

    It's amazing how much Sanskrit you can study without Marxism coming into it at all outside one joke course in Marxist Economics (or Politics, or some such - I know my uncle passed one of these exams, with top marks, by writing out the beginning of Pan Tadeusz, the C19 national "epic".).

    The background Fr Boyle describes as providing most priestly vocations sounds about normal for much of modern European history, in my vague recollection of past reading.

  5. Moreover, a quick google tells me 14,7% of Poles have higher education (which means a five-year master's degree). Given that the percentage of Poles entering higher education has grown hugely in the last decade or two (and thus the percentage of people with degrees in the relevant generation will be lower), I don't think you can read anything about the difficulty of getting higher education into the educational background stats :)


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