HISTORY OF ST. PETER'S SEMINARY
The Book of Sirach praises the Heroes of our salvation history:
“Now, will I praise those godly men, our ancestors, each in his own time; the abounding glory of the Most High’s portion, his own part, since the days of old. Subduers of the land in kingly fashion, men of renown of their might, Or counselors in their prudence, Or seers of all things in prophecy…” “Some of them have left behind a name And men recount their praiseworthy deeds.”
(Sirach 44: 1-8)
As we celebrate the extra-ordinary golden jubilee (60th Anniversary) of St. Peter’s Regional Seminary, Pedu, let us use the words of Sirach above to praise those godly bishops and benefactors and thank them for listening to God to move the St. Theresa’s Major Seminary at Amisano to settle at Pedu and rename it St. Peter’s Regional Seminary. It has really been a long journey of faith.
The Church in Ghana will forever remain grateful to the then Archbishop of Cape Coast, Most Rev. William T. Porter, SMA, and his Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev. John K. Amissah, Most Rev. Joseph Oliver Bowers, SVD of Accra, Most Rev. Anthony Konings, SMA, of Keta and Most Rev. Andrew Van Den Bronk, SMA, of Kumasi for their invaluable contributions and for their vision, they have left their footprints in the sands of time.
The first group of seminarians to move from Amisano to Pedu Seminary were twenty-seven (27). And this took place on March 12, 1957, a week after the celebration of Ghana’s Independence – March 6, 1957.
The beautification of Pedu campus during the first few years developed through conscious efforts of tree-planting and even of nursing and planting of grass. The late Rev. Fr. Francis Eboyi-Anza, one of the pioneers, wrote in 1982 at the time of the Silver Jubilee celebration: “It would surely be a mistaken idea to surmise that only the students were put to manual labour every other day during the tender age of St. Peter’s. Members of staff were equally involved”. The spirit of manual labour has been a long tradition in the life of the Seminary, and this has borne lasting fruits on the campus.
St. Peter’s Regional Seminary saw its first priestly ordination at Bekwai when the then Bishop of Kumasi, Most Rev. Andrew Van Den Bronk, SMA, invited the Auxiliary Bishop J. K. Amissah of Cape Coast to ordain Deacon Michael Kweku DeGraft to the priesthood on August 15, 1957.
When Fr. Hulsen retired from Pedu in 1967, it was like the end of an era in seminary formation. He was a man of discipline and he laid a very good foundation. Very Rev. Harry Van Hoof, SMA, acted as rector until Fr. Peter K. Sarpong, now Archbishop Emeritus Sarpong, arrived in 1968 to assume duty as the new rector. In fact, he was the first Ghanaian rector, and so the seminarians were full of great expectations of what he could do. He did not disappoint the seminarians.
Under his rectorship, Fr. Sarpong led the Seminary to establish a relationship with the University of Ghana, Legon to enable Seminarians to obtain the external Licentiate (Diploma) in Theology. He saw to it that the Seminary chapel had a terrazzo floor to replace the wooden floor tiles. The seminarians took interest in the development of cultural life, as the rector bought the various drums for playing and dancing to the tune of Ewe songs, Ga songs, Fanti and Asante songs, and Dagomba too. The rector himself was a good drummer. His rectorship did not last long as he left for Kumasi to become the new bishop on March 8, 1970.
After Fr. Sarpong left Pedu to become the Bishop of Kumasi, it was Fr. Dominic Kodwo Andoh who came as the next rector in 1970. Unfortunately, Fr. Andoh spent not even two years and he too became the Bishop of Accra.
The short duration of rectors and the constant transfers of staff members affected the formation programme in the seminary. Very Rev. Fr. Charles Lejeune of Cape Coast succeeded Fr. Dominic Andoh as rector. The change also did not last more than two years. Then came Very Rev. Fr. Hans Van Kempen, SVD, as rector. At least for five years there was stability in the office of rector (1973 – 78). From 1978 to date, the following have been rectors of Pedu: Fr. T. K. Mensah, Fr. Jonathan T. K. Ankrah, Fr. Wynnard Amewowo, Fr. Gabriel Justice Anokye, Msgr. Matthew Edusei and Fr. Robert Charles Snyper.
The stability in the office of rector and in staffing to maintain the formation programmes improved in subsequent years when in October 1978, Fr. T. K. Mensah was appointed rector of the Regional Seminary.
When he took over as rector, there were 96 seminarians. With Rev. Fr. Michael Blume, SVD, (now Head of the Ugandan Diplomatic Mission of the Holy See), as the Vice Rector, and a lively staff (formators), the new rector had the courage to lay before the staff and later before the Bishops a development plan which saw the building of Jubilee Hall, new apartments for the staff, students’ dining hall, kitchen complex, and a new library planned for over 245 students. The number of formators was gradually growing, but the ratio of formators to seminarians was not satisfactory, so the Bishops were reminded to vigorously pursue staff development policy.
In 1985 another major turning point in the development of the Seminary took place when there was the bold decision to seek special relations with the University of Ghana for the external degree in the Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Sociology. At the same time as the number of seminarians kept increasing, the staff requested the Bishops to build a separate campus for philosophy in Accra, and add a Spiritual year for better preparation of future priests. At this time the student population had risen to 242, made up of students in theology and philosophy.
Thanks to the hard work of the Committee for the Philosophy Campus in Accra which consisted of the late Paa Buckle, the father of Archbishop Palmer-Buckle, Prof. George Hagan, Mrs. Eleanor Arthur (Chairperson), Rev. Fr. Francis Eboyi-Anza, Rev. Fr. Patrick Maloney SVD, Rev. Sr. Nora Sweeney, SHCJ, and the then Rector of Pedu, Fr. Thomas K. Mensah succeeded in acquiring the land at Sowotuom. Work on the first hall (Tomko Hall) began and in 1988 the first batch of about 48 seminarians started at St. Paul’s Major Seminary, Sowotuom.
The new major seminary at Sowotuom encouraged the Bishops to train more formators for St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s. The result is that most of the staff (formators) for the two major seminaries now are alumni of Pedu Seminary who have done graduate studies at Universities in Rome and in other European countries and the U. S. A.
The quality of formation at St. Peter’s Seminary, coupled with the group of committed formators, continues to attract seminarians form Togo, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The lay faithful also played a very vital role in the life of the seminary. The late Bishop of Obusasi, Most Rev.Thomas K. Mensah, the longest serving rector of the school (1978 – 1991), is right to assert that, “Without the understanding and commitment of the lay faithful to support the seminary through financial self-reliance, it will be difficult to develop other infrastructure and maintain the needed library, and most importantly to attract and retain the right kind of formators.”
The formation of priests in St. Peter’s Regional Seminary has always been in tandem with what Holy Roman Catholic Church requires. In “Pastores Dabo Vobis” – “I will give you shepherds after my own heart” (Jer. 3:15), we see the need for pastors who will shepherd God’s people wisely and prudently (cf. Jer. 3:15b). Hence St. Peter’s Regional Seminary will have to help to send out priests who have sincerely cooperated in the following areas of their formation. The Church now insists first on proper Human Formation: candidates who are in torch with themselves as good Christians with genuine human feelings of mercy and compassion; candidates who have come to appreciate a sound Spiritual Formation, and are in tune with or are configured and conformed to Christ. They must show a deep understanding of the evangelical counsels, especially celibacy which is the Litmus test of the candidate’s “preparedness” of total gift of self to Christ, the Good Shepherd and Spouse of the Church. The pastors for the new millennium must be people with a sound Intellectual Formation, devoid of relativism, but where knowledge is in genuine dialogue with faith and culture. And finally, priests for the twenty-first century must be people with deep Pastoral Formation and appreciation of pastoral challenges.
As the present preparation of seminarians will determine the kind of priests we shall have for tomorrow, we must constantly pay attention to what Vatican II said in its Decree OPTATAM TOTIUS: “The whole training of the students should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd”. Moreover, as we learn from the Apostolic Exhortation, PASTORES DABO VOBIS, the candidates for the priesthood “should be trained to undertake the ministry of the shepherd, that they may know how to present Christ to humanity, Christ who did not come to have service done to him but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for the lives of many” (Mk 10:45, Jn. 13:12-17), and that they may win over many by becoming the servant of all ( 1 Cor. 9:19).
Lastly, the candidate should be imbued with the Church’s teaching as a “Missionary” communion, so that he should be opened and available for ministry which may mean in practice that his readiness to follow the indications of the Holy Spirit and of his Bishop will make him ready to be sent to preach the Gospel outside his own country.
The present and future success of St. Peter’s Regional Seminary, Pedu, will depend, to a great extent on how this important institution will rally around a unity of leadership expressed in the figure of the Rector and his cooperators, a consistency in the ordering of life, “formational activity and the fundamental demands of community life”.
Only the best will be good enough for Pedu Seminary in the coming years. Only the best will be good enough for the Church in Ghana and in the whole world.