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A BRIEF HISTORY OF ST. VICTOR’S SEMINARY

 

The Pioneer Missionaries, The Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), who brought Christ and His message to the Northern part of Ghana, then known as the Gold Coast, had great vision and foresight. They valued the need to train the natives who eventually were to staff the mission stations and institutions in the area.  As a result, the training of mission personnel, Catechists, Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests, was their preoccupation.

 

They sent young men from the North who felt called to the priesthood to the Major Seminary in Amissano, a town along the coastal belt of the country.  Soon after that they decided to start a Seminary in the Northern Sector of the country, which by then was one Diocese, since the training within the environment in which one is to minister enhances the effectiveness of priestly ministry. This Seminary was started in Wiagah, in the Upper East Region of Ghana. The late Msgr. Alexis Abatey was one of those who completed the Seminary training in Amisano. He was in St. Victor’s Seminary in Wiagah for only a few weeks before his ordination to the priesthood.  Seminarians who began studies in Amisano and who returned to Wiagah, included now, His Grace Most Rev. Peter P. Dery, Msgr. Lawrence Kyemaalo, late Fr.  Richard Pwamang and late Bishop Rudolph Akanlu. In Wiagah, they joined twelve others who had just finished with their Senior School Studies.

 

Fr. Alfred Richard was the first Rector.  Together with him on the staff, were Frs. Ouellet, Lallemand and Lamaire. Fr. Lebel came to join them later. In 1947, Fr. Alfred Richard went home on leave and Fr. Ouellet was appointed Rector. 

 

Fortunately, a grant was received from Msgr. Victor Primeau early 1950 which was used to erect a building for the members of staff.  As a sign of gratitude, the Seminary was named after St. Victor, the patron saint of Msgr. Primeau, thus placing the Seminary under the patronage of St. Victor and Msgr. Primeau.  As the See of the one Diocese was transferred from Navrongo to Tamale, the capital town of the then Northern Territories, Bishop Bertrand who had succeeded Bishop Oscar Morin decided to move the Seminary from Wiagah to Tamale.  The present site in the Malshegu village was chosen. 

 

In January 1953, the Staff of the Major Seminary (Frs. Ouellet, Germain and Tremblay) and twelve Major Seminarians left Wiagah for Tamale, to open the new Seminary.  They arrived to find that the main building was not yet completed. They were compelled to stay in the garage, the stores etc. By March the same year, the main building was completed and they moved in to occupy it.

 

Six years after the erection of the main building, which was named Bishop Morin House, the construction of a storey building was undertaken by Br. Lussier. Soon after finishing the building of this house, which has been named after Pope John XXIII they undertook to construct a similar storey building which was completed in 1964 and named after Pope Paul VI.  Both buildings were blessed by his Lordship Rt. Rev. G. Champagne, on 21st July 1964.

 

The Chapel was built in 1966 by Brothers Buddendick and Lussier.  It was blessed by Rt. Rev. G. Champagne on 21st May 1968.  Eight years later Bro. Conrad completed the construction of another block to house more students. This block is named “Frelimo” House.

 

The seminary then grew from strength to strength in all aspects. In addition to the above mentioned buildings, the Assembly Hall, a Library, the staff refectory, the staff bungalows, the storey block  for lectures, the Sisters’ Convent, bungalows for the ancillary staff, the Administration block, etc. were constructed at short intervals.

 

By 1974, the one Diocese that covered the whole Northern sector had been divided into three.  By then the Seminary though canonically still a diocesan one, by mutual consent was being used by the three Dioceses. It came under the direction of the three Bishops of the North of Ghana who constituted the Board of Governors under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Tamale.  In 1995, the Diocese of Damongo, and in 1999 the Diocese of Yendi were created out of the Tamale Archdiocese.  This has brought the Dioceses to five (5). So we now have five Bishops as members of the Board of Governors of the St. Victor’s Seminary.

 

From the onset, the lecturers in St. Victor’s Seminary have always stressed the need for a balanced formation of the Seminarians.  As a result, there has always been an emphasis on the need for excellent intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral training of the seminarians.  To underscore the need for very good intellectual formation, St. Victor’s Seminary sought and obtained affiliation to the University of Ghana, Legon.  By 1974 some Seminarians had already obtained the Diploma in the Study of Religions and Philosophy. In 1985, Seminarians were accepted to take the B.A. examinations in the Study of Religions and Philosophy.  In June 2006 the first batch of our students took the B.A. in Theology examinations with the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. Their performance in this examination was good. The Seminary is also working on an affiliation with the University for Development Studies for the award of a B.A. Degree in Philosophy for our philosophy students. Plans are also far advanced in the arrangement to get Seminarians follow the M.A. course in the Study of Religions with the University of Ghana.

 

For more effective training of Seminarians the members of the Board of Governors decided to divide St. Victor’s Major Seminary into 3 campuses and to locate them in different places. These campuses are St. Michael’s, St. Augustine’s and St. Victor’s. St. Michael’s Major Seminary is the campus for beginners, the Spiritual Year. It was started in Kaleo in the 1999-2000 Academic Year.  St. Augustine’s Millennium Seminary, the Philosophicum, was opened in the 2000-2001 Academic Year in Sahakpaligu, near Tamale. St. Victor’s Seminary, which is situated in Malshegu, near Tamale is henceforth only a Theologicum. Seminarians who complete in Kaleo continue their formation in Sahakpaligu and complete it in Malshegu.

 

Even though the Seminary was started originally to train diocesan priests for the northern sector of the country, it has opened its doors to Dioceses outside the country.  Seminarians from Burkina Faso, Liberia and Sierra Leone have studied here. With the arrival of the Society of the Divine Word Missionaries, (SVD), in the late 1960s, the Missionaries of Africa (M.Afr.) in the 1970s, St. Victor’s Seminary is not only training diocesan priests but also missionary and religious priests.

 

St. Victor’s Major Seminary is not only interested in the theological formation of future priests but also of the lay faithful. This explains why the members of staff of the Seminary accepted the challenge from the Board of Governors to organise a two-week summer course in philosophy and theology for the lay faithful of the province. This course was begun in 1992 and the first batch of students graduated in September 1994 after successfully completing a three-year cycle of the course. At present we have 137 graduands of this course. St. Victor’s is proud of these alumni of hers most of whom are very actively involved in the work of evangelisation in their parishes and dioceses.

 

It is gratifying to see and hear how products of St. Victor’s Seminary have been rendering invaluable services to their brothers and sisters in Ghana and beyond. No doubt St. Victor’s will continue to strive to be a beacon of light in Ghana and indeed in other parts of the world.


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