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Catholic Seminary: A 1968 Article By Mesghinna Yassin

This is the third portion from the series of articles from the 1968 publication of Outlook Magazine that was published by the Keren Secondary School. The first of the series was an article by the late Melake Tecle, and the 2nd, was by Minister Ahmed Haj Ali.


Catholic Seminary – Keren
By Mesghinna Yassin (11B)

The word seminary has come from the Latin word “seminarium” which means a nursery of a flower bed. Thus, a seminary is a solitary place where young men are educated and trained in a perfect disciplinary way for the purpose of becoming priests.

The Catholic Seminary of Keren was established in 1872 by a Catholic Society known as Lazarists. It was run by this society up to 1894. In 1894, the Lazarists were replaced by another religious order of Franciscan Capuchins and since then the school has been run by them under the Catholic bishop of Eritrea. For many years, the seminary had been the most popular educational and cultural center. While education was at its infant stage in Eritrea, many people could receive higher studies in the seminary. By 1972 it is going to celebrate its hundred years anniversary, and from this everyone can understand how old the school is. The staff is composed of Diocesan priests under the rectorship of one Franciscan Capuchin father. The present rector is Dr. Abba Aiele Teclehaimanot.

In 1951, an arrangement was made and the seminary [was] divided into two parts; minor seminary and major seminary. Minor seminary is from 1st to 6th grade in Keren and major seminary is from 6th to 12th grade in Asmara; but since 1962 there has not been any transference to Asmara and students are continuing their studies in Keren.

Admission to the seminary is allowed only to boys selected by their respective priests and to those who passed through entrance examination. The seminary accommodates seventy-five students at a time. They stay for nine months in the seminary and then leave for three months summer vacation. At the entrance day or the school opening in September, each student pays $5.00 [Ethiopian Birr]. Otherwise, they receive free education, free treatment, free bedding and free school books. The church finances the seminary. In fact, the money is collected from the Catholic people through donations.

The seminary follows the same curriculum as the government schools and teaches the same subjects with equal emphasis in addition to religious knowledge, Geez, Latin and liturgy. The seminarians participate in the National examinations of 6th, 8th and 12th grades. In the 6th and 8th grade examinations, in 1966 the seminary was 3rd in the list of Eritrean schools and in 1967 she became the 1st.

After completion of 12th grade, the students who are sure of their vocation to priesthood and who have got a good certification leave for the Ethiopia College in Rome at Vatican City for the study of Philosophy and Theology. The former requires three years and the latter four years to completion. At the beginning of the fourth year study of theology, the student is nominated as a priest. After the nomination, the intellectually elite are given scholarship to England for an M.A. and then return to teach in the seminaries.

The average priests are sent to rural areas to serve the church as parish priests. They live according to the rules and regulations of the Holly See under the supervision of the bishop in Asmara, today His Excellency Bishop Abraha Francois. In the developed countries, the parish priests are supported by their parishioners, but as in the case of Ethiopia, the Church provides their living expenses.

So far, about 2000 students, excluding the present, have entered the seminary. To our surprise, only 200 have become priests and there out of these became bishops. Yet, the church is wee satisfied with this rate, for even if her first aim is to obtain priests, she is glad to produce moral and disciplined laymen who may be good examples to the society. Having this in mind, the seminary stress character building and morality more studies of mere facts.

The people who have left the seminary, either from the secondary level or from the philosophy course are serving and have passed away after serving their nation. The most prominent of them are: Dr. Embaie, who was a foreign minister; Lorenzo Tazaz, also a foreign minister and Minister of the Health Department in Addis Ababa; General Zeremariam Azazi, the present General of Eritrean Police force and so on.

The Catholic Seminary of Keren is a small college, yet it produces great and wise men.

* Picture of the keren Secondary School; inset, Ustaz Mahmoud Mohammed Ali, the school director at the time

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of awate.com. Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism Awate.com was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of awate.com is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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  • desta

    Nice info. And Lorenzo Tazaz is the one who wrote the famous Haile Sellasie speech at the League of Nations , right? He has a street name in Addis Ababa.

  • Rodab

    If Asmarino.com starts disqus, Awate university might suffer brain-drain:-)

  • Kokhob Selam

    All is our history and should be proud of it. here we see how far are some politicians to associate religion and try to divide and create space among different religion followers. reading the above article is good example to see the role of Catholic. Do we get the best out of this? the question remains there. thank you awate.com

  • Rodab

    H.E. SaleH,
    Good snapshot and we now declare ceasefire against you, SaleH the library:-)
    I sometimes think out of all Awatistas, L.T makes the most sense, If one manages to decode his messages.
    His messages are harmless, fresh and unpredictable and I get fascinated by what he says.

    • Semere Andom

      Hi Rodabom
      what is with new titles these days, iSem and now H.E SaleH, have you been hanging out with H.E YouniS 🙂

      • Rodab

        Sem buddy,
        I’ve always called SJG H.E. I think Pappi (Ayay) and Eyob Medhane (Gashe) were inspired by that.
        As for iSem, that is a fitting description for a digitally savvy guy like you.