For some unexplained reason, learning that I have ever been in the seminary gets a lot of people’s knickers in a twist. No one ever sees me the same again. Could someone tell me why? There are those with whom the revelation comes reverence,like they just learned you are the Pope’s son. Their demeanor changes,I suddenly seem to have acquired more wisdom, and a few will be heard saying; ‘that explains a lot.’ Really! Explains what?
Seriously,after that I don’t seem to ever lack scrutiny. Anything I do will be evaluated to fit my history.
Then comes the second group I wish I had never met.
“What! You went to the seminary! Then what happened?” That said while I am being looked over like I have grown warts all over. I don’t know whether this treatment is unique to me,I haven’t consulted many old boys about it,but some one out there must have spread the wrong gospel about the seminary or may be someone just stretched the scale when they got out to earn us all a bad name.
Admittedly there is an aura of sophistication and mysticism about the very existence of ancient institutions like the Catholic church and the secrecy and customary practices don’t help matters. Which could explain why one will look at you like you cannot have been there and here at the same time. I will confess, I did have my own share of questions, but not to the level I have experienced. Through childish wonder perhaps, I always wondered why a lot of priests spotted spectacles, and having grown up in the era of White Fathers I somehow expected everyone to convert,if you may,to white skin at a particular time on their way to priest hood.
But blame that on my rural upbringing.
My protected Catholicism;growing up in a Catholic family, and going to all Catholic schools, not only made me question my spirituality when I attended prayers in a Pentecostal Church for the first time later at University,but coupled with my teacher parents, ensured I was able to read Luganda before I started school and English soon after, which made me a favorite to take Church readings,getting interested in serving mass as an altar boy, and the consequent desire for priesthood-with a firm belief that those already there did no evil.
I have since discovered that there is a very big difference between religion and spirituality and the latter matters more.
Other than my rude awakening on the virtues or not of people in cassocks, as I shared here, a lot of us who never made it to end of minor seminary seemed gripped by the sensationalist story about the medical test to ascertain virility. As a matter of fact,one can only become a priest out of sacrifice,which is to say impotence rules one out. One must be a functioning male who then sacrifices that to God through abstinence. So a rumor was told that when one got to Senior six; just about the time before you filled your University entry forms,it was also time for a medical. Rumor had it that one was meant to strip naked and a pretty nurse in the same form of dressing was brought in. That is how they knew who to discontinue if one’s member did not rise to the occasion. And it was just visual-we were told- in case some of you pervs were getting ideas.
I didn’t stay long enough to confirm the rumor.
According to yet another urban legend,all that was required was for you to simulate a cough in the presence of doctors(and nurses, I presume) to determine virility. Inaction from the right parts ended your dream and vocation, we were told. It seems like a lot if this hogwash made rounds among the regular brethren,and sometimes I will be asked to confirm the rumor. I hope I can now live in peace;I have just confessed, I left before I was checked.
And No, that is not the reason I left, in case you were having any silly ideas. I am writing this post to answer any questions that may linger as to why I left Kisubi minor Seminary when I did.To all you my fellow parishioners, who would generously contribute to support your seminarians during vocational Sunday(which money by the way made its way to the Diocese), and to you my parish priest then,now monsignor, who drove me over in the dispensary ambulance that February Monday afternoon, in my charcoal black shorts only to realize uniform was black trousers, hence forming my first official awkward moment-No,I was not cut(as we used to refer to expulsion) and No-l did not leave because I had made anyone pregnant.
Now that we have established what didn’t happen,let us go into what did. (Clearing throat).
You see, a lot of emphasis was put on three things in the seminary. One;spiritual formation and growth,which may explain Mass daily and at least three mandatory chapel visits a day,without counting personal voluntary prayer visits. Two; was obedience,hence french leave was punishable by expulsion,even if one made a penitential confession and was forgiven by Jesus,as one crafty student did. Other acts which may seem minor in another school were important here. Third; was academics. There was a religiously respected passmark and an even sacred one for Latin. Which may explain great performances in almost all UCE sittings,putting aside the small class numbers like my O-level of 13 candidates. Ironically, it’s the same three tenets which when I evaluated their application on my life, I based my decision to leave.
I felt like the same effort for academic excellence was not reflected at A- level and yet failure meant automatic discontinuation from the system. A whole class had been expelled when it demanded, a little too emphatically, that this effort be affirmed. May be, in so demanding for academic rights they overstepped the obedience tenet. For a full year, we had an empty classroom. I choose to go to a school that would guarantee my Advanced level success first and possibly return to the system later.
Barring one priest who terrorized me from day one,and in the process changing my perception of holy men forever,for the first and last time I had someone I called a best friend,in my Senior two. Someone whose jacket I could borrow and it felt OK because we were friends, and one with which we could switch shoes. He was cut because he was playful in class, even though he had passed his examinations well, and he had been punished for every individual mischief when caught. At the end of Senior two, when I went to my Spiritual director(everyone had one) to get my assessment results,I had a black note;I was too quiet. And yet my playful friend had been sent home for being exactly what they wanted me to be. I felt betrayed. And not only have I not had another best friend since(if I told you we were best friends-I lied-that app was uninstalled then),I questioned the system where the whole administration sits to sift through the character of a 14 year old.
When someone visited my Parish later and discussed my alleged change of character,for the worse,and the Parish priest shared it with my parents,without my knowledge. I called time on the whole thing. Mostly because I did not agree with the report, and my appreciation of Spiritual superiors had been tainted.
But besides the course of events aforementioned, I honestly asked myself whether I would faithfully be celibate for a lifetime, and the answer was No. I chose to serve God in other ways other than priesthood.