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This Seminary was established in Jerusalem in December 1852 by Patriarch Joseph Valerga, the founding patriarch, for the purpose of forming diocesan priests for the service of all the parishes of the Patriarchate. The Seminary was first established in Beit Jala on September 7, 1857, then, due to political conditions, the Seminary had to move to Jerusalem. Finally, the Seminary was able to settle back in Beit Jala on July 7, 1936.
In the beginning the Seminary was managed by the priests of the Patriarchate themselves. Then the German Fathers took over in October 1921, and then came the Fathers of the Sacred Heart (Beitarram) in October 1932. Then the diocesan clergy of the Patriarchate came back in July 1980, and they are still in charge today. From the year 1921 to 1929, the Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo served in the Seminary, and then came the Sisters of St. Dorothea’s Sacred Hearts to provide the same service. In 2009-2013 the Sisters of the Mother of Mercy served the Seminary. Now the sisters of “Serve del Signore e Della Vergine di Matarà” are serving at the Seminary.
The Seminary is made up into two parts: The Major Seminary and the Minor Seminary.
– The Minor Seminary
The priestly vocation is like a seed that you need to care for and give attention to it so that it can grow which requires a suitable environment. The Seminary provides this suitable environment for the discovery and development of God’s call to priesthood: through the life at the Seminary, a Seminarian can discover God’s call for him, so the Seminary can help him reach the decision to consecrate his life with full conviction and will.
The Student starts his life in the Minor seminary from the age of 13 because formation at an early age helps the student increase his love for Christ and to really consecrate himself to Christ. In the Educational life of the Seminary he will form himself spiritually, culturally and socially. The seminary requests that the student matures, in all aspects, in order to be eligible to be enrolled in the Major Seminary.
The priests and a group of teachers follow the academic life and the development of the student from all angles to ensure proper growth of the student in the Seminary. The daily life of the Minor Seminary includes many programs that help the personal development of the student to make him a good Christian, and aware of what his vocation is. After the completion of his studies (and after the Tawjihi exams) he will move on to the Major Seminary to pursue higher studies.
“The student does not become a priest just because he entered the Minor Seminary, but the Minor Seminary helps him discover his future with God. There are a lot of students who enter the Minor Seminary and then they leave; this is not a weakness in them, but it is a result of discovering that God is not calling them to priesthood. There are those who found the call and responded to it and they began walking on the path to consecrate themselves to Christ. “
– The Major Seminary
The curriculum includes a spiritual year of preparation to discover what exactly the priestly vocation is; and this discovery helps him to outline clear ways towards the priesthood. Then is followed by a full year studying French, which is the language of instruction at the Seminary. Then two years are consecrated to the study of philosophy and four years studying theology, with an additional pastoral year serving in a parish before being ordained a deacon. The School of Theology, at the Seminary, became a branch of the Pontifical Lateran University on May 3, 1967, and is recognized by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (accredited as a private University College since 2009). Qualified students obtain a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology at the end of their studies.
The curriculum and teaching materials are built on the instructions of the Holy See and the Encyclical Letter “I will give you shepherds,” and the curriculum of the Pontifical Lateran University, in addition to the particular courses of the Seminary, which were renewed in 2011, and published at the beginning of each year in Arabic and French.
The goal of The Seminary is to form diocesan priests from the local community, but the doors are open to all other Catholic churches and to seminarians from any other country who want to serve the Lord and the Church of the Holy Land.