05/26/2014, 00.00
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Quezon City: friendship with leprosy sufferers, an element of formation and apostolate for seminarians

The third-year students of the philosophy of the Seminary of Our Lady of the Angels each week visit a leper colony. A gesture of support and solidarity for people relegated to the margins of society. The rector Fr. Bakari warns: we must consider them "our brothers and sisters”.

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - A work of "apostolate" and, at the same time, an initiative that is part of the journey of "formation" for future priests, to help them better prepare to face their future mission as guides of the Christian community.

In this spirit, each year the students of the third year of Philosophy at the Seminary of Our Lady of the Angels (Olas) in Quezon City - in the metropolitan area of the capital Manila- visit a leper colony to bring the local Churches' closeness to sick. A gesture of support and solidarity towards people often relegated to the margins of society because of disease, forced to live without purpose and without hope. And for the future priests it is a fundamental stage in the formation process.

Fr. Mark G. Adame Bakari, a Franciscan and rector Olas, says that "basically, seminarians go to the center of [the leper colony of Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan ] and speak with the sufferers", developing " an empathy " with the sick.

Many people are still terrified at the sight of a leper, the priest said, while welcome and love towards the sick are the feelings that the seminary aims to instill among its students. "We have to be with them - adds Fr . Bakari - stay with them". He invited the seminarians to consider them as "our brothers and sisters " to make them feel part of society.

The seminarians visit the leper colony once a week for two semesters. At first they are reluctant to interact with the sick; However , they continue on their path and over time feel more and more comfortable with the sick.  "And they begin to develop a bond of affection ," added the priest .

Fr. Bakari said he had seen, during a mass at the center, a young seminarian put an arm around the shoulder of a patient; Then there are also opportunities for lunches to get to know each other better, until it turns into friendship. Inspired, the priest said, by the words of St. Francis of Assisi who loved to say that "what had seemed bitter , is transformed into sweetness of soul".

During the past academic year, all year round, 18 seminarians attended the center regularly, conversing and sharing meals with the sick.


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See also
In India Church fights leprosy and prejudices
Children and young people can be peacemakers too, says the Pope
Leprosy in Asia and the world: An overview
Pope: missionary activity "intrinsic" to the life of the priest
In Hanoi, an experience of permanent formation for priests


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