Our aim is to give SMA Formation. It is constantly in our minds that though we come from different parts of India, our mission is in Africa, to evangelize the people of Africa. For that task, we need to develop our interests, desires, zeal and love for Africa and for the people of African origin. The source and essence of our being come from Christ himself through the Gospel. The heart of our formation program is Gospel, the teaching of the Catholic Church and our Society’s constitutions and Laws.
SMA Illam community is composed of three SMA members and sixteen seminarians studying Philosophy: Fr. Robert Sagayam is the Rector and formator, Fr. Joy Andrews is the bursar and formator and Fr. Dominic Sugaraj is the Vocation director. Five students are in the third and final year, five are in the second year and six are in the first year of Philosophy. We have two domestic staff – a cook and a gardener.
In our SMA Illam, we do not have communal divisions based on caste or language. Mutual understanding and collaboration have been the backbone of our community living here.
Human formation is the foundation of all the other formations. "Grace builds on nature" and being human is fundamental. Formees need guidance and directives as they progress in human development. Their characters are pruned, are taught discipline, have a code of dressing and personal hygiene. The formators meet the seminarians individually at least twice a semester which helps them for personal accompaniment. Short reflections and homilies strengthen them to be persons of truth, love, justice and sincerity. Hard work is emphasized as the secret of success. Freedom and responsibility are the heart of formation. The character and the moral standing of our seminarians must be presentable to the Christian community. When the time permits we conduct seminars. A seminar was arranged at our house on ‘Temperance’ in October from 22nd to 24th . It was conducted by Schoenstatt Fathers. The seminarians benefitted a lot from it. Human relationships are to be appropriate in the community and in the pastoral places. We have our community meetings and staff meetings every month through which the staff and the students are kept informed about the running of the house and other related matters.
Farm: Some portion of the land at SMA Illam can be irrigated. So cultivation is done, in a small measure, by growing vegetables and pulses and millets. We also have a poultry farm where chickens, turkey and goats are being reared. The students are also initiated to these farming activities and methods during the manual work time. The students show keen interest in bringing up and maintainig flower gardens and lawns around the house.
Games: Everyday 45 minutes are alloted for outdoor games like volleyball and basketball. All are encouraged to take part in all the games and benefit from these exercises. We conduct friendly sports matches with the neighbouring religious communities time to time.
Spiritual formation is the center of the whole seminary formation. We have daily Eucharistic celebrations and monthly recollections in our community. Our annual retreat took place from 18th to 23rd November 2015 in a Benedictine Monastery. It was conducted by Fr. Nirmal Kumar. Every Friday our students conduct prayer services. The special feature of it is creativity and thus creating a conducive atmosphere for prayer. On special occasions, we have our Masses outside the chapel in the garden or in our portico. We make sure that the Liturgy gets full attention. Benediction is conducted on Sunday evenings. Our seminarians have 30 minutes of spiritual reading in our house timetable every day. On Thursdays, we have evening Mass, a special day to pray for the intentions of Our Society of African Missions and her leadership.
Three spiritual directors are assigned to our seminarians – Fr. Devaraj from Dindugal diocese, who was an associate member of our Society, ministering in Tanzania mission, Fr. David, a member of our neighboring Carmelites Community (OCD) and Sr. Vinnerasi from Vikramangalam belonging to St. Joseph of Apparition (SJA). They come to our house to meet our seminarians monthly once.
Personal prayer is encouraged and time for praying the Rosary is alloted everyday in the timetable and also for examination of conscience and for night prayers.
During the supper time some selected articles from magazines. periodicals or from SMA Literature - "Continuing the adventure in the steps of Bishop de Bresillac" and “Passion for Mission yesterday" are read in the refectory from Monday to Wednesday. It helps them to improve in listening and reading in the public.
A music tutor comes on Tuesdays to take classes for our seminarians in the afternoons.
Our seminarians study Philosophy at Arul Anandar college, a college run by the Jesuit priests. At present we have 16 students. Eight students come from Telugu speaking community; five students come from Odissa and three students from Tamilnadu. Our students are provided with all the study materials, paid college semester and exam fees. The importance of study is emphasized and regular study hours have been allotted in their timetable.
Apart from college studies, on Saturdays we have fixed time for Classes on SMA Mission and the global picture on our ministry. English and French classes are taken on Saturdays by Mr. Alosis and Sr. Merline FSMA. Fr. Jean Vincent SMA took a few classes on the French Language. We have SMA evenings on Thursdays in which the students deliver speeches focusing on Africa, our Founder, our missionary Society and current social issues, conduct quizzes enact dramas, dances and other forms cultural activities.
We subscribe a number of periodicals and magazines for our house. The students are expected to submit an essay from the books that they have read for their spiritual reading. Reading practice is given to the students who read the readings in the Mass.
PASTORAL WORK AND VILLAGE MINISTRY
Our seminarians actively involve with the ministry with the village people almost all the days of the week. Every day two or three students go to Kottayur and Janartha colony to take evening tuition to school children and for house visiting. Two students go to one of the substations’ chapel for teaching catechism and choir. On Sundays two students go to Cheetiyapatti where there is a hostel for school children run by DMI Sisters for the poor. Annual sports day and cultural programs are conducted and the prizes are distributed to the evening school children.
We have provided some dresses through some sponsors to one or two orphanages around our house.
SOME OF THE PROJECTS IMPLEMENTED
We had to mend mosquito mesh to all the rooms; the work has been completed costing 150,000 rupees approximately.
We have framed and displayed some African pictures and the quotes of our Founder in our Illam.
We have bought a new television for the students.
We have done a few furniture works in the staff sitting room and in the refectory.
We have taken effort to get drinking water from the local government through a new pipeline.
FUTURE PLANS AND NEEDS
We need to do some renovation work in the kitchen and in the refectory. The fund is sanctioned but we are waiting for it to reach us.
Our house needs painting.
The basketball court needs repair.
Our formation house needs a chapel. At present we have only a small hall as a chapel which is not spacious even for the community members and not conducive for prayer. The students sit only on the floors which is not easy for a long time for prayer sessions. We request to consider our request, knowing the urgency of our need.
As a community we are grateful to IDF leadership for their unfailing support and extending solidarity in spite of the difficulties they are facing financially. We express our heartfelt thanks to the Superior General and his council members for their concern, guidance and the generous support for our wellbeing to carry out the formation program at SMA Illam.
SMA Illam Community,