Too many seminarians at St Peter and Paul


World Misson Month News Story
Natolino Gusmao with a leprosy patient.
Timor-Leste, the first new nation to emerge into the 21st Century, paid a terrible price for its independence. Brutal violence, wanton destruction and death followed the plebiscite of 30 August 1999. But the faith of this predominantly Catholic people did not waiver in their vision of a free nation.

While still under the United Nations interim administration, Bishops Carlos Belo (Nobel Peace Laureate in 1996, with Jose’ Ramos-Horta) and Basilio do Nascimento planned Timor-Leste’s own major seminary - 'St Peter and Paul'.

Men of vision, they realised whatever the future for the Timorese people, their journey would require the support and spiritual guidance of a new generation of priests.

The first group of seminarians was ordained in 2006 with 17 in total. The following year there were 15 more and a further four in 2008.

Twenty-seven-year-old Natolino Gusmao has completed his theological studies at the major seminary, and is now carrying out his pastoral year in the Diocese of Baucau working as a catechist with youth and in Catholic Radio. He is set to be ordained a Deacon next month.

Natolino’s memory of the dark days following the referendum is the fear that drove his family to seek refuge in Kupan, West Timor. He was among the first refugees to return to the shattered city of Dili after the InterFET forces arrived to restore civil order.

Faith - the eternal necessity

Natolino’s vocation for priesthood saw him studying spirituality in Dare, a minor seminary where Xanana Gusmao also had studied. He describes his mission to his people in these terms:

“What keeps me giving in my life is that I feel compassion for my people. I know their pain and suffering. We still have a vision of hope. I work to confirm to them and realise our vision with our faith in God.”

The suffering Natolino has known in his life serves only to push him on. Like the disciples who followed Christ, his pastoral year in Ossu parish saw him walking great distances to be with people in need.

“My work saw me walking to many villages. Sometimes up to five hours to reach one village.” But he says of his time there: “I had a great experience in Ossu...working with the with the know how beautiful the Church community is.”

His motivation is to witness, finding people who are seeking to know the real presence of God.

“They can love God better when we guide and teach them. My conviction is to be a prophet in this day. Faith will always be an eternal necessity for all people of the world.

“I think my real mission is to make myself present in the community so they can believe that Christ loves them. Christ never let them stay alone. That is the unique way of making hope become real in the community.”

Right now, St Peter and Paul Major Seminary has problems catering for all the 126 seminarians doing their studies. The first year students represent the largest group and are currently doing their studies in the large dining hall, recreation and study room.

Supporting future Church leaders

The city of Dili itself struggles with water supplies, particularly during the dry season. Catholic Mission has supported St Peter and Paul Major Seminary, which has installed three water wells along with electric pumps, and a large in-ground water tank, so that fresh drinking water is no longer an issue.

Teaching and supporting these future leaders is an ongoing struggle, but with only with continued support can the seminary build adequate classrooms, and a proper working kitchen to cater for the 85 seminarians.

Catholic Mission's major appeal in October (Mission Month) is for Timor-Leste.

"Donations make a world of difference to vulnerable people, fragile communities and in educating a new generation of Church leaders. This mission is nowhere more pressing than in Timor-Leste," Catholic Mission National Director Martin Teulan said.

You can make a Mission Month donation online at or by calling 1 800 257 296 for further information.

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