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Calling all sisters and nuns

A little less than a decade since it moved on from being a male preserve, St Albert’s College is finding it necessary to re-stress its credentials by calling upon sisters and nuns from across the country to enrol for its Bachelor of Theology course on campus.

“Today, we have 12 sisters in our undergraduate course,” rector Joseph Prasad Pinto told The Telegraph, adding that he was now writing to superior generals of various convents to sponsor sisters and nuns working with them for the undergraduate theology course at St. Alberts College.

The Ranchi college, under the Roman Catholic Church, has been engaged in preparing young men for priesthood and a life of celibacy since 1914.

“Since then, various congregations have been sending male priests for undergraduate and post graduate courses in theology and philosophy. However, for the first time in 2005, winds of change began to blow when five sisters from various convents were sponsored for the B.Th programme,” Father Pinto revealed.

From five women in 2005, their numbers have been increasing, slowly but steadily. In 2016, there were 15 sisters and nuns studying in the college.

“Today, out of 300 students, we have 12 women. We are making all out efforts to increase the number of women in our undergraduate theology course,” he said.

Father Pinto said the composition of society meant that male student priests needed to learn how to coexist with women. “We understand mutual attraction between the opposite sexes. Male priests need to learn to respect women, understand how to conduct themselves in the presence of women and inculcate the need for self-discipline within themselves. Even our sisters and nuns, get an opportunity to learn to coexist,” he explained.

The B.Th degree offered at St Albert’s was recognised by the state government and by the Roman Catholic Church all over the world.

“Theology,” he went on to add,” was not about learning Canon Law and the Bible. It included study of all other religions and their scriptures, yoga and public policy. Bipasana, which is the Buddhist form of prayer, accountancy and book-keeping, basic managerial skills and leadership qualities are also part of the training,” he said.

However, a major pitfall has been the lack of a women’s hostel on the Ranchi campus. “Sisters who join St. Albert’s stay at various convents nearby. We hope to build a women’s hostel though we do not have vacant land within our campus,” he said but admitted that superior generals of various convents preferred to send their sisters to, say, Goa, Bangalore, Bhopal, Thiruvananthapuram or other centres which catered only to women.

As early as 1907, six candidates for priesthood, hailing from Chotanagpur, were studying philosophy at Kandy Seminary, Sri Lanka. To assure better training, more adapted to local conditions and requirements, a philosophy course was started at Ranchi Apostolic School in 1911 with six students on rolls.

Under the name of St. Albert’s a Major Seminary was inaugurated at Bankuli, some 26km southwest of Ranchi, in January 1914. In 1916, it was transferred to its present location on Purulia Road.