Alexandrian Patriarchate – June – July 2014 – Maria Kazamia
Saint Athanasius the Athonite Theological School, a faculty of the Orthodox University of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, started operating at the Mont Ngafula region in Kinshasa in September 2007. Attendance at school is five years. The School offers three directions:
- The Bible-Patristic Theology-Ecclesiastical History,
- Liturgics and
- Organization and Administration of Church Life.
The number of students during the first academic year of the School (2007-2008) amounted to 70, and has remained broadly stable until today. On average, there are 15 students per class. Attendance is compulsory. The presentations delivered for each lesson last two hours each, which is strictly observed. The teaching staff comes from DRC, Greece, France and Australia. Teaching is held either in person or by teleconference.
The school is situated up on a green hill, about 25km outside the capital. When approaching it, the first thing one can see from afar is the imposing dome of the Church of St Athanasius the Athonite, which dominates the center of the internal yard of the Institution.
Monastic architecture was undoubtedly the source of inspiration for the creator of the wide building complex. An imposing protective enclosure surrounds the particular premises of the school, which are circumferentially arranged around the temple. It is thanks to generous donations that all the necessary premises of an educational institution have been created, which are organized in such a way as to provide accommodation not only to the boarders and the teaching staff but also to all those who come to the School in order to offer missionary ministry as well as love and knowledge. The contribution of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity to that field was great once more.
How I became professor of the Theological School
I had the pleasure of being informed about this ambitious effort of the Mission in the heart of Africa by my colleague Niki Papageorgiou, who has taken an active part in it as a professor since the very first academic year. I must confess that I was really impressed and thought that I could contribute to something myself. So when Mrs. Papageorgiou conveyed to me the request of His Eminence Metropolitan Nikiforos of Central Africa to undertake teaching the course of Byzantine art, which I teach at the Theological School of Aristotle University, I had no qualms whatsoever. In fact, I wanted to go to Kinshasa in order to teach there in person, because I believe in the power of personal contact with students.
I have now joined the academic staff of the School since the academic year 2012-2013. The first courses (30 hours of teaching) were held for the first year students in January 2013. There was so much interest that the barrage of questions during the course resulted in my not managing to cover the material. For this reason, the next year (2013-2014), the course was also added to the second year curriculum. I’ll never forget the way the second-year students welcomed me in February 2014. It was impossible not to cry.
Apart from the courses, the daily schedule did not differ from the coenobitic monastic life: Matins, breakfast, teaching session, lunch, teaching session, evening prayer, dinner and Compline. After the Compline service and until the interruption in the power supply at about 10 pm, we would try to find a few hours to rest in the beautiful garden of the School. Most often, however, this was impossible, because we were approached by youths who needed to find answers to their queries, not only on purely theological issues. The discussions were fruitful for both sides.
Challenges we face
Therefore, the project which is performed in this academic institution is titanic. The problems are plentiful, the major being lack of financial resources in order to ensure free schooling for the students, supply of computers, printers, scanners, stationery and also books to enrich the library.
Students are required to prepare projects during their studies. However, the question is where to search for their material, if there are no suitable conditions. Here we have to note that the level of school infrastructure is tightly controlled by the official state.
We believe that with the help of St Athanasius the Athonite, St. Barbara, whose temple was opened in the school courtyard this year, and all those who believe in the necessity of disseminating genuine Theology to the ends of the earth, any problems will be eliminated and the project will grow enormously.
Today’s students as clergy or laity will take over and will minister to their local church and their own seminary. Every Sunday the brilliant ‘Catholicon’ of the school filled with poor, shabbily dressed children of the neighbourhood, who came perhaps to get the antidoron and a few candies, but attended the Divine Liturgy with great reverence. I want to believe that those children are the future students of Theology.
I praise and thank God for giving me the opportunity to meet another world, and I hope he grants that I will be able to go there every year in order to teach and be taught and also in order to remember that some people in the world who are struggling for the obvious, might be entering the kingdom of God before us.
Associate Professor – Faculty of Theology AUTH,
Regular member of the Fraternity
The Theological School of the Congo constitutes an ambitious project, aiming to bring out young and trained members of the Church, who will plough the aching soils of the African land, to preach the Risen Christ.
The students of Theology come from various regions of the vast country and don’t pay tuition, while they are provided with free accomodation and feeding. Operating such a school imply multiple financial difficulties and keeps on due to successive miracles of God’s love.
You can also be a part of this miracle. Support the Theological School of the Congo.