“Do not be like policemen, looking for mistakes”: Zambian Bishop to New Seminary Formators

Bishop Benjamin Phiri of Ndola Diocese during Mass at St. Benedict Diocesan Seminary in Ndola on September 21.

A Catholic Bishop in Zambia has urged formators at the newly established St. Benedict Diocesan Seminary to be patient in journeying with seminarians as they prepare them to serve God as Priests and “not be like policemen who are just looking for mistakes.”

“To the staff charged with the task of forming the young people, remember that the people entrusted to you are not already formed; they are not perfect; they are here to be molded, to be formed into what the church would like so that they may be useful in the evangelizing effort of the church,” Bishop Benjamin Phiri of Zambia’s Ndola Diocese said Monday, September 21.

Bishop Phiri encouraged those entrusted with the role of journeying with the seminarians to play the role of formators and “not be like policemen who are just looking for mistakes. A formator should not be like that.”

He was presiding over the Holy Eucharist to mark the beginning of the Ndola-based Seminary, with seminarians drawn from Zambia’s Archdiocese of Lusaka and the Diocese of Ndola expected to start their Spiritual year before proceeding on with studies in philosophy at the same institution.

In the event that a seminarian leaves the formation house because they have failed, the 61-year-old Prelate said, formators should ask themselves “how far they have failed themselves because they have failed to form this person. That’s why the person is going away.”


Noting that the process of formation is a process of discernment “where not everybody is chosen among the called,” the Zambian Prelate advised that should it become “abundantly clear” that a person is not called, “then the person must be helped  to understand that they are good people, but maybe this particular calling is not for them.”

He underscored the desired outcome of the formation program saying, “My interest is to have a Priest in the future; a Priest who is going to not only be able to serve in a white-collar job environment, but a Priest who will receive integral development; who will be formed psychologically, physically- humanly speaking; a Priest who is going to learn to use his hands.”

At the end of the formation, the Bishop continued, “I would like a Priest who when he is given a parish to run, he is going to run projects, which are going to generate a livelihood for him and for the people he is looking after. We want people who are going to stand up and be counted.”

To achieve the desired outcomes, the Bishop told the Rector of the Seminary, Fr. Brian Mutale, “I do not want this institution to become at this stage an academic institution. This institution must form the person spiritually and humanly.”

More in Africa

“These young men must learn to look after themselves and to feed themselves. It would be very strange to start sending me a bill about a cleaner when the students are there; that is formation; that is what it is,” Bishop Phiri added in his September 21 homily at St. Benedict Diocesan Seminary, Ndola.

To the seminarians, Bishop Phiri said, “When you offer yourself for service, you are making a conscious decision. You must therefore make yourself available. Be willing to be formed.”

“You are called to start this journey of formation not because you are the best, not because you are holy, but because God thinks you are available and flexible enough to be formed in order to become instruments in the hands of God,” the Zambian Bishop who was installed as the sixth Bishop of Zambia’s Diocese of Ndola last month said.

Until his appointment as Bishop of Ndola in July, he had been serving as the Auxiliary Bishop of Chipata Diocese in Zambia since ordination as Bishop in April 2011.


In his homily on September 21, Bishop Phiri urged the seminarians admitted at the new Seminary of St. Benedict to be humble, obedient, patient, and to bear with one another, qualities he said, will determine whether they are “useful in the hands of the Lord.”

The Seminary is operating under the Diocese of Ndola in partnership with the Archdiocese of Lusaka and the Franciscan Missionary Service. 

The Catholic Diocese of Suwon in South Korea has supported the construction of the Seminary alongside other projects in Ndola Diocese being implemented under the 13-year-long Kasaria Eco City project. The construction of a university, secondary school, hospital and a sports complex are among other projects being undertaken in partnership with the support of the Korean Diocese.