I came to this northeastern city of the Motherland on the last day of August 2014. There are 11 sisters in their renewal course and 29 seminarians with 7 formator-priests and a seminarian in his pastoral year, who was ordained deacon on 3 January this year. English was offered as an elective, so not all students opted to study it. I have only 12 students: 6 seminarians and 2 sisters every Tuesday afternoon, and 4 every Friday morning. Besides their weekly 100- to 150-minute classes, some students also scheduled personal conversation practice. I expected this to last no more than 10 to 15 minutes, but which turned out to be an hour for every session. What could we talk about for an hour, specially with their limited range of vocabularies? What was supposed to be simple English conversation practice turned out to be formation dialogues about the seminarians' life, vocation and spirituality. Autumn was just beginning when I came; the weather was cool and pleasant, but by the end of September, it started to get cold with the temperature even dropping down to 1°C though it was still autumn. They say that here they have 5 months of summer, another 5 of winter, and a month each of autumn and spring. The first snow came the last day of November, and it had snowed five times before the New Year. It was here that I experienced walking in the street at –23°C, all wrapped and covered but still feeling the freezing cold. Though it is cold outside, the place is warm, not so much because of the heating, which maintains the room temperature at 16°C, but because of the community of priests and seminarians. The seminary is all but the 6-story building and the basketball court at the back since the land that is still part of the seminary property is now used by the best middle school of the city. The seminarians after supper usually go out for a walk to the public park nearby, where the Catholic cemetery used to be. To help the students learn English in a way relevant to their life, I write a reading lesson weekly based on the Gospel and first reading of the Mass for the coming Sunday. As expected, they will need hard work, patience and determination if they really want to learn another language.
(The photograph is a View of the middle school at the back of the seminary on a snowy day)