THE SPECIAL STATUS OF BISHOP ROGAN COLLEGE
In the letter to parents and guardians at the end of the second term in this academic year 2012/2013, I wrote briefly on THE SPECIAL STATUS OF BISHOP ROGAN COLLEGE. I wish to be more elaborate on this topic. This is to give it a wider publicity, because of its importance in the present circumstances. The topic is not new as such, and a lot has been said about it to generations of students in times past. I wish to re-echo this special status given its timeless importance to what the institutions stands for and for the sake of the later generations. We have often been told that Bishop Rogan College is a College with a difference. I heard about this during the opening of year Mass, 1999/2000 academic year in the homily of then Bishop of Buea, Mgr. Pius S. Awa. It was repeated throughout that year in conferences, retreats and recollections. I spent only one academic year in BIROCOL as a prospective seminarian.
What exactly is this difference? What is the nature of Bishop Rogan College that makes it different from other colleges (secondary schools)? What is the unique identity of this college?
1. A Minor Seminary
The primary diference is that Bishop Rogan College is a Minor Seminary, where the priestly vocation is nurtured and fostered. A seminary is a training ground for future priests; a place where the priestly vocation is discerned, intensified and fostered to maturity. The second Vatican Council observes that "in minor seminaries founded to nurture the seeds of vocation, students should be prepared by a special religous formation.....to follow Christ the Redeemer with generous souls and pure hearts." (Optatan Totius, 1965,p.710). It is for this reason that those who present themselves for admission into Bishop Rogan College often go through a rigorous process, beginning from the parishes. Here the Parish Priests/Curates and Chaplain must give a favourable recommendation based on the activities of the candidates in the parish or institution. By favourable recommendation, we mean that the candidate is judged to have the right intention to become a priest. This right intention has to be situated while in the college. The fruit of all this is that the majority of our local priests, Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda, are products of Bishop Rogan College. For those who discern the priestly vocation as not being their calling, they are "guided with fatherly kindness and in due time, to adopt another calling. These should be directed in such a way that, conscious of the Christian Vocation, they will zealously engage in the lay apostolate." (Ibid. p.712)
2. Interviews into the College
BIROCOL is the only college that organizes interviews before all other colleges, even before the release of the Government Common Entrance Examination Results. This is because admission is primarily based on the presence of the signs of the priestly vocation, judged to give the candidate the right intention. A good performance in the interview exam is however required of the candidate with the right intention.
On the interview day, each candidate goes through the academica team, the Spiritual Director and finally the Rector. Many present usually testify that the process is "heavy", strict and covers the whole day from 9:00am to about 5:00pm. It is not just the taking of an interview examination and passing it. The council Fathers again notes that "notwithstanding the regrettable shortage of priests, due strictness should always be brought to bear on the choice and testing of students. God will not allow his Church to lack ministers...."(Ibid. p.712)
3. Life in BIROCOL
Life in BIROCOL truly reflects the nature of the seminary. It turns mostly around spirituality, academics and discipline. That is why in Bishop Rogan College, the popular word being used is formation. This is quite an appropriate word because when one is submerged in a regular and steady programme of activities that embodies the above dimensions of school life, one is truly formed, shaped and given a new pattern of behaviour. It is interesting to hear parents, acknowledging that BIROCOL has impacted the lives of their children. Ex-students fondly recall school life in the different areas of spirituality, academics and discipline. One may recall how Evening prayers and Benediction used to be celebrated on Sunday evenings, how punishment used to be meted out against recalcitrant students and how academics used to be tough.
Perhaps BIROCOL's uniqueness in these areas of school life is seen as follows:
Spirituality: The only college where all students attend Holy mass every day, and celebrate Easter in school. In fact the second program and holidays are determined by the time Easter is celebrated.
Academics: BIROCOL offers all subjects as offered in any secondary grammar school; in addition to these, Latin and Music are taught in view of the priestly life.
Discipline: The discipline in BIROCOL follows the student to their homes. What is now called "Holiday form" are distributed to students to help the parish priests make and evaluation of their stay in the parishes during the holiday.
Is it not true from the above that BIROCOL is a college with a difference? We, students, staff, ex-students, parents and guardians must also be different. Our contact with BIROCOL should make an impact on our lives in some way. Above all, let us pray for genuine vocations in the curch and support it as much as we can. I wish, on a final note to thank the ex-students in and out of the country who are supporting the college in different ways in training young people for the church and society.