St. Mary’s is a minor seminary of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Portal and is situated at Virika hill, along Fort Portal-Kasese Road approximately three kilometers from Fort Portal town in Western Uganda. This seminary started in 1964 with 21 students for the sole purpose of grooming young boys and recruiting them for the major seminary that they may become priests. Started so humbly, St. Mary’s has grown into a fully fledged secondary school teaching sciences, humanities, languages and business subjects without losing its foundational aim of grooming young boys for the priesthood. It offers good secondary education following the national curriculum and policies of the Ministry of Education and Sports of Uganda.
The seminary offers more than academic education: the school programme is designed in such a way that the entire life of the student is attended to through the different activities, academic, and social, spiritual, physical, etc.
Given the purpose of its founding, it is presumed that every student who enrolls at St. Mary’s is motivated by the desire to be a priest in future although no one is conscripted to become a priest. At every step of their growth and stay at the seminary students are given all the freedom and assistance to choose what they want to be.
Remarkably, over the past fifty years of its running approximately 5.2% of the alumni of St. Mary’s Seminary have become priests. Three of these priests: Joseph Mugenyi (one of the pioneer student), Robert Muhiirwa and Aquirinus Kibira have become bishops. Bishop Joseph Mugenyi is Auxiliary Bishop of Fort Portal and Bishops Robert Muhiirwa and Aquirinus Kibira are ordinary bishops of Fort Portal and Kasese respectively. Besides nurturing and producing priests to serve the Church the seminary has for the past fifty years significantly and consistently contributed to the development of the nation by producing successful and responsible persons in various sectors of society.
St. Mary’s Seminary is one of the best schools in the Rwenzori region of western Uganda, known for its academic and moral standards. The total enrolment of students from S1 to S6 as per February 2015 stands at 207 students although the maximum capacity could go up to 250 students. The seminary has always maintained a conservative number of students for preferring quality to quantity.
The learning environment of the seminary is just excellent. The welcoming ever green gardens, the quiet atmosphere and spacious lay-out of the buildings offer a very suggestive atmosphere for academic work. Regarding infrastructure, some of St. Mary’s structures are old and need overhaul. This is understandable that after fifty years some buildings get old. It is the case with many structures of St. Mary’s Seminary especially the students dormitories; classrooms are too few and the science laboratory is just one and too small. That notwithstanding St. Mary’s still gives a very homely atmosphere for the growth of the young men, ceaselessly producing responsible and useful citizens and zealous ministers for the Church.
At St. Mary’s co-curricular activities in form of games and sports, clubs and associations and spiritual programs are given great importance because of the instrumental role they play in the formation of character of the alumni.
The Seminary is headed by a rector assisted by a vice-rector, a general spiritual director and a director of studies, a bursar and other members of staff especially the resident priests. Besides the resident staff which is mainly composed of priests, there is a large number of teaching staff: both men and women who do part time work, as well as a team of auxiliary staff who manage the gardens, farm and kitchen and do maintenance work. The student’s prefectorial body too plays a vital role in the day-to-day running of the seminary.
On 28th March 2015 St. Mary’s Seminary will hold the celebration its Golden Jubilee. A grand occasion is being organized at the seminary ground at Virika. The President of the Republic of Uganda, HE Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, is expected to be the Chief Guest while the Apostolic Nuncio in Uganda, Archbishop Michael August Blume, will preside over the Eucharist. About 200 guests are expected to turn up for the occasion. This celebration will mark the climax of a series of events all associated with the seminary’s jubilee.
For the whole of 2014 the seminary was involved in various Jubilee activities among which was the construction of Bishop McCauley Jubilee Hall, a project spearheaded by the old boys of the seminary. The one-story edifice whose construction has so far reached the first floor will accommodate four class-rooms, a staff board room and multi-purpose hall for students. Once completed, this structure will leave a lasting impression of the seminary’s jubilee as well as improve the school infrastructure. For the work so far done, gratitude is owed by the old boys, parents, well-wishers and friends of the seminary who all have contributed generously towards the project.