Theology graduates pose for a photo after attending a recent gathering at St. Paul Catholic University of Indonesia in Ruteng on Flores island. (Photo by Melkhior Baran/ucanews.com)
A university in Indonesia, founded 60 years ago to train catechists, is now struggling to find new theology students, its administrators say.
According to Father Yohanes Boylon, president of St. Paul Catholic University of Indonesia on Catholic-majority Flores island, only 20 out of 1,000 new students who enrolled in June had signed up to do theology.
The former St. Paul Teacher Training College in Ruteng, which was only upgraded to a university in May, is already feeling the effects of modern trends, he said.
When it was founded in 1959, theology was the primary subject taught at the school to train catechists working in the region, Father Boylon said.
But with the introduction of new courses such as languages and agriculture-related subjects in recent years, theology has now taken a back seat.
It is a sad trend because the subject was the cornerstone of this institution for years, Father Boylon said.
However, only a few young people enrolled to take theology classes. In fact, since its foundation in November 1959, theology was the primary subject taught at the school to train catechists working in the region.
Following a set career path has become more important among the young, Herman Tojong, a theology graduate, told ucanews.com. “Theology can’t compete as graduates have limited options for employment,” said Tojong, a member of the local district council.
This is certainly a challenge for the university to make theology relevant to people in the modern era, he said.
Despite the bleak outlook, the university says it is prepared to meet the challenge and is refusing to drop the course.
Even with modern trends, society and the Church still need theology graduates to work in parishes and other church agencies, said Divine Word Father Oswaldus Bule, who heads the theology program. "No matter what it takes, theology will be retained here,” he said.
Father Theobaldus Roling Mujur, chairman of the university’s St. Paul Foundation, said that although the subject appears on the surface to offer limited options, opportunities are there for theology graduates if they learn to market themselves better to potential employers.
Graduates in the past have gone on to pursue good careers in fields not necessarily associated with theology, he said.
He suggested the university try to revive life in the dying subject by improving career guidance services and attracting more students with incentives like discounts on course fees or scholarships. Offering a master's degree is another option, he said.
Whatever happens, the institution cannot let theology fall by the wayside because it part of its heritage, Father Mujur said.