The Priest As Farmer

Celebrating Mass, teaching Greek, overseeing operations on 500 acres of land used to raise produce and livestock. All three are daily activities for Father Herman Kituuma, rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Katigondo Major Seminary in Masaka, Uganda.

“I think Jesus was making a point in a spiritual sense when talking about the one seed that grows and becomes a big shrub,” Father Kituuma told visitors to the seminary and its farm this past summer. “But it’s also true in the literal sense.”

“When I have a seed, I have a forest in potential,” he continued. “I plant that seed and it grows into a single tree, and from that single tree I get many other seeds. And then I pick them up, and I plant them again. In a space of time I will have a big forest from one single seed.”

His analogy provides a backdrop for the activity taking place inside this more than a century old seminary and outside in the surrounding fields. Established in 1911 by the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), the seminary is the first one south of the Sahara in modern times. Following the first ordination of two Ugandans, more than 4,000 seminarians have prepared for the priesthood here, and 1,700 have been ordained — among them 27 bishops, including the first two Ugandan cardinals. Father Kituuma teaches today’s students Old Testament and Greek, and has been rector since 2007.

Outside the classroom, he has implemented modern agricultural technologies — such as solar power — to transform the seminary fields into an energy-independent farm. The farm raises pigs, chickens and cows, and grows bananas, coffee, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and wheat. These outputs are used locally and sold to surrounding communities and countries.

Throughout Africa, there are hundreds of Church-owned farms operated by priests and religious. In addition to providing basic support to these young mission churches, for their pastoral and evangelizing needs, the Pontifical Mission Societies is offering an innovative way to get help to people who can then help themselves: impact investing. In addition to seeking a financial return, impact investments give a priority to projects that generate not only profit but also social goods, such as decent jobs or a steady income.

Father Kituuma in the seminary library. Courtesy photo

Africa is a continent with an abundance of natural resources, fertile farmland and willing workers. Yet daily millions go hungry or are malnourished. Pope Francis has called on each of us to “eliminate this injustice” and to do so in a way that cares for our common home. Investing in existing Church-owned farms — like the one at St. Thomas Aquinas — helps to increase the scale of output and makes progress toward solving one of the world’s most challenging problems. In addition, men and women find work. Local communities have a reliable food source. Human life and dignity go hand in hand with self-empowerment and sustainable development.

The Pontifical Mission Societies have already proven the success of this model through a pilot program with nine Church-owned farms in Kenya and is looking to expand across Africa. Few, if any, organizations have a similar ability to access an existing network of people and resources.

“There are four schools — three secondary schools, each with 500 students, and a big primary school, with 700 children,” Father Kituuma told his visitors as he pointed to the hills around the seminary, each location a natural market for the seminary farm’s output. “Yes, this is what we have.”

By investing in the efforts of Father Kituuma and priests and religious like him throughout Africa, we ensure they all have what they need to grow those seeds — and to grow hope for our mission family.

For more about initiatives of the Pontifical Mission Societies, please visit