Farewell, Brothers in the Final Year

On Thursday evening, 28 April 2016, the community of St John Vianney Seminary bade farewell to the final year brothers who have almost completed their formation. Figuratively speaking, one foot is already outside the door. The only thing that awaits them is their final comprehensive theological examinations for which they are sitting next week. In fact, these brothers will be free to leave St John Vianney Seminary upon the completion of these examinations.

These, our brothers, have spent no less than 7 ½ years in seminary formation. As such, the light at the end of the tunnel has suddenly become a glaring reality just inches away.
The liturgical procession commenced promptly at 17h30. The servers looked liturgically prim and proper as they led the solemn procession into the chapel of St John Vianney Seminary. The sacred ministers were solemn as they proceeded towards the altar for the evening’s Eucharistic celebration.

The main celebrant for the Farewell Mass of our bother final years was the Very Reverend Father Paul Manci, Rector and president of St John Vianney Seminary. The rector expressed a sense of excitement at the emergence of complete products of seminary formation. However, he was quick to point out the plethora of feelings that he felt within himself. “I don’t know whether to be happy or cry” said the Father of the house. All in all, he wished them well and asked each one of them to reflect on what each would be bringing to his own diocese.

The second part of the celebration was held at the main dining hall. Excited chatter, from students and formators alike, permeated the ageing walls of the dining hall. This illustrated the nature of the day’s event: authentic, celebratory excitement. Before we could commence to the supper, we had a short programme that we had to go through. Sifiso Gangi opened the proceedings in the dining hall with an inspiring prayer. Thereafter, we were orderly directed by the capable Master of Ceremonies for the night, Msizi Msimango.

The Vice Rector, Rev. Dr. Masilo Selemela, took to the podium on behalf of the whole formation staff. While the Vice Rector spoke highly of these young men, he also posed a great challenge to them as future pastors. He said, “You have come to the end of your journey and, as such, all 4 pillars of formation (intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral) should attest to this”. Fr Selemela highlighted the importance of continuous formation outside of the seminary putting emphasis on continued spiritual formation with the aid of a spiritual director.

Amongst the guests that were in attendance were Frs Mahlangu, Mathebula and Morweng. The presence of these three visiting priests was quite significant. Fr Mahlangu, the former rector at St Peter’s Seminary, was the rector of most of the current formators at St John Vianney. Therefore, in a way, he could be said to be the grandfather, in formation, of the 9 young men to whom we were bidding farewell. Secondly, Frs Mathebula and Morweng are themselves the most recently ordained products of St John Vianney. In fact, exactly a year ago, they themselves were leaving this seminary at the completion of their seminary formation. O Divine providence!
Next on the stage, was Fani Msiza, the president of the Student Council and Student Body, at large. President Fani Msiza, who spoke like an experienced statesman, reminded the brother-completers that they would go out as servants in a week’s time. He said, “…brothers, yours is to serve and not to be served”. At this, I caught a glimpse of a wry smile on Tshepo Lekoko’s face.

The highlight of Fani’s speech was when he dedicated songs to certain groups in the seminary. For those still in formation, he dedicated Mary Mary’s hit song quoting these lyrics, “I just can’t give up now; I’ve come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy and I don’t believe He’s brought me this far to leave me”. And for the formators who have forsaken everything to guide us in formation, he dedicated Sfiso Ncwane’s ‘Kulungile Baba’. This brought raucous laughter from every corner of the dining hall.
The final item on the programme was Welcome Maluleka who gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the final-year-brothers. It must be said that he is the sole survivor from the original group that began in the Orientation seminary. Welcome Maluleka, a soft-spoken man; slight in stature but big of heart; dark in complexion but with the brightest smile offered his gratitude to everybody including the mamas in the Kitchen. He then presented the community of St John Vianney with beautiful clocks that would be put up in the block chapels.

On final reflection, it is with deep joy that we say farewell to these brothers who have just about made it to the end of their seminary formation. By way of conclusion, I would like to quote St Paul who had already been quoted on this blessed evening. “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith…” (2 Timothy 4:7). Brothers, make us proud in the Lord’s vineyard.
Mlondi L. B. Nzama
Theology II
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