On Wednesday, 22 October 2014, SJV Seminary held its sixth Graduation Ceremony whereby the Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (BA.Phil.) Degree was conferred on 29 candidates, while the Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.) Degree was conferred on 13 candidates. The graduation celebration consisted of two parts, the Mass of Thanksgiving held in the Chapel at 15h00, followed by the Graduation Ceremony which was held in the Seminary’s Hall at 17h00.

During the first part of the celebration, Bishop Dabula Mpako (Chairman of the Seminaries Commission – and our Grand Chancellor) presided, with Bishop Joao Rodrigues (Bishop of Tzaneen and Member of the Seminary Commission) and Bishop Peter Holiday (Bishop of Kroonstad), together with 23 priests (including the Staff of SJV and visiting priests) concelebrating, assisted by Deacon Ndumiso Khumalo OFM.

In his introductory words, Bishop Mpako highlighted that it was fitting that the graduation took place on the Memorial feast of St. John Paul II, emphasizing how this saint can be a good role-model for the graduates since he used his academic achievements for the betterment of the Church. Bishop Mpako reminded the graduates that their academic achievements should not distort their focus from the core of their vocation which includes service, charity, and pastoral ministry; rather, their academic formation should equip them to serve the people of God in their ministry. In his homily, Bishop Mpako reminded the graduates that the challenge is not to view the academics only in a secular way which could lead one to be self-centered, and seeking material goods; rather, the Seminary’s academic formation is that which prepares one to feed, love, and tend the flock of God, as alluded to in the Gospel reading of the day. Reflecting on the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, he also noted that the reason for the academic formation of future ministers in the Church was to equip them to be messengers who will bring good tidings to the world, and be ‘watchmen’ who would have a “lofty view of life”, and who would see God’s presence and His wonders displayed in the world.

After Mass, the formal Graduation Ceremony took place in the Hall, where the candidates were given their ‘reward’ for their tireless work which they undertook for a number of years during their studies. After the Grand Chancellor (Bishop Mpako) formally opened the assembly, the Academic Dean (Fr. Ricardo Smuts) introduced the keynote speaker of the day, Fr. Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, who gave an address titled, “The Role of the Church in the transformation of South Africa”. Here, Fr. Smangaliso noted how the Church can act as “yeast” that would infuse and bring about change in the society. He acknowledged that these days our society is living in a period described as “the best of times and the worst of times”, where the society faces challenges such as poverty, unemployment, rape, violence, human rights abuses, etc. In the midst of all these challenges, he suggested that the biggest challenge for the Church is to strengthen its solidarity with the world, as it has previously done, especially reflecting on the effective role it played during the time of apartheid. He noted that the Church needed to act as a spiritual agent for change in the society, as it should not only be an external factor in civil society, that is isolated from society; rather it must be internal, inhering in society. This challenges Christians to be aware of the fact that they are not merely “inhabitants” of the society, but also citizens who aspire to enrich and build up their society by conducting themselves in a Christian way, and by upholding their Christian values.

After the Address it was time to confer the Degrees, in which out of 41 candidates, there were nine candidates who obtained an overall pass with distinction. Before the assembly was dispensed, Fr. Masilo Selemela (vice-president of SJV) gave a vote of thanks to all those who were present. He highlighted that though the Seminary has four pillars of formation, the intellectual formation is primary in developing the confidence in students who would come to study and to know “the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. This was followed by the singing of the National Anthem. After the closing blessing from Bishop Mpako, the whole assembly sung Gaudeamus Igitur as the Graduates, together with the Academic Staff, Keynote Speaker, and Grand Chancellor processed out of the Hall, so marking the end of the Graduation Ceremony.

By Gabriel Caleni – Philosophy 2 Student