St John Vianney Seminary NPC

St. John Vianney Seminary NPC, is an institution of the Catholic Church in South Africa which provides for the education and training for ministers of the Catholic Church, in particular diocesan priests. It is an institution of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), overseen by that body’s Seminaries’ Commission, with Bishop Dabula Mpako, Bishop of Queenstown, as its current Chairman. St. John Vianney Seminary was founded in 1948 in Queenstown and moved to the current premises at the end of 1950. Until the end of 2007, the Conference’s formation program for its priests consisted in three phases, with three accompanying seminaries in different locations. Firstly, there is the Orientation Year, elsewhere called the propaedeutic year, in the Seminary of St. Kizito, where students live for one year. Secondly, there was the philosophy stage which was housed at St. Peter’s Seminary in Garsfontein, Pretoria. Lastly, there was St John Vianney Seminary, which catered for the theological education of students. At the end of 2007, the SACBC closed St. Peter’s Seminary and merged the philosophy and theology stages, housing it at St. John Vianney Seminary. Currently, therefore, there are two seminaries providing for training for priests, namely St. Kizito Seminary in Cape Town and St. John Vianney Seminary in Waterkloof, Pretoria.

Side ViewSt John Vianney Seminary NPC, is both a training facility and a house of formation. As a training facility, it is registered with the Department of Education through the Council for Higher Education as a private provider of higher education, under the Higher Education Act, 1997 with the Registration Certificate Number 2000/HE08/007. Four qualifications are duly registered with the same authorities, namely the Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy), Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Ministry and Bachelor of Theology (Honours). Fourteen full-time and resident staff members, also known as formators, who are all priests in the Catholic Church, form the core of the teams of lecturers in three departments, namely the Philosophy, Theology and Pastoral Theology Departments. Other lecturers are associates or visiting lecturers who are employed full-time elsewhere, either with neighbouring academic institutions or within the Catholic Church in the region of Pretoria and Johannesburg. Lecturers with suitable qualifications are employed on this basis, regardless of their religious affiliation. The majority of students for the priesthood enter St. John Vianney Seminary mainly as first year Philosophy students after successful completion of the Orientation Year at St. Kizito Seminary. The latter institution admits students who have a minimum of 25 points on completion of their matriculation exams. Students first complete a minimum of two years Philosophy, a basic Church requirement. Others who qualify go on to do a third year of Philosophy. The theological and pastoral training lasts for a period of four and a half years. Upon successful completion of training in the Seminary and on approval of personal assessment according to provisions of church law, students present themselves to their church authorities, the bishops, for ordination and admittance to ministry.

As a house of formation, St John Vianney Seminary NPC, provides for the human growth and development of students in the spiritual, pastoral and communal spheres. Through a well-structured community life in small groups and the larger group of students, each person is given the opportunity to interact with others in constructive ways. In this manner, students learn not only leadership, but also other social skills that would assist them in ministry. Accordingly, resident students live in sections of the house that enables them to identify with a particular group, called a formation group, headed by one of the resident formators, who ordinarily live in the same group area. This group expresses itself through bi-weekly sessions of prayer and worship and other occasional meetings, both formal and informal. Students in a formation group organize themselves that provide service for both the group itself and for the larger student community. The formation group also forms the basic nucleus of teams for inter-block games and sports. Besides formation groups, students ordinarily belong to other groups in the larger student community, namely devotion and prayer groups, sports teams, e.g. football, volleyball, cricket and squash.

For spiritual growth and development, students have an extensive program of training and assistance, including the attendance of two annual retreats, monthly days of recollection, occasional spiritual talks, and monthly one-on-one sessions of spiritual direction. For students who need further psychological assistance, the Seminary provides these services by referral to professionals.

Students’ pastoral training consists in a four and a half year program in which they obtain and practice pastoral skills. Besides class work, students are placed locally according to ability and interest, in certain projects in order to practice pastoral skills. The limited local pastoral placement program, which includes student ministry at Tshwane University of Technology and Pretoria University, ministry at the Hospice and certain Catholic parishes for ministry to the sick and aged, catechism assistance, ministry to children without shelter, and prison ministry. Students who have completed their second year of Theology do a six-month Pastoral Internship period outside of the Seminary in the diocese for which they are students. This program is closely monitored and assessed. Thereafter they return to the Seminary for their final two years of study and formation.

At the end of each academic year, the Formation Staff meet to discuss and assess each student, submitting reports to the President. The President writes personal assessment reports to the bishop of each student.

Currently, there are 120 Residential Students with 22 Day Students, which includes both private students and those from the surrounding religious formation houses.