The Nuncio’s Visit to the Seminary

On Sunday, August 21 – the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – the Seminary was graced with the visit from the Papal Nuncio, The Most Reverend Peter Wells.  Archbishop Wells was accompanied by Monsignor Kevin Randall, his secretary.

Archbishop Wells led us in worship as principal celebrant at Holy Mass.  His homily centred on the priestly vocation, with Mary as Mother of Priests.

After Holy Mass, we all gathered in the hall for an address by the Nuncio.  The programme was directed by Malusi Ngcobo, seminarian of the Archdiocese of Durban.  Prior to the Nuncio’s address, Rev. Fr John Selemela, the Vice Rector, welcomed the Nuncio on behalf of the seminary staff and students.  In his address, Fr John highlighted the history of seminary formation in South Africa, tracing it from the Seminary’s inception right through to the amalgamation of St Peter’s Seminary and St John Vianney Seminary in 2008.  Fr John also spoke about the four areas of priestly formation, also known as the “four pillars” of the Seminary’s formation programme (namely the human, academic, spiritual and pastoral aspects), mentioning that the particular focus in 2016 was on human formation.

St John Vianney Seminary is not only known for its great academic programme, but also for the seminarians’ brilliant singing.  To illustrate this, the choir rendered a few items on stage, much to the enjoyment of our honoured guest.  The President of the Student’s Council, Fannie Msiza, addressed the Nuncio on behalf of the student body.  He began by expressing our gratefulness for receiving a Nuncio of Archbishop Wells’ calibre.  To illustrate what he meant by this, Fannie mentioned some of Wells’ gifts and achievements, noting that he has worked at the Vatican for the past fourteen years.  Fannie also touched on the four areas of priestly formation from a student’s point of view, assuring Wells of the competence of the formation staff as well as the excellence of St John Vianney Seminary’s formation programme.  Fannie’s address was followed by an item rendered by the marimba group.

Rather than giving a prepared speech, Archbishop Wells spoke off-the-cuff, noting that he really appreciated the music at Mass earlier.  He also stated that he wished to have a sort of Q-and-A session, what he referred to as a “Meet the Nunciature” session, at which he and Msgr. Kevin would answer the seminarians’ questions pertaining to the Nunciature and the Nuncio’s experience thus far.

The first question was with regard to Archbishop Wells’ experience of having worked under three Popes.  In answer to this question, the Nuncio noted that he has worked at the English section of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State since 2002.  So when he began working at the Vatican it was during the latter years of Pope St John Paul II’s pontificate.  He noted that it was in the midst of the post-Vatican II confusion that John Paul – whom he referred to as a Philosopher – had been elected the successor of Peter.  John Paul had come with a philosophical and anthropological approach to the post-conciliar confusion, an approach which would mark his papacy.  Next, Wells had worked under Pope Benedict XVI.  He noted that Benedict was extremely humble as well as an extraordinary professor who respected other people’s opinions and responded to such opinions in a succinct, yet well thought out, manner.  Having referred to Pope John Paul II as a Philosopher, Wells regards Pope emeritus Benedict XVI as a distinguished Theologian whose approach he calls the “classical Patristic approach.”  The third Pontiff that Wells worked under is Pope Francis, whom he regards as a Catechist and extrovert with a pragmatic manner of looking at things.  He admires Pope Francis’ ability to speak to ordinary people in a language they can easily comprehend.

Tshepo W. Duik

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