Tshitanini, a journey of rediscovery of faith.
When thinking back to the journey to Venda one is immediately filled with fond memories of a historical and spiritually significant moment in the life of the Church in Southern Africa and indeed the universal Church. Hearing the announcement of the Beatification of Tshimangadzo Benedict Daswa led one to thinking that as a seminarian I must definitely be there to witness this momentous occasion. But reflecting deeper about it one soon realised that it is more about the spiritual advantage and affirmation of one’s Christian life than just institutional positioning that should compel one to want to go to Tshitanini. Thus, it could not just be a trip; it had to be a pilgrimage. Here-forth is a reflection on this auspicious occasion that was a pilgrimage.
As an institution the announcement of the beatification posed a lot of questions and decisions had to be taken. There was no doubt that it would be to the benefit of every seminarian to be part of this ceremony. This brought into question the capacity of the seminary to manage such a long trip. All the logistics and provisions that had to be made to ensure that the journey became a success came into play. To this we are eternally grateful to our formation stuff for first taking the decision that the whole seminary should go. It could not have been an easy decision. It involved a lot of financial resources and time for planning and putting everything together. Nonetheless, the stuff did all in their power to ensure that everything they needed to do on their part is executed with excellence and precision. All the stakeholders from the formation stuff had their hands on deck and played their part.
This immediately called student leadership in to see to it that the decisions made trickle down to each and every student and everybody is on the same page at every stage. It was not enough to just say we are going to Venda for the beatification. Different portfolios hit the ground running so as to ensure that detailed plans of the journey are in place. First among these was the identity of this trip. It was to be a pilgrimage. Thanks to our MC and his Liturgy committee, spiritual exercises that would help our disposition were drawn up and a trip into history took on another dimension for the community of St John Vianney Seminary. Our Transport Manager and Treasurer also came into play, liaising with the house financial administrator, to ensure that we have suitable transportation at a reasonable cost for such a long journey. Everybody had their eye on the ball and things started to fall into place. Thanks to the Vice President and Academic Representative provisions for nourishment were organised efficiently. In consultation with the Kitchen stuff all that would be needed in this regard was organised. The brothers were so eager to see this pilgrimage succeed that they availed themselves whenever they were called upon to work in the preparations. Once again the community of St John Vianney proved beyond shadow of doubt that team work really goes a long way to ensure success regardless of how big a task lie ahead.
On Thursday the 10 September 2015 we had a Spiritual conference on Tshimangadzo Benedict Daswa so as to deepen our understanding of who the man was and what he stood for. At 23:00 on the 12 September 2015 we all gathered in the main Chapel to start our pilgrimage. The prayers that had to be said were said and we proceeded to the busses. In each bus a rosary was said immediately upon leaving the grounds of the legendary St John Vianney Seminary. This would be followed by choruses so that the brothers could be put in the spirit of prayer and praise. The identity of this journey as a pilgrimage was thus turned into a reality.
From our community we were also privileged and honoured that some of our members had special ministries to perform at the beatification. First among these was our Vice Rector who is himself from the diocese of Tzaneen. He was the commentator at the Beatification Celebration and made us proud to call him our own. His handling of different languages and how he managed the proceedings was a marvel to watch. He left many of us with the phrase: “when I grow up I wanna be just like him.” We also had our brothers from the Dioceses of Tzaneen, Polokwane and Witbank as well as a Thohoyandou native from the Stigmatine community serving at Holy Mass and they did a splendid job. Once more we were well represented as a community.
We are proud of the efforts of all who took an active role in the planning and implementation of this pilgrimage. It had deep spiritual significance for us and affirmed our faith. We were reminded of the level of commitment that our Christian vocation demands of us. We were reminded of the beauty of the communion that is the Catholic Church. We were reminded of the spiritual hunger that we’ve been called to do our bit to fill in the lives of our people. Ours now is to work hard to live saintly lives ourselves and later on help our people to emulate the commitment to Christian values that was displayed by one Blessed Tshimangadzo Benedict Daswa from the Parish of Thohoyandou, Diocese of Tzaneen in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

By Tumelo Mohlaping (President of the Student Council)
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