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On 9 June 2014 the newly constructed residential complex on the SJV Campus was officially blessed and opened by the Right Reverend Bishop Dabula Mpako, Chairman of the Seminary Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC).
The period 2006-2009 marked a drop in the number of vocations in the SACBC region. Because of this the SACBC decided to sell one of its seminaries in Pretoria, St Peters Seminary that was situated in Garsfontein. The two seminaries were merged in 2008, and St. John Vianney Seminary (SJV) became home for all seminarians of the SACBC region. The merger was completed by the building of the new St Peter’s Library at SJV in 2011.
However, the love that God has for His people is great and can be traced back from the time of the Israelites up until to our times. Was it was not Joseph, son of Jacob, who said that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of drought? 2010 marked a blessing for Africa, the continent hosted FIFA World Cup for the first time and the Church, on the other hand, experienced a remarkable increase of priestly vocations as the Bishops of the different Dioceses’ of Southern Africa enrolled 31 young men at the Orientation Year at St Kizito seminary, which is now known as St Francis Xavier Seminary, in Cape Town. Since then the number of vocations has maintained that level which, while being a blessing for the whole Church, resulted in St John Vianney Seminary struggling to accommodate all its incoming students.
To alleviate this shortage of accommodation in the short term, in 2013 the Archdiocese of Pretoria availed the SACBC of their property adjacent to SJV, Santa Sophia, and it was used by SJV to accommodate its final year group of students which made a big difference during those two years we used it. We are most grateful to Archbishop William Slattery and his consultors of the Archdiocese of Pretoria who made this possible. In order to address this matter in the longer term, in 2013, the SACBC decided to increase capacity on the SJV premises and renovated the existing buildings and began to erect a new building to accommodate 30 students and 2 Priest formators. Construction began in July 2013.
On 12 February 2014, as the seminarians returned from home to begin their first semester, for some, the construction was something they knew about, but for the new first year students it was something of a culture shock. On our arrival we had many different opinions on how the building would look. As a photographer I had to take some pictures of this construction from the beginning to the end. I met with different workers and their supervisors just to ask them about their work. Those whom I spoke to, were really happy to work here and they have shown their dedication and enthusiasm each and every day, and were open and welcoming. We thank them for their good work and dedication.
The official opening and blessing of the new building took place on the 9th June 2014, and the attendance of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishops Stephen Brislin and William Slattery, together with a number of Bishops is an indicator of their love for the seminary, and their commitment to the formation of their students. The Rector, Fr Molewe Machingoane welcomed all present, while Mr George Deeb, of the SACBC Finance Department, and who was part of the committee who presided over the project, gave an overview of the work which had been done, as well as some projects still in progress. With great anticipation, Bishop Dabula Mpako, the chairperson of the Seminary Commission, led the ceremony. In his brief address, Bishop Mpako reminded the seminarians that this place must help them to listen to the Word of God and be shaped by it, while at the same time formation is also a time to ‘undo’ all the learnings of the powers that are against the Holy Spirit. Seminary life is a time of discernment, obedience, and fellowship in Christ, said the Bishop. Thereafter Bishop Mpako, assisted by Archbishops Brislin and Slattery, blessed the interior and exterior of the new building.
On their return for the second semester in July 2014, the most senior students (Theology III & IV) will take up residence in the newly blessed St John XXIII building which is custom built for the model of formation according to the mind of the Church.
In conclusion the Vice Rector, Fr Masilo Selemela, delivered a vote of thanks expressing gratitude for the gift of this new facility and for the many people who made it possible.
By: Sipho Mtimkulu – Theology 1 Student