The 2022 graduation ceremony for the SACBC national seminary, St. John Vianney Seminary, took place on Friday, 21 October 2022, at the seminary in Pretoria. These graduations were for the academic year 2021-2022 and this time 32 students were conferred with their degrees. 19 students received the Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and 13 received the Bachelor of Theology.
Presiding over the ceremony was the Grand Chancellor, the Auxiliary Bishop of Pretoria, Bishop Masilo John Selemela, the very recent former rector of the same seminary. The keynote speaker at the graduation was Ms Phumla Williams, the Director-General of the GCIS (Government Communication and Information System) and the Spokesperson to the Cabinet. She is a Catholic from the Archdiocese of Johannesburg at St. Peter Claver parish in Soweto.
In her address she started by acknowledging the passing away of Fr. Albert Nolan, whose remains at the same time were being interred about 50 km away from the seminary, saying, “Fr. Nolan is one of the Catholic priests who during my time taught us what is selflessness, what is sacrifice, what is fighting for what we are teaching in the Church.” She went on to say Fr. Nolan groomed them to know what is right and what is wrong. She reminded that the current government bestowed on him the Order of Luthuli in silver, for his contribution to the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice, peace and conflict resolution.
In reference to her being invited to be the keynote speaker Ms Williams said, “I had thought never in my wildest dream would I be invited to come and speak to the people who grounded me. If it wasn’t for the Catholic Church I probably wouldn’t as grounded as I am”. Ms Williams proceeded to congratulate Bishop John Selemela for his appointment as the Auxiliary Bishop of Pretoria.
“The formation of the young generation and the future of the society and the Church depends largely on education.” In quoting those words from Pope John Paul II, Ms Williams said she is confident that the seminary will do the right thing in building the nation. Addressing the graduates directly she said it is an honour for her to be among them to celebrate an important milestone in their lives. She said the graduation is just the beginning of the race of their lives, “I have no doubt that some of you have overcome serious obstacles along the way.”
“You are fortunate that you are graduating from an institution with a rich history of success”, said Ms Williams to the graduates reminding them that the seminary has armed them with knowledge and support, and he has no doubt that they have been well prepared for the current world in so much need of their services. “You are ready to face the challenges that lie ahead.”
“South Africa continues to be a country under reconstruction. The history of inequality and injustices continue to be a project for all of us,” said Ms Williams adding also that the same applies to the continent of Africa which is in need of all of them. Speaking about some of the challenges she said the youth sadly comprises a bigger portion of the unemployed in South Africa and the continent at large, and this results in the youth becoming prey to the ills of the society, such as crime and drugs.
“The moral fibre of our society is facing huge challenges. The unethical behaviour in our institutions and communities is alarming,” noted the keynote speaker as she gave greed of the people in position of power robbing the poor as one such example of unethical behaviour. “Truth and integrity have become casualty in all this”. Ms Williams said she believes churches can go a long way in reversing some of these ills. She appreciated to positive response of the Church during the crisis of Covid-19 as they came to the table when their assisted was requested. “Churches, in particular priests, have a crucial role in spreading the message of hope, peace, love, reconciliation and empathy in our communities and in the world as a whole.” To close her address later on Ms Phumla Williams said, “May God who began the journey with you bring it to fruition as you continue to seek the ultimate one. Your selflessness will undoubtably carry you through in serving your communities, and leave the Almighty to do the rest.”
The St John Vianney Seminary also on the day had an award-giving for academic excellence. In the Philosophy Department the Academic Excellence Award for the “Top Achiever” in the 2022 Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy programme, went to Ndwandwe Siyabonga Kwanda. The first 2022 Academic Award for “Constant Improvement” went to Sakhiwo-Mzwandile Mguda and the second 2022 Academic Award for “Constant Improvement” went to Michael Thapelo Seutlwadi.
In the Theology Department the 2022 Academic Excellence Award for the “Top Achiever” in the 2021 Bachelor of Theology programme went to both Thokozani Bhekumusa Mkhonta and Monwabisi Ntshudu who had equal scores.