SACBC Plenary: Seminary, ministry of the clergy, apostolate of the laity

Thursday morning 4th of August, the outgoing St. John Vianney Seminary, and now the Auxiliary Bishop-Elect, Mgr John Selemela gave a report on the state of the seminary which has commenced its second semester on the 19th of July 2022.

The rector noted that due to the upliftment of the major covid rules the seminary has been able to implement all the programmes that were scheduled for the first semester. That, he said, included the ability to continue with all the human formation workshops for this year. Among the workshops was the one on alcohol and nicotine abuse which took place in March 2022 with the aim of exposing the students to the dangers of these substances. Currently the seminary has a total of 126 students of which there are 15 in the 4th year of theology, the most senior year in the second semester.

Regarding the academic performance of the students the rector said though in general the performance is good there is room for improvement. Moving on to the pastoral formation Mgr Selemela said all nine students who have been on internship in their respective dioceses have completed the programme successfully. The rector however did caution the need for bishops to choose supervising priests who are in tune with their formative aspect of their role, stating the importance of a continuous formation even when people return to their dioceses.

Monsignor Selemela thanked the bishops for the support he received during his 12 years as a formator in the seminary, especially the confidence they have shown in him when they chose him to lead the seminary as its rector. As the rector has now been appointed the auxiliary bishop of Pretoria the bishops of the SACBC will soon be appointing the acting rector of the seminary before appointing the full-time rector.

The Department for Formation, Life and Ministry of the Clergy, through Fr. Sefiri Motsepe, the Secretary of the same department, gave a report which spoke about the state of the Southern African Council of Priests (SACOP), the Council for Permanent Deacons, and the Annual Gathering of Recently Ordained Priests (AGROP). Fr. Motsepe said SACOP and AGROP, the associate bodies of the SACBC, have yielded much fruits in the lives of priests within the conference. He commended the growing relationship between the religious and secular priests who belong to and work in multiple dioceses across the conference region.

In its presentation the Department for Formation, Life and Apostolate of the Laity, led by Archbishop Zolile Mpambani, focused on the constitution for the council for laity. Fr. Mthembeni Dlamini from the same department also the possible partnerships with external bodies especially regarding areas like family, absent fatherhood and Gender Based Violence and other related issues. Fr. Dlamini, who is also the national chaplain for youth, spoke about the Interdiocesan Youth and Young Adults Conference which will take place in December 2022 and the possible visit from the organisers of the World Youth Day Lisbon.

On environmental sustainability front the plenary session had a virtual presentation from Prishani Satyapal, the Chief Inspiration Officer of ECHo Impact Fund. ECHo Impact Fund, a Catholic Church based body, is an innovative impact fund focused on Africa that aims to achieve Low Carbon Growth and foster participation in the New Green Economy. The Fund says it will target projects which provide solutions that address society’s biggest needs that will deliver impact at scale. The point of this was to see how ECHo Impact can work together the SACBC region on the issues of environmental sustainability.

To close off the morning session there was a financial report from the Department of Finance of the SACBC. The afternoon session focused on the report from the recent plenary meeting of SECAM, the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar. The President of the SACBC Bishop Sipuka, who attended the SECAM meeting, emphasised the importance of belonging to this continental body as things tend to operate at a global scale these days. This same afternoon was also set aside for the resolutions of the plenary meeting. The day closed with some bishops attending Mass at one of the parishes in the area which was affected by the recent floods in the Archdiocese of Durban for the celebration of the feast day of St. John Vianney.



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