Many Catholics are not familiar with the structure of the Church and what the Church is doing on a daily basis. One would think that those who are studying in the Seminary would have a better understanding of how the local church operates, but this has proved to be the opposite.
Despite being fully armed with the teachings of the Church and what is expected of them when they complete their seminary studies and become priests, many priests have gone through their initial formation in the seminary without being aware of what is really taking place in the heart of the life of the local church.
It is only in recent times when the leadership of the local church together with the formation teams of the Seminary, made a special arrangement to help the seminarians, especially those who are starting their last stage of formation towards priesthood, to be familiar with the structure and the projects of the local church, so as to acquire a full picture of the institution they will be working for during the rest of their life.
The initiative is also meant to help the seminarians align themselves to the needs of the Church as they come closer to the end of their studies. It helps them to evaluate their own skills and purify their choices of specialisation so that they are able to contribute effectively to the Mission of the Church.
On the 16th September 2019, a day marked also for the commemoration of martyred Saints Cornelius the Pope and Cyprian the bishop, a team of 14 first year theology Seminarians from St John Vianney Major Seminary in Pretoria, South Africa, set aside a special time to visit Khanya House, which is the head office of Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), to be oriented about the structure of the Church and the projects which are being undertaken by the local church, as part of achieving the Mission of the Whole Church.
The day started with prayer, whereby the visiting seminarians joined staff members of Khanya House for the celebration of Holy Mass. The celebration was led by Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS, the SACBC Associate Secretary General, while the seminarians led the sung part of the Mass. Present during the celebration were about 50 members of Khanya House staff, together with some visitors who had come for different activities.
Basing himself on the readings of the day from the Letter of St Paul to Timothy 2:1-8, Fr Patrick during his homily said the seminarians are also called to promote peace and calm in the country, the same way as it was the mandate of St Paul to Timothy. As ministers of the Word of God they are to help people to live the life of peace and calm. “It is not a mission only reserved for priests but for everybody”, he said.
Fr Rakeketsi further said because of the uprising of gender based violence, other kinds of violence and xenophobia in the country people are living in fear, people are vulnerable. We are all called to promote peace and calm. He appealed to the seminarians to submit their mind and will to God so that they can help others to live a better life. He urged them not be the first ones to deviate from their faith as they experience resistance and persecutions. They should be like Saints Cornelius and Cyprian who stood strong in their faith to the extent of losing their life for Christ. They need to be people who restore hope to others through their way of life. He said there are many people looking to them as the ministers of God. They should help people live their life in a better way.
After Holy Mass the seminarians together with all the staff members shared refreshments. This also was to break the ice and allow intermingling and discussions among themselves. After that the seminarians proceeded on their own to the third session, where Fr Patrick gave them an orientation about the structure of the Church, responsibility of different SACBC Departments and different special programs the Church is presently undertaking.
The seminarians’ half day program was concluded with a short visit to different offices of Khanya House where they were introduced to the staff members and their responsibilities. They were also briefed about the work of different associate bodies and commissions, operating under 6 SACBC Departments, but not located in Khanya House.
The seminarians were representing five SACBC Metros; Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Durban, as they came from different dioceses of the SACBC.
By Fr Paul Tatu CSS (SACBC Communication & Media)
For more information kindly contact: Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS – +27 73 380 5629 or Fr John Selemela (Rector of St John Vianney Seminary) – +27 12 460 2039