The 2021 graduation ceremony of the national seminary of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, St. John Vianney, took place on the Friday, 22nd October. A more festive ceremony this year compared to last year where they had a very subdued celebration due to stricter covid-19 regulations in terms of numbers allowed for gatherings.
The graduation ceremony and the conferring of degrees was led by the Grand Chancellor, His Excellency, Right Reverend Xolile Thaddaeus Kumalo, the Bishop of Witbank. The degrees of Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Bachelor of Theology were conferred to forty recipients, 20 for each programme.
The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Professor Lesiba Joseph Teffo, from 2016 an Executive Dean for the College of Graduate Studies at the University of South Africa. A member of both the South African Judicial Education Institute Professor and Refugees Appeal Authority of South Africa. Teffo, a lay faithful from the Diocese of Polokwane who holds a Licenciate in Philosophy from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, is also a political analyst.
In his talk on “Ethical Leadership in the era of Hope and Despair” he said to the audience, “Your philosophy or your learnedness will be of no consequence if it cannot contribute to changing the material conditions of the wretched of the earth.”
“There’s no love, bothers and sisters, except in the deeds of love,” said Professor Teffo. He also touched on the problem on human trafficking which he said is very much part of the reality of today citing an example of young children who were abducted in his province of Limpopo three years ago. In that he was trying to note the depravity that exists in some people today. He appealed also to a need to living a concept well known among South African, the concept of Ubuntu (humanness) before highlighting the importance of what he called the first university, the family unit, “You are not part of any world, other than in the first university, which is the family unit”. He pointed out that humanness is sucked from the mother’s breast but also wondered what happened to humans that they end up so depraved.
Professor Teffo appealed to the audience to be what he called servant-leadership noting the words of Jesus when he said he is not called to be served but to serve. He asserted that there is evidence that South Africa went wrong somewhere because it started well with Ubuntu and then things started going wrong. He advised the graduates that they are going to be public servants, not in the narrow sense of the word; that they are not just mere civil servants. “We are living in a fractured society, you are called upon to repair and help guide in the right direction,” said Teffo. He further said to the audience they must not be oblivious of what is happening in their society, otherwise their education will be of no consequence.
As food for thought quoting Mahadma Ghandhi he said the thrust of his talk lies in the following awards things to reflected upon, “there are things that will destroy you as a people; politics without principles, pleasure without conscience, wealth without work, knowledge without character, business without morality, and science without humanity. “You can pursue science to an extent that you fail to appreciate a smile of an infant because the world to you is seen in technical terms. The humanity in you is almost not existent,” observed Teffo.
Four graduates for the philosophy degree passed with distinctions, while theology saw five graduates passing with distinctions. The seminary also gave awards of excellence to the best achievers academically, giving awards for the best overall achiever and the most consistent improvement for both programmes.
The video of the ceremony can be found here.