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Friday, 25 May 2012 16:19
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Graduation at St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs Theological Institute

The lone seminarian who graduated from St John Vianney & the Uganda Martyrs Theological Institute two Fridays ago shared a most fitting prayer during the closing Mass: he prayed for vocations.

Archbishop Joseph Harris CSSp, who was the chief celebrant, commented during the homily that perhaps it was a sign of the times that only one of the seven graduating students was going on to the priesthood.

Archbishop Harris with the 2012 graduates of the St John Vianney & the Uganda Martyrs Theological Institute.  From left: Nyron Rolingson, Charmion Toussaint Lee Wing, Matthew Ragbir, Andrew Oxley Gaskin, Alando Williams (seminarian) and Bernadette Burke
Archbishop Harris with the 2012 graduates of the St John Vianney & the Uganda Martyrs Theological Institute. From left: Nyron Rolingson, Charmion Toussaint Lee Wing, Matthew Ragbir, Andrew Oxley Gaskin, Alando Williams (seminarian) and Bernadette Burke

Three of the seven are female – Bernadette Burke, Delmar Murray and Charmion Toussaint Lee Wing. Alando Williams, of St Vincent and the Grenadines, is the lone seminarian and is preparing to be ordained to the diaconate in the Diocese of Kingstown in October. The other young men are Andrew Oxley Gaskin, Matthew Ragbir and Nyron Rolingson.

In congratulating them all, Archbishop Harris said lay people were being called more and more to put their gifts, talents and knowledge at the service of the Kingdom of God. To further God’s reign, he urged the graduates to be agents of harmony, seek the justice of God always, break down walls of separation and defend the poor. He told them they would encounter opposition but if they persevered, they would find complete joy.

Archbishop Harris also instructed them about love, saying it was often defined as an emotional attachment but it was really a determination of the will. He said an authentic disciple was one who had a loving relationship with God. And for that person, he added, there could be nothing greater than building God’s Kingdom, the features of which were justice, peace and harmony. He still advised the graduates to become emotionally involved with God as this would make the loving a little bit easier in difficult moments. The archbishop told them that their studies weren’t meant to simply earn them a degree but to bring them to a point where their love for and emotional attachment to God would be such that they would be willing to bear hardship and persecution rather than do what was wrong. He called on the graduates to work hard to make the Archdiocese a better place and encouraged them with these words: “Let no one think less of you because of your youth” (1 Timothy 4: 12).

Ragbir, the valedictorian and a Brother of the Living Water Community, followed the path pointed out by the Archbishop. Ragbir said having been given so much, it was time for him and his fellow graduates to offer even more to the Church for the sake of the reign of God.

He added that Miroslav Volf had summarised what would be one of their major challenges: coziness with the surrounding culture that would make them blind to many of its evils so that instead of calling them into question, they would offer their own version of them – in God’s name and with good conscience.

With the help of some music-related references – which sounded throughout his address, Ragbir said: “These are rhythms which try to make us rely on power, pleasure, and ego, and not give ourselves for the poor and outcast. We think we are in harmony with the rhythm of the Gospel but may actually be a little tone deaf. My fellow graduates, we must ask God to give us the grace to hold the right balance between belonging to our culture and distance from it. It is in our culture that the Gospel becomes incarnate, instantiated through the local Church.”

Before he presented certificates to the graduating class, Rev Dr Arnold Francis, Principal and Dean of the Institute, urged them to be like the turtle, i.e. to stick their necks out and not to hide under their shells. He also advised them to hold on to their value system, work ethic, belief in God and humanity.

Fr Francis floated the idea of an Alumni Association as he urged graduates to partner with the Institute to further theological reflection and education.

Other clergy present were lecturers Msgr Robert Llanos Vicar General, Msgr Michael De Verteuil, (former seminary rector), Abbot John Pereira of Mt St Benedict, and Frs Dexter Brereton CSSp (lecturer) and Steve Duncan. Deacon Paul Bousignac proclaimed the Gospel.

In addition to relatives and friends of the graduates, the congregation at the Seminary chapel included Eve Cadette of CREDI, Patricia Ablack, secretary to the Principal, Kyler Patrick, Library assistant and Dr Everard Johnston, lecturer and librarian.

The celebration concluded with dinner. – Kathleen Maharaj

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