Lenny Carlino, SDB
12 September 2017 - STS - Jerusalem On the September 12, 2017, the 2017-18 academic year at the Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS) Jerusalem Campus of the Salesian Pontifical University was opened by Fr Gustavo Cavagnari, SDB, Principal of the STS. Current Staff & Students gathered at the Salesian Monastery – Ratisbonne for a Celebration of the Word of God and Opening Ceremony. All of the festivities took place under the auspices of Our Lady on the optional memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary. The Celebration of the Word of God in the main Church of the Salesian Monastery – Ratisbonne, led by Rev. Fr. Odilo Cougil Gil, M. Africa, the new Rector of the Missionaries of Africa’s Jerusalem community. Fr Odilo focused his homily on the “Word become flesh” and its relation to the study of theology and life of faith in the light of revelation.
The opening ceremonies took place in Don Bosco Hall and were led by Br. Javier Orengo Quiñones, SDB (ANT; 4th year student) who acted as Master of ceremonies. The ceremonies began with Words of Welcome by Rev. Fr. Dr. Stanislaus Swamikannu, SDB, Rector of the Salesian Monastery & Professor of Salesian Studies. After welcoming the staff & students, Fr Stanislaus offered two dispositions that everyone should have for the upcoming year. “First”, states Fr Stanislaus, “to make this year both successful and fruitful, we need a desire for learning, reading, researching, reflecting, and writing.” According to Fr Stanislaus, these five characteristics will ensure that we are “doing” theology, an act of the whole person, rather than simply “studying” theology, an act only of the intellect. Second, Fr Stanislaus emphasized that our study and reflection of Theology should deepen and mature our faith through experience. Fr Stanislaus concluded his comments by entrusting the whole year to Mary, Seat of Wisdom.
Following Fr Stanislaus was the Presentation of the report of the 2016-17 academic year by Rev. Sr. Angela Ridout, SJA, Registrar of the STS. Sr Angela outlined the demographics of the student body and staff, the main events of the academic year (including the Dies Academicus, the Diploma classes & visit to the Temple Mount, 1st year study trip to Galilee, physical renovations to the STS offices, visit to the Galilee Yeshiva School, Teaching Staff Study Day, Cultural Initiative Day, & Football tournaments). Fourteen fourth year students successfully defended their baccalaureate syntheses at the end of the year, thus gaining their bachelor of theology degree. Sr Angela also highlighted the departure at the end of the year of Fr Andrew Wong, SDB, Rector of Salesian Monastery, Fr Karol Kulpa, SDB, Fr Moses Wanjala, SDB, Fr Aloysius Ssekamatte, M.Afr., and Fr Biju Michael, SDB, Principal of STS. St Angela presented these statistics and observations in light of Pope Francis’ writing on happiness.
Rev. Fr. Dr. Gustavo Cavagnari, SDB, President of the STS, was next to address the gathered body. Fr Gustavo took the opportunity to thank Fr Biju Michael and all the previous Presidents of the STS. Describing the role of the STS, Fr Gustavo said, “If the fundamental mission of every faculty is a continuous quest for the truth, through its research and the preservation and communication of knowledge for the good of society, a Catholic academic community is distinguished by the Christian inspiration of individuals and of the community itself, in the light of the faith that illuminates us […] This is particularly relevant when we talk about the theological formation of candidates to the priesthood.” Theology is and must be connected to one’s personal and social life.
Rev. Fr. Dr. Matthew Coutinho, SDB took the stage next to distribute student awards and present the new professors. Br Tiziano Conti, SDB (ICC) received the award for the highest cumulative grade in the 3rd year with a 29.64/30.00. Br Fernando Jude, SDB (LKC) received the highest marks for the 2nd year with a 27.88 and Br Parfait, M. Afr. received the award for highest marks in the 1st year with 29.90.
After the awards, Rev. Fr. Dr. Eric Wyckoff presented the 13 new students (10 SDB, 2 Missionaries of Africa, 1 OFM cap.) and looked at the demographics of our STS community this year. In total we are 58 students from 7 religious groups and 27 countries. Rev. Fr. Dr. Andrzej Toczyski, SDB presented the new professors and their work.
To conclude the ceremony itself, and on behalf of the UPS and the academic council of the STS, Fr Gustavo declared the 2017-18 academic year open. And so a new year begins here in the Holy Land.