SA’s Catholic University Gives Thanks for Fruitful 20 years
The president of South Africa’s only Catholic university paid tribute to his predecessors and staff as the institution celebrated its 20th anniversary — and gave thanks to God.
Delivering a celebration address, Prof Garth Abraham said when St Augustine College in Johannesburg was founded in 1999, it was an “ambitious endeavour; some might suggest ‘foolhardy’”. Without the support of God, “I do not believe we would be where we are today.”
Prof Abraham hailed the dogged determination of St Augustine College’s founder, Schoenstatt Sister Prof Edith Raidt, and the efforts of her successors, Dr Fr Michael van Heerden and Dr Sr Madge Karecki SSJ-TOSF.
He gave thanks for the commitment and dedication of the institution’s loyal staff, both academic and administrative, all of whom have had to labour under sometimes difficult circumstances; the assistance and support of directors and trustees; the generosity of donors; and the prayers of many.
“Much has been achieved over the past 20 years,” Prof Abraham said, noting that “we have graduated 187 masters and doctoral students — more than half of whom are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds”.
For most of its 20 years, St Augustine has been a post-graduate university, but in the past few years has admitted undergraduate students.
The number of undergraduates has now exceeded the 100 mark, from a base of zero in 2015.
Although postgraduate numbers fluctuate throughout the year, they are currently in excess of 85, from a low of 51 in 2015. This, Prof Abraham said, is thanks to the support of many dioceses across South Africa, and the higher certificate in Biblical Studies – an optional requirement for the academic training of deacons — in gaining significant traction.
The Victory Park-based college now has more than 260 students registered across all its various offerings.
“We are confident about the years to come; faith and patience are demanded,” Prof Abraham said.
He said more enrolments will be won by “strenuous efforts to improve our marketing exposure — through parish and school visits, and an increasingly conspicuous social media presence”.
Two new qualifications — a higher certificate in theology and a postgraduate certificate in secondary education — and new specialisations in some of the postgraduate offerings — “should also assist in increasing registrations”, the president said.
A joint venture agreement will soon see St Augustine teaching online.
Initially, the college intends offering several short courses online—including courses aimed at maths education for both teachers and students at the secondary level and a range of introductory ethics courses progressing to some of its degree and certificate offerings.
Although St Augustine still contends with cashflow challenges, Prof Abraham noted that strategies over the past few years have yielded positive results.
The professor referred to Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which said the Catholic university has always been recognised as “an incomparable centre of creativity and dissemination of knowledge for the good of humanity”.
Prof Abraham said: “St Augustine is deeply honoured to be part of the tradition to which Pope John Paul refers. With the help of our many friends and supporters, St Augustine remains committed to its ‘privileged task’. We give thanks.”