News & events

Christmas Message from President and CEO of the College

Greetings from St Augustine at this, the start of the season of Advent.

Greetings from a balmy mid-summer at St Augustine.  But for occasional squawk of a pesky hadeda, all is quiet on our campus; examinations have been completed, the undergraduate students and most of the academic staff have fled for pastures livelier.  The close of our academic year and anticipation of the year ahead is mirrored in the liturgical calendar: we have celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King and have entered the season of Advent.

In opening the Advent Season by celebrating a Congolese rite Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on 1 December, Pope Francis reminds us that Advent encourages reflection and contemplation provoked by the coming of Jesus, our Emmanuel.  The Advent is ‘our point of departure’ – ‘we know, that beyond every favourable or contrary event, the Lord does not leave us alone.  He came 2,000 years ago and will come at the end of time, but he also comes today in my life, in your life. ... The Lord is never tired of us, he desires to come, to visit us.’  Thus, despite the travails we might experience as individuals, as a community here at St Augustine, as citizens of South Africa, as members of the human family, because ‘Jesus comes’, we have ‘hope’; ‘… amid the tribulations of the world the consolation of God comes to us, a consolation not made of words but of a presence, his presence that comes in our midst.’

Inspired by the message of ‘hope’, we reflect on the past year at St Augustine: it has been positive.  Student numbers in our certificate and undergraduate programmes continue to grow, while postgraduate numbers remain relatively consistent.  More noteworthy, however, is the past rate achieved in our undergraduate programme this year.  Of the 48 students who first registered for undergraduate study in 2017, 28 will graduate at our 2020 graduation ceremony: 20 BA students and 8 BTh students.  Apart from the fact that the 2020 graduation cohort equals the previous highest number of graduates achieved in 2015, the number reflects a throughput rate of over 58%.  In other words, more than 58% of those who first registered for their degrees in 2017 will graduate within the minimum period of three years.  The national average at state universities in 28.6%.  This is a remarkable achievement to which all have contributed.  We have reason to be proud.

Apart from the formal academic programme, during the course of the year, the Christian Business Leadership Course (based on the teachings of Father Josef KENTERNICH) was presented at St Augustine (the course will be offered in both semesters of 2020 [1]).  Two on-line courses were also offered, one on Mathematics for Teachers [2] and one on Business Ethics for Accountants [3]; both courses continue to gain traction.

Our academic staff contributed in a range of fora: six articles were published in accredited journals; three articles appeared in the popular press; five papers were presented at internal staff seminars; externally, 31 seminars or conferences were attended, at most of which papers were presented; Dr Judith COYLE participated in a superb podcast on ‘women’s ministry in the Catholic Church’ with Fr Russell POLLITT SJ [4]

St Augustine hosted eleven public events during the year: a film on the meeting between St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malek al-Kamil in Damietta, Egypt (co-hosted with the Turquoise Harmony Institute); two book launches (Fr Larry KAUFMAN’s Become Love, Gradual Growth and Transformation from John to Francis, and Stephanie KILROE’s Anne Hope, the struggle for freedom); and eight public lectures on a range of interesting topics.

Although financial challenges remain, thanks to the generosity of many, we will end 2019 with a slight income surplus.  Apart from the significant contribution of two anonymous donors, I wish to acknowledge the support received from the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart; the Berfred Foundation in Switzerland; Diakonia Christi Internationalis in Germany; the McKenzie Trust; the STAPLES, LAWRENSON and LEEMING Families; the Holy Family Sisters; the Schoenstatt Sisters; Wayne MEIRING; Michael STREIBEL and friends; Claire TUCKER; Robyn LYDALL; and Marc McCREEDY and the MCC Trust.  Further, I thank those of my colleagues who lecture at St Augustine without expectation of financial reward: Msgr Marc de MUELENAERE, Fr Rodney MOSS, Jimmy KYRIACOU, Trish van der NEST, Liz KRIEGLER, and Rabbi Sa’ar SHAKED.

We are hopeful that the upward trajectory will continue in 2020.  The most obvious means to ensure that this ambition is realised is to increase our student numbers.  It is not too late to register for a postgraduate qualification [5], or for the Higher Certificate in Biblical Studies [6]; both of which commence in January.  In this regard, we are very pleased to be offering an Honours degree in Theology for the first time [7].  We are still accepting applications for our Bachelor of Arts [8] and Bachelor of Theology degrees [9].  A limited number of bursaries are available to deserving undergraduate students.

In 2020 we will, once again, be hosting a number of international scholars who will contribute to our postgraduate programme: Prof Jan JANS from the University of Tilburg (‘Foundations of Ethics’, 30 March to 3 April 2020); Prof Fr Gregory WOIMBEE from the Institut Catholique de Toulouse (‘Catholic Social Teaching’, 30 March to 3 April 2020); and, Prof Fr Bryan MASINGALE SJ from Forham University (‘Human Sexuality’, 29 June to 3 July).  Anyone interested in attending these sessions for non-degree purposes is invited to register for our seasonal schools.

In 2020 we hope further to develop three Centres that aim more directly to honour our mission to contribute positively to the society in which we live.  The Virtual Maths Centre, led by Prof Michael GLENCROSS, will host a range of on-line Maths courses; a Centre for Ethical Business Leadership, led by Fr Lawrence NDLOVU, will host the Christian Business Leadership Course and the online Business Ethics for Accountants course (the Centre plans to convene a conference and offer a series of guest lectures during the new year); the initial course to be offered by the Centre for Interfaith Dialogue is an Ecumenical Preaching Course [10] (shorts courses are also planned on Judaism and Islam).

Thank you to all our friends who lend support to our ambition to become ‘an African leader in Ethical Education’, producing graduates ‘who have learnt to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better’.

Wishes to you and yours for a reflective Advent, a happy and blessed Christmas, and a joyful New Year.

Garth ABRAHAM

Garth ABRAHAM

For more information, please visit our website: www.staugustine.ac.za.

More particularly,

[1]          Christian Business Leadership 
[2]          Maths for teachers
[3]          Business Ethics for Accountants
[4]          ‘Women’s Ministry in the Catholic Church
[5]          St Augustine’s degrees and qualifications
[6]          Higher Certificate in Biblical Studies
[7]          Postgraduate Studies in Theology
[8]          Bachelor of Arts
[9]          Bachelor of Theology
[10]        Ecumenical Preaching Course
[11]        Should you wish to support St Augustine financially