St. Joseph Theological Institute at Cedara, Republic of South Africa, is celebrating 25 years as a separate institution. Until the end of 1989, it was the “academic part” of St. Joseph’s Oblate Scholasticate. The scholasticate was founded in 1943 and started with a philosophy programme; when the first students had completed their 2-year philosophy programme, a theology programme was developed.
At first the only students in the programme were Oblates of Mary Immaculate, but soon some diocesan seminarians also joined. These simply joined the Oblate Scholasticate community. This pattern continued for many years. In 1971, the Dominicans started sending their students to Cedara; this move was followed by the Archdiocese of Cape Town for their Coloured seminarians; then came other male religious institutes: the Franciscans, the Capuchins, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and others. From the mid-seventies, more communities joined us: Sacred Heart missionaries, Benedictines, Mariannhill Missionaries, Spiritans and others. The first Sister joined us in 1975. All of these were members of one formation community, St. Joseph’s Oblate Scholasticate.
By the 1980’s, the number at the scholasticate was reaching 50 members and it looked as if the number was still going to increase. The idea developed to invite those Congregations with larger numbers to start their own separate communities near Cedara. The first to adopt this idea were the Redemptorists who were forced to sell their monastery in Pretoria to the University. In 1984, they moved into their own quarters. This example inspired others to make the same move and so the Dominicans, the Mariannhill Missionaries, the Oblates of St. Francis, the Capuchins, the Spiritans and others all moved into their own communities.
By 1989, the Oblate Scholasticate had only Oblates. The Superior of the Oblate Scholasticate, Fr. (now Bishop) Barry WOOD was still the Rector of the academic program. However, the idea was being discussed that the academic programme be run by a body separate from the Oblate Scholasticate administration. During that year, a whole day was devoted to discussions with students, lecturers and superiors of Religious Institutes to reflect on these matters. By the end of that day, it was clear that the way forward was the establishment of a separate body to run the new entity which was eventually called St. Joseph’s Theological Institute. The Oblate major superiors of the Region were asked to work out the details and appoint a new administration with a President under a Board of Directors (which later was called the Board of Members). It was decided at that point that the Board should be made up of the 5 OMI major superiors and 3 major superiors of other participating communities.
Fr. Paul DECOCK was named the first President. Fr. Jock Earle, SJ, became the Dean of Studies and, with his experience in running Jesuit schools in England and as a former Jesuit provincial there, he was a great help. With about a hundred students, St. Joseph’s Theological Institute began in 1990 as a new academic venture, but it had nearly 50 years of experience to rely on. (Paul B. Decock in OMI Natal Newsletter, January – September 2015)