Dear Most Reverend Rector
Fr Evarist Shayo, Cssp
Dear Superiors and Rectors of the adjacent communities,
Members of the Teaching and non-Teaching staff,
Parents, Guardians, Friends, Students of SMS, Invited Guests, Graduates
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Rector, Fr Evarist Shayo, Cssp for inviting me at the 30th Graduation Ceremony. Thank you for giving me this honour. As you probably know I am always happy to be here at SMS as I have connections with it not only as Provincial and therefore a member of the Board of Governors, but because I love SMS.
I would like to congratulate our graduates. They are probably wondering where the years have gone or how time has moved so fast. On behalf of the Board of Governors, I bring you greetings and congratulations. The room is full of people who have come from near and far to congratulate you. All of us here are proud of you, for your accomplishments and of the goals that you have reached. This is why we have gathered here on this beautiful day to honour our graduates, who have completed three years of study, as they will soon embark on the next stage of their life’s journey.
I would also like to congratulate the Seminary for their new magazine called,“The Fountain –Education for Empowerment”. I enjoyed reading your maiden issue of April, 2018. We live in a world where it is impossible to function without education.
When I began making notes about what I should share with you today, I recalled that last year I was here sitting beside the Rector. We both complained silently and agreed that there were too many speeches and too long. Then I recalled the fate of the famous Greek philosopher, Socrates, who lived many, many years ago. Socrates was very intelligent. But Socrates gave long speeches, and his friends killed him. Since I am no Socrates ……. nor do I want to end up like him … I will be brief and to the point.
My dear graduates, your graduation takes place at a time in which the Church of mainland Tanzania is celebrating 150 years of evangelisation and of Spiritan mission. At the same time, we are also celebrating 150 years since formal education was introduced to this country. The Congregation of the Holy Ghost,otherwise known as Spiritans, were pioneers of formal education in Tanzania. Something we take for granted today. So it is an exciting time that should remain in your memories. The missionaries knew very well that education is indeed empowerment. They knew also without education one becomes powerless and as a result marginalised. As a result, today we have thousands of educated men and women who are transforming this country and beyond. Thanks to the early Holy Ghost Missionaries.
One of the famous sociologists, Emile Durkheim, whom I happen to admire, wrote that education enables us to gain an understanding of common values in society, which include moral and religious ones and self-discipline. It is my hope your education here for the past three years has enabled you to imbibe some values. It is also interesting to note that in the 19thc, Durkheim was already concerned with growing individualism that he considered to be a threat to social solidarity. Of course his position is also laden with criticism, which I do not consider to engage in here. For example, societies are not homogeneous even in the same country. If one goes to Maasai land, one will discover values that are very different from the Wasambaa of Lushoto. But the point being here is this: education empowers people and makes them participant members of society. As we celebrate 150 years of education this has been very true and the testimony stands out for all of us to see. Mwenye macho haambiwi tazama. Indeed, education whether formal or informal instils values, skills, mutual responsibility, enabling one to feel at home in his/her environment or place, it gives us a collective understanding of who we are as a people or tribe or nation, and ultimately makes us contribute to the functioning of society.
I believe as you progressed in your studies, the quest itself became the only answer, and the seeker found meaning only in the very act of seeking. One of the founding fathers of existentialist philosophy, Soren Kierkegaard, quoted from Lessing to the effect that if God were to offer him the fullness of truth in the right hand, and the constant and endless quest after truth in the left, he would choose the left hand, because the fullness of truth belongs to God alone.
Kierkegaard agreed with Lessing, a German dynamist, that truth lies in the search for an object, not in the object sought. Religious truth concerns the individual and the individual alone, and it is the personal mode of appropriation, the process of realization, the subjective dynamism that counts. Of Lessing, Kierkegaard writes approvingly. But if we are constantly occupied in the immanent striving of our own subjectivity, how are we to ascend to knowledge of a transcendent God whom traditional thought declares to be known even by reason.
Lessing and Kierkegaard declare in typical fashion that there is no bridge between historical, finite knowledge and God’s existence and nature. This gap can only be crossed by a “leap.” Faith is a completely irrational experience, and yet it is, paradoxically, the highest duty of a Christian.
Therefore, you can have two sets of students. On one hand, you can have those who have found the truth in the teachings of say, the church and they come to school simply to find out more about that truth. All they expect is to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, give them more and better arguments to proclaim these facts. On the other hand, there were those who came with very open minds, looking for answers to the deepest mysteries of life. Taking nothing for granted. They want the world, life and many other things to make sense. In other words, they are seeking and searching for truth. Theirs, was a deep, honest and sometimes agonising quest for truth.
Sometimes when you are studying philosophy or indeed other subjects, it is not that you agree with what the authors or your professor is saying, but you come to admire a particular philosopher because of the kind of questions that he raises. Not that you agree with the content of a particular philosopher, rather you liked his style, or attitude, his quest for sense. And this, I guess has to be true for us human beings but especially philosophers like you. An institute like this must prepare its students to cultivate such an attitude. You did not come here to receive readymade answers or truths and be satisfied. You came here to search and others to help you in the search. That is, the quest after truth. Every human being must in some way be troubled by the mysteries of the universe or of human existence. In fact, any serious thinker must do so. This is the place of philosophy and this is the duty of SMS to orient its students to embark on such a journey, for we do not come here seeking for the fullness of truth.
As you leave the comfort of SMS, I ask the Lord to grant you the courage of the strong, the endurance of a marathon runner, (for some of you the future might be unknown and even if it is known, it does not really matter), the hope of the young and the wisdom of the aged, and a faith that doesn’t shrink when challenged, for I do not want you to rush out there like chickens that have their heads cut off. Surely one expects that a philosopher like you will be able to withstand the storms of life. I pray that you remain close with one another as I believe you must have created a certain bond. As it is sometimes said, “turn to one each other and not on each other”.
May God who began the good journey in you bring it to fruition as you continue to seek the ultimate One, that is, the transcendent One. May SMS continue to be the Fountain of knowledge, searching and understanding.
God bless SMS. Thank you.
Fr Philip Massawe, Cssp
Province of Tanzania.