The Archdiocesan Missionary “Redemptoris Mater” Seminary is a completely new reality, desired by the Second Vatican Council in the decree “Presbyterorum Ordinis”, where in article no. 10 it says:
” The presbyters should remember that concern for all the Churches falls on them… and where it is necessary (because of a lack of clergy) not only a functional distribution of Presbyters should be facilitated, but also the implementation of special initiatives that will favour particular regions or nations or the whole world. To this end, the creation of International Seminaries for the good of the whole Church according to norms to be established and respecting the rights of the local Ordinary would be useful.”
In 1991, the Intercongregational Commission set up by Pope John Paul II to deal with the serious scarcity of priests in many parts of the world recognised that:
“This idea of the Council has been applied to the `Redemptoris Mater’ seminaries which prepare presbyters for the new evangelisation according to the program of the Neocatechumenal Way… this would realise a new form of ministry: the diocesan missionary.”(L’Osservatore Romano, Italian Edition, 15.3.91).
As stated in the Statutes and Rule of Life, the `Redemptoris Mater’ Seminaries are not seminaries of the Neocatechumenal Way, but real diocesan seminaries which depend on the bishop. The students in these colleges receive the same theological formation as the other seminarians of the diocese. They do a year of pastoral work in the parishes as deacons and two years in the diocese as presbyters before the Bishop can send them in mission. But if the Bishop has need of them in his diocese, he can place them where he wishes, given that they are ordained without condition.
A characteristic of these Redemptoris Mater Seminaries is that they are international: they are for the whole world and at the service of the Church.
Experience has shown that the combining of a way of initiation to the Christian life – the Neocatechumenal Way – with the formation of the presbyter is a great help for the psychological, affective and human development of the candidates. (Before being presbyters they are Christians, and in the way of faith they learn prayer, obedience, the sense of the Cross, to be in communion, etc.)
Above all, it is a help in uniting the mission with the parish, since the Neocatechumenal Way is a time of formation that finishes in the parish with living, adult, missionary communities united to the parish priest and the bishop.
As a response to the Vatican Council’s wish, the Holy Father John Paul II opened the first “Redemptoris Mater” Seminary in Rome in 1987. From then on, more than 60 similar seminaries have been erected in all the world – including the “Redemptoris Mater” of Cape Town.