Annual National Movement for Catholic Students’ Chaplains and Patrons Forum

By Lazarus Tawasha


This year’s Chaplains and Patrons Forum for the National Movement for Catholic Students (NMCS) was held from the 27th of June to the 2nd of July 2019 in Kariba. Fifteen participants attended: six males and nine females. Four of the participants were two Jesuit priests, Fr Mhaka SJ, the National Chaplain, and Fr Kasirori SJ as well as two sisters. Much of the business was done on a boat, which also served as a source of some leisure.


The Chaplains and Patrons Forum is held annually. The main purpose of the meeting is to create space for institutional chaplains, patrons and matrons to interact and understand the student milieu under the prevailing challenges.


The main goal of the workshop was to find ways to improve the environment for the integral development of students. The workshop was characterized by three daily sessions of discussions, with some leisure moments of fishing, boat cruising, game viewing and networking. 


The participants were drawn from the five regions that make up the NMCS. Institutions represented at the forum were Masvingo Polytechnic, Masvingo Teachers’ College, Bondolfi Teachers’ College, Great Zimbabwe University, Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), University of Zimbabwe, Belvedere Teachers’ College, Harare Polytechnic, Lupane State University, National University of Science and Technology and Midlands State University. 


The workshop focused on faith sharing, an assessment of the operations of the various institutions, chaplaincy success stories and challenges. This shed light on the problems that students face, with the view of finding ways to overcome them. The platform was also used to evaluate previous student conferences since 2018 in order to check on how student behaviour is improving at such gatherings as well as laying a foundation to plan for the 2019 student annual convention.


Among the highlights of the meeting were positive results echoed by the Bulawayo and Masvingo Region. Four new female matrons volunteered to work with catholic students in the respective regions. Of notable success was an increase in the number of nuns serving as matrons for the first time in history of the NMCS. Their names are Sr Regina Chinyani, Sr Sabelo Nyathi and Sr Shilla Chinaa who work with CUT, Lupane and Mutare students respectively.


Various events that occur at the institutions were discussed which include pilgrimages, charity works, recollections, clean-up campaigns, tree planting and social outings in which the patrons and matrons accompany their students. Most of the patrons mentioned that the students in their care are orderly, very active and disciplined and have exhibited mature behaviour lately. In addition, it was highlighted that Bishops and institutional administrations render great support to catholic students’ activities.


Challenges highlighted included a low commitment of most of the chaplains who are also parish priests. However this challenge seems to be countered by their female counterparts who are assisting as student advisers. In this way they help to shoulder the burden of priests who have demanding parish commitments. It was noted that students face financial challenges when it comes to organising national gatherings. However, the National Chaplain promised to cushion 50% of the costs to enable catholic students to attend national conventions. The patrons and matrons shared ideas on how to balance work commitment with their role as student advisors, since this is a significant challenge.


It was suggested that one way to overcome this challenge is to plan ahead and diarise events in order to prioritise chaplaincy work. Regular communication, including faith sharing on the WhatsApp platform was also emphasised as well as the importance of attending student activities.


The forum wrapped up with a preliminary planning for the upcoming student conference slated for August 2019 in Bulawayo. Good progress has been made in securing the venue for the conference at St. Augustine’s Major Seminary. The patrons and matrons used the platform to formulate the topics and activities as well as suggesting suitable facilitators. One of the topics of discussion will be related to stress and depression management. This is necessitated by the incidences of suicide among students.


The patrons and matrons also encouraged each other to vet the background of the students who will be campaigning for the posts of the national executive office so that deserving students who are committed can be voted into office.