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Embracing a new world view: Julius Katjipa, MSC

Participant in IRF

June 3, 2013


“I will be like him,” a young Julius Katjipa said to himself, referring to a local priest who was his greatest inspiration. The teachers in his hometown of Windhoek, Namibia – the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart – also inspired him with their spirit of kindness and hospitality.  Something more than childlike admiration, however, was revealing itself.

Julius was getting a glimpse into his future, which began to unfold in earnest when, after high school, he got the call from the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) inviting him to explore his vocation.

He immediately withdrew from nursing school, in which he had enrolled, and entered a process of religious formation. His orientation took him to South Africa; eventually he made his first profession as an MSC and then was ordained to the priesthood.

Fr. Katjipa served as a parish priest, but recently, his community asked him to take on the important role of formator. “Will I be good at it?” was the inevitable question. But, giving himself up to the wisdom and will of the community, he agreed.

Traveling for the first time to the United States to begin his studies at the Institute of Religious Formation (IRF) in Chicago, Fr. Katjipa said, “I was a little frightened at first. There were people rushing and the buildings are so huge!” But his apprehension gave way to gratitude. “It is a big ocean in which to swim! Everywhere I have found friendly people.”

IRF has opened up a new world to him. Living in community with male and female religious from 11 different cultures, he acknowledges, is both challenging and enriching. But he has felt strengthened and encouraged by the experience, and especially by the support he has received in the classroom. “The classes are so good,” he said. “And the other students urge me on. ‘Go for it!’ they say. ‘Go for it!’”

As a formator, Fr. Katjipa is aware that he will be coping with various issues that may include relational challenges, potentially addictive behaviors, or struggles with spiritual development. “I have to know myself in order to know someone else and be in relationship,” he said, reflecting on his training at IRF. “I journal quite a bit. And it’s also about having skills – conflict management and team building.

“My own formation was focused more on rules, and that was good in many ways,” he said. “But I am looking forward to being there for the candidate. You don’t form people who are 'misformed' – you assist people. You listen and you allow them to learn, even from their mistakes.

“I truly like Chicago,” he said. “At IRF, I had time to myself – time to reflect, time to be, time to recreate. I was my own formator. When I get back, I want to encourage people to come here to get a different experience of life. It was an open horizon. That’s the experience that I treasure.” 

For more information on IRF, visit