Identity of ACTS


The elements of the identity of ACTS have emerged over many years within the context of a process of life rather than being decided upon by a small group of individuals. The following represent the most important aspects of its identity, whilst acknowledging that other elements could develop over time.

Initially, National Catholic Federation of Students (NCFS) was the only Catholic student body in South Africa, however, this changed when students attending black campuses broke away in the early seventies to form Catholic Students Association (CASA). Consequently, CASA then existed at historically black campuses whereas NCFS existed at historically white campuses.

After a difficult and lengthy process, one association of Catholic students; Association of Catholic Tertiary Students (ACTS) was formed in 1993.

The following is a framework depicting the elements of ACTS as a student-driven faith community within the local Church.



The organisation is Catholic and is guided by the Pastoral Plan of the SACBC to evangelise. Non-Catholics may belong to the organisation but not within the leadership of the organisation. All chairpersons, provincial representatives and national executive members are to be confirmed and practicing Catholics.

Each Branch of ACTS is called to become a faith community, that is, to become a living and believing community seeking to achieve the following:

  • Understanding and support in their struggle to be Christians wherever they are.
  • Formation in ethics and the moral virtues, for example, honesty and integrity.
  • Education on how to be responsible citizens in civic, social, economic and political life.
  • Reflection on how to address the social ills in various communities with awareness of the social teachings of the Church and the see, judge, and act methodology.
  • To learn together how to witness to their Christian faith in Jesus by their behaviour and speech.
  • Formation in spirituality and prayer.
  • To create a network of friends who speak with the voice of Christ in service of others.

This community is where students should experience a sense of acceptance, belonging and love.


ACTS, nationally, functions within the auspices of the Youth Office under the Department Laity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference. The ultimate responsibility of ACTS lies with the Bishop responsible for the Youth acting in conjunction with the National Chaplain of ACTS.

Provincially and locally, the organisation lies within the auspices of the Metropolitan/ Cluster /Diocesan /Parish youth chaplaincy and therefore, strong links should be developed and maintained by the local Provincial /Branch Chaplain with the Metropolitan /Cluster /Diocesan /Parish youth


As part of the local Church, ACTS is challenged to participate in the development of the local Church by appropriating the pastoral plan of being an evangelising community serving God, humanity and all creation. The organisation should be a vehicle of inculturation whereby faith and African indigenous culture are given space to develop a local Church free from its colonial past.

As a student organisation of young people, ACTS should involve itself in the youth ministry structure of the SACBC and should see itself as a section of the youth that forms part of the youth of the local Church.


ACTS is the name for National Movement of Catholic Students (NMCS) – South Africa. ACTS is part of the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS), which has its head office in Paris. South Africa is part of the Pan-African Region with its African coordinating office in Nairobi.

The region of Africa is divided into four sub-regions, namely: Western, Central, Eastern and Southern. The IMCS Sub-Region of Southern Africa includes the following countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


ACTS is the name for National Movement of Catholic Students (NMCS) – South Africa. ACTS is part of the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS), which has its head office in Paris. South Africa is part of the Pan-African Region with its African coordinating office in Nairobi.

The region of Africa is divided into four sub-regions, namely: Western, Central, Eastern and Southern. The IMCS Sub-Region of Southern Africa includes the following countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


ACTS is an academic organisation that engages in critical analysis of the dominant ideas and trends of the times, trying to contribute to the development of justice, peace, and human rights.

As aspiring academics, ACTS should critically reflect on matters of social and political importance through research, debates and drawing from the social teachings of the Church.


The organisation is non-sexist and gender issues are important to all Branches. ACTS is called to challenge patriarchy and violence against women and children, promoting and reclaiming the dignity of all according to the image and likeness of God.

ACTS is a non-racial student organisation. Non-racialism with the realisation that South Africa is part of Africa and that we are developing a student
organisation within the context of a developing African Church.


The organisation will remain neutral with regards to political affiliation so that all students belonging to various political backgrounds can find a home within ACTS.

In terms of the ‘interior rules and procedures of the Pan African International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS)’, ACTS whether nationally, provincially or locally, may not be affiliated with a political party.

However, it must be emphasized that this does not mean there should be no involvement in political matters. Rather, ACTS should address all issues, but its stance as an organisation to any political issue should be shared in the light of the truth as understood within the Gospel and Church teachings and not based simply on the views of a political party.


Whilst realizing that each institution of higher education faces different problems, it is essential that ACTS attempts to look at the signs of the times which in some way affect the organisation.
The following is an attempt to list some of the challenges that are present within the South African context:

The primary sign of the times: The process of transformation in South Africa.
Whilst ACTS is challenged to engage itself with the trends within the global context, namely the issues surrounding feminism, ecology and the search for the spiritual especially as manifested within the new age movement, the primary sign of the time within the South African context is that of participating in the process of transformation by contributing to its reconstruction and development, addressing the imbalances of the past. As a tertiary student organisation ACTS is challenged to attempt to change the mind-set of resistance to the apartheid state to that of the development of an
African country free of its colonial past whilst at the same time being non-racial. This implies that where possible all ACTS Branches should try to participate in the broad transformation forum of the local institution of higher education. The organisation should attempt to become an agent of transformation on the campus attempting to be part of the process of shifting local institutions from that of Eurocentric bodies to that of African centred institutions.

Implications, for ACTS, resulting from the transformation process of South Africa Holistic Paradigm
South African society and thereby ACTS is challenged to be aware of the global shift from a masculine dominated paradigm to a holistic paradigm through the inclusion of what is an ecological and feministic mind-set. Such a holistic paradigm calls for a new look at all aspects of life including, for example, the understanding of leadership and authority; the relationship between masculine and feminine values; the role of technology and the inclusion of emotional. ACTS is thereby challenged whether nationally, provincially or locally to be sensitive to a holistic outlook when dealing with all issues of the organisation especially with regards to gender issues.

Identity crisis among young people
At dawn of the year 2000, we live in a global village with the result that a uniform culture based on economic domination is developing throughout the world especially in Africa. The danger exists that the youth will lose their identity by being flooded with foreign values through the media. The issue
which ACTS as a student organisation will have to address is that the process of “de-Africanisation” will largely be carried out by the youth themselves.

Economic empowerment
The issues relating to economic empowerment which ACTS need to look at, are amongst others, as to how the organisation should address poverty amongst students; the lifestyle of members, generally or, for example, the relationship between privileged and poor students at national gatherings.

Ultimately ACTS needs to engage itself around the issue of the redistribution of wealth so that a more equitable society can emerge and added to this, debate and discussion should be encouraged around the questions of economic policy, for example National Development Plan (NDP)

Youth unemployment
One of the major issues facing all young people including graduates is that of unemployment. The issue facing all young structures including ACTS is, whether the organisation can attempt to provide its members but possibly also young women and men in general with a wide range of vocational and life skills to equip them to find employment or to create employment for themselves. Since many of our young people come from rural areas, ACTS will advocate for rural development to create employment for young people.

Spiritual and moral renewal
During the eighties and early nineties, most of the youth of the country was focused on the issue of ending apartheid by to a large extent making the country ungovernable. Now that through democracy legitimacy exists within the country, it is the responsibility of youth leaders to ensure that a re-
orientation of the young people of the country takes place through the re-claiming of spiritual and moral values. Where possible ACTS at a local level should set-up “faith-sharing” groups where students can try through discussion and prayer to integrate their life experiences and faith as they grapple and struggle with the God of Life on their spiritual journey.

Ecumenical / Inter-Faith
It was the experience of the youth structures during the eighties and early nineties that the Christian Churches together with other Faith Communities could form a unified body of resistance against apartheid. However, with the emergence of democracy in 1994, the ecumenical movement has had to
re-discover its role in general but also the role, played by institutions of higher education. Where possible ACTS locally should attempt to be instrumental in developing “Religious Student Councils” so that an inter-faith body can play a meaningful role within student structures. Where possible ACTS should also try to involve itself in the activities of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) Youth Forum and thereby be part of the youth ecumenical body.

Possibly the issue of land does not affect ACTS directly, however, it is important for students to be aware of the issue of land especially the issue of equal redistribution for the benefit of all and therefore, where possible, debates, research and discussions around the reclaiming of land should be encouraged.

Gender issues
Like society, ACTS inherits the patriarchal mindset and is therefore called to be prophetic in ensuring that women experience the organisation on all levels as embodying an openness to develop a mindset where both women and men are included. All committees within ACTS should reflect the sensitivity to gender and where possible ACTS should participate within the gender portfolios of the various SRCs.

The Challenges facing students of institutions of higher education
Educational crisis
Many of the institutions of higher education especially the historically disadvantaged institutions also referred to as the historically black institutions are facing the effects of apartheid caused through the lack of resources. Local ACTS Branches are challenged to respond to the various situations so that the
imbalances and inequities of the past can be addressed. Issues relating to curriculum development and student financing should especially be addressed by ACTS National on the level of Policy Development within the National Youth Commission and the South African Youth Council.

Challenges facing the youth, within the local Church of South Africa
Youth as a priority
As a functioning youth organisation within the auspices of the SACBC, ACTS has the responsibility to co-operate in partnership for the development of the youth of the local Church both nationally and within the dioceses. SACBC should where possible ensure that the needs of the youth are catered for and be given a high priority with regards to vision and to resources.

The fact that ACTS Branches meet as liturgical communities regularly, means that a creative space if available for experiencing liturgy as Africans whereby the full meaning of inculturation can manifest itself. As academics; reflection and discussion can accompany this process. Whilst inculturation of the liturgy must be given priority, sensitivity to include all students of different cultures must be considered. This reflection should extend beyond liturgy to include reflection on the inculturation of doctrine, spirituality, Church leadership and ministries. In fact, ACTS has the potential to become an instrument of inculturation within the local Church of South Africa.

In conclusion, ACTS has the task in the first place of being an expression of the Kingdom of God and not simply to be an institution or a structure. It is through ACTS that students studying at the various institutions of higher education in South Africa should be given the possibility of encountering the God of life through human, spiritual, doctrinal, spiritual and academic formation so that the Gospel can truly take on root within the youth culture of South Africa and thereby become relevant for the young people of the country.