PASTORAL LETTER – APRIL 2018 BY BISHOP VICTOR PHALANA
DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS
BECOMING AN “E” DIOCESE
Two years ago I was in Rome at a special seminar for bishops. During that seminar I got an inspiration to lead our diocese to become an “E” diocese. During the Mass of the 200 years of Catholicism in South Africa and the 40 years since we became a diocese, I requested all of us to be part of turning this diocese into an”E” Diocese.
The programmes we have in the diocese must assist in this project: Renew Africa, Catechesis, Marriage and Family Life, Youth Ministry, Sodalities, Lay Ministries, Committees, Caritas, Justice and Peace must contribute to this new venture.
1. ENCOUNTER GOD – we are called to be a diocese of Encounter. God deeply desires a personal relationship with each one of us. He desires fellowship and communion witheach of us as He did with Adam, Eve and Moses among others (Gen 5:22, Job 29:4, Isaiah 41:8; James 2;23; Rom 5;10-11, Acts 13:12; Exodus 33: 17-23; Exodus 24: 9-11, 1 John 3:2; Numbers 12;1-8 and John 15).Ourprayer andworshipprovide a place of meeting with God. Our Liturgy is a special moment of encounter. Psalm 100:4-5 says ‘Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with songs of praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For Yahwe is good, and He is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations”.
On 15 November 2017, Pope Francis said during his audience: “Praying, as every true dialogue, is also knowing how to be in silence — in dialogues there aremoments of silence — in silence together with Jesus. When we go to Mass, perhaps we arrive five minutes early and begin to chat with the person next to us. But this is not the moment for small talk; it is the moment of silence to prepare ourselves for the dialogue.
It is the moment for recollection within the heart, to prepare ourselves for the encounter with Jesus. Silence is so important! Remember what I said last week: we are not going to a spectacle, we are going to the encounter with the Lord, and silence prepares us and accompanies us. Pausing in silence with Jesus. From this mysterious silence of God springs his Word which resonates in our heart.
Jesus himself teaches us how it is truly possible to “be” with the Father and he shows us this with his prayer. The Gospels show us Jesus who withdraws to secluded places to pray; seeing his intimate relationship with God, the disciples feel the desire to be able to take part in it, and they ask him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1)”.
We encounter God in the Sacraments, in the Proclamation of the Word, in the Prayer of the Church and in the works of charity. That Encounter leads to communion, friendship, transformation and holiness. It is important that our diocese works hard to make its churches, liturgies, prayer sessions, Bible Studies, Sodalities, etc., places where people can encounter the living God, the life-giving God and the answering God.
I have been privileged to go through experiences of New Evangelization which helped me to be able to say: “I AM LOVED! GOD IS LOVE! GOD IS MY FATHER, MY DADDY! HIS LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL! I LOVE HIM AND I SURRENDER ALL TO HIM. I LIVE BECAUSE OF THIS SPECIAL COMMUNION WITH GOD”. I invite you to encounter Him as well.
2. ENCOUNTER ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST. We belong together. We need each other. We are taught by God to love one another 1 Thes 4:9ff. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Rom 15:7. Pope Francis says “Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends – renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the Cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of face to face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interactions”.
The Pope continues: “True faith in the Incarnate Son of God is inseperable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness (Evangelii Gaudium 88).
Chiara Lubich gave us a simple way of making this communion a reality: She said a) Be the first to love, do not wait to be loved. b) Love everyone. Do not discriminate, do not classify people, love everyone. Our love must be universal, without prejudices. c) Love as Jesus Loved.
So from Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia and Chiara Lubich’s art of loving we learn:
– Love everyone: Love everyone equally as they need to be loved. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love accepts each person just as they are (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])
– Be the first to love: Take the initiative, without waiting for someone else to love first. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love constantly opens doors (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])
– Share the other’s hurt or joy: Share the other person’s worries, hurt or joy. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love puts us in the other person’s shoes (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])
– Love the other as yourself: Treat others as you would like to be treated. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love imitates Jesus’ own gentleness (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])
– Love your enemy: if someone hurts you, respond with love! (Chiara Lubich)
– Love never gives up (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])
– We love one another: Love generates love. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love builds bonds with kindness (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])
Love is something we can learn. I invite our SCC’s, Sodalities, Catechetical sessions and parish groups and committees to learn and to practice the art of loving. Let us teach children as well,so that they can overcome this culture of hatred and divisions and develop a new culture of love, unity, communion, collaboration and mutual love. In this way we will truly encounter one another in love. Let us teach our children and our youth the importance of forgiveness so that they do not grow up carrying hurts and wounds of the past that can lead to bitterness and unforgiveness.
Let us show the world the joy of reconciliation. It is not enough to tolerate each other. We must reconcile and allow those who were once estranged to get together and to reconcile. We must also learn the art of conflict resolution. We need to manage our conflicts in a Christian way so that the world can learn from us that where there is goodwill, there are also solutions to problems.
3. EMPOWER: It is my dream that we can become a diocese that empowers other people to be better. Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” We must empower people in matters of faith; they need to know the Teachings of the Church. We must educate people and empower them in finances, employment, entrepreneurship, skills, credit building, cooperatives, interviewing skills, IT skills, job creation and job searching.
The Church exists to educate and to train people before they go out beyond the four walls of the church. We have many job seekers in our parishes. How do we help them? Yes, we must pray for them but it must not end there. How can we support business owners in church? Many of them end up going to fake prophets seeking empowerment because they feel neglected by their own church. We cannot celebrate when we see one of our business people fail; we need to help them to keep their businesses afloat and profitable. We must have a business directory of all Catholic business men and women and of all our professionals so that we, Catholics can be the first ones to support them.
We must find a way of empowering our politicians so that they can stand up for the truth, inspired by the values of the Gospel and by the Social Teachings of the Church. We must not celebrate when our politicians fail. We must not simply criticise them without firstly being close to them and taking time to teach them ethical leadership, selflessness and the option for the poor.
We are called upon to become once more, a teaching church. Teaching, to be sound, ought to listen to the “sense of the faithful”, which should both inform the teaching and then act as a barometer of its reception.
And how does one access this “sense of the faithful”? By listening, having conversations, setting up systems and structures like assemblies and synods to tap into the faith of the baptised – including the young and the disaffected. It is in this spirit that we have to take seriously the call of our Bishops’ Conference for youth Synods in each and every diocese this year. I am waiting for youth structures to be in place so that we can start with preparations for that Synod.
We need to empower youth with leadership skills and with what we call the ABCDE method of the Youth For Evangelization. A= Abstain. B= Be faithful to your partner, your family and church values. C= Change your behaviour and Convert. D= Develop your skills, develop your yourself and focus on a better future. E= Evangelize your peers and the whole world.
This is what Pope Francis has called the imperative of “real and not just token consultation”, the introduction of a culture of dialogue within the church, a synodal approach at all levels of church life, including the local church. And this includes a dialogue with wider, secular society, since, as Vatican II taught, we can both teach and learn from this wider society.
Empowerment makes people realize that they can change their own situation – it
addresses marginalization and exclusion. Once people living in poverty realize their rights and entitlements (they are simply unaware) and are provided access to requisite services, they take action to change their situation. Empowered youths take steps to prevent violation of their rights.
We have worked with youths to make them aware of trafficking under the cover of promises for fake jobs, child marriage, child labour and risk of HIV/AIDS, and the process led to movements against childmarriage and peer led communication to reduce spread of HIV/AIDS. We empower the youth on Environmental issues through the study and implementation of Laudato Si. We need to empower our Small Christian Community leaders, Parish Pastoral Councils, Parish Finance Committees, Women and the laity in general. Acts 1:8 says “You will receive power when the Spirit comes to you and will be my witnesses”. We need to empower our people for service and for ministry.
4. ENLIGHTENMENT: God is a mystery. Christ is the mystery of God and manifests Him. The Church is the mystery of Christs, manifests Him in the flesh. We should no longer be in darkness. We should no longer live in ignorance. Be enlightened to enlighten others. I am happy when I meet someone, as I travel through our diocese, who says: ‘I am enlightened!”.
Acts 26:18 “To open their eyes, to turn them form darkness to light and from the authority of satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.”
Eph 5:8 “For you were once darkness but are now light in the Lord, walk as children of light”.
In our diocese and in the whole country, many people are deceived by fake prophets, charlatans and sangomas. When will they receive enlightenment? Jesus came and was light of the world. He enlightened us all concerning God’s purpose and God’s intention, so we as kingdom people are the light of the world, letting Jesus shine through us for others.
We must be enlightened and then we shine. Our minds must be enlightened and enlivened by correct knowledge concerning the Lord. We will be enlightened and enlivened by divine truths, by the Spirit of the Lord and by goodness.
Only in the Spirit will our “minds be enlightened so that we can truly perceive what hope God’s call holds for us, and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised through us believers”. It is not easy. I must confess that there are moments when I am encouraged and there are times when I am full of doubts and I feel discouraged. During those times, we need the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened. We need deeper seeing. We are growing in our intimacy with God. We can walk with God in deep trust.
It is going to take a lot of evangelization, deliverance and catechesis to take our people out of their reliance on prophets, ‘bommamosebeletsi’, mediums and sangomas. As I travel right through the diocese I meet many of our people who are consulting them and are wearing their charms and necklaces, including babies! I am seriously troubled by this. I have lost people who have gone to “thwasa’ and to be initiated as traditional healers. I am troubled by this. I do not want to bring simple answers to difficult questions.
I believe that that through evangelization, deliverance and deep catechesis people will opt to be empowered in the Spirit and not in traditional methods of healing and by being consecrated to ancestral spirits. We respect ancestors in the Catholic Church but we do not consecrate ourselves to them so that they can take over, possess us and use us for healing and for other things. We are consecrated in the Spirit of the living God. I trust that the Seasons of Renew Africa will do this type of Evangelization, where people can Encounter Christ and the Spirit in a new way and understanding Christian healing and how different it is from traditional healing.
One of the groups of sisters who will be coming to the diocese is charismatic. I visited one of the parishes with them in February and they saw for themselves when people started to manifest all types of spirit possession during mass. They are determined to come back to enlighten our people and take them out of the darkness of the occult and witchcraft. I am going to recommend Life in the Spirit seminar and the charismatic renewal to all those who are troubled by ancestral spirits, evil spirits, demonic spirits, alien spirits and psychosomatic issues.
That is the solution I will offer them and they will be healed; they will be set free and they will be delivered once and for all. I will recommend Christian healing, the healing of emotions and the proper use of Sacramentals for adults and children, for protection, so that they do not have to rely on other powers, other churches and on methods opposed to their Catholic faith. Please pray for us. Renew Africa has a special season on healing and I cannot wait for us to do that together as a diocese.
6. EVANGELIZATION: Renew Africa has a special season for Evangelization. For our diocese, I pray and hope that we will take the call for evangelization seriously. Mt 28:19-20 says “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations’ baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”. Let me summarize what I believe are main points of evangelization:
i) Evangelization is the responsibility of all Christians, not only the clergy.
ii) The message of evangelization is Christ and the Gospel.
iii) The target ambience of evangelization is believers and unbelievers alike.
iv) Evangelization occurs when we give witness by words and deeds.
v) Evangelization is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, accomplished with human cooperation.
I hope we will be able to establish evangelized parishes. You are an evangelized parish when you find yourself in a never-ending process of hearing the Gospel and being formed by it. An evangelizing parish is bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself. We have a duty to evangelize. Yes, the primary dynamic for evangelization is the Holy Spirit. The primary message is the Good News of God’s love for the world and the fact the Jesus is our Redeemer!
Evangelizers believe that they are loved by God and want to share the Good News with others. Evangelization occurs when we live the Gospel. Evangelized evangelizers will be seen by their fruits: An increase in prayer life, devotions and visible sign of the journey towards sainthood, active participation in church life, a spirit of volunteerism, community life and a thriving worshipping community.
1. An evangelizing parish is convinced that they have a precious gift to share – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
All Catholic parishes have an evangelizing purpose. It is a temptation to get comfortable with those who are already with us and become consumed with their needs forgetting that many more have not yet accepted the Good News. Some parishes go on autopilot, becoming so occupied with raising money, conducting programs and social events that they lose their focus. Jesus and his Gospel offer meaning and purpose for life, something to believe in and hope for. Pope Paul VI made it clear that unless the Good News of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, there is no real evangelization. An evangelizing parish is confident and focused.
2. An evangelizing parish listens to God’s word in the Scriptures.
Evangelizing parishes allow themselves to be encouraged and challenged by God’s Word. Despite the misconceptions held by many fundamentalist Christians, every aspect of Catholic life – beliefs, devotions, moral and social teaching, and worship are all grounded in the Scriptures. Catholics are using the Bible in personal prayer and group sharing, along with the three year cycle of Bible readings for the Sunday Liturgy. Both preachers and music ministers should know how to use the Bible to comfort those who are hurting and to challenge the parish to the next level of outreach.
3. An evangelizing parish celebrates God’s action in people’s lives through the Eucharist and other sacraments.
Because Catholics have a sacramental worldview they recognize that spiritual rebirth happens every day and they celebrate that on the Lord’s Day. Catholics view life through the lens of God’s Word and consider God’s action in their lives. It is Christ who they join with in the Eucharist; it is Christ who baptizes at the font; it is Christ who forgives through the sacrament of Penance; it is Christ who unites a couple in Matrimony. These sacraments must include the reading of Scripture in their celebrations in order to connect the ongoing work of Christ with the human situation.
4. An evangelizing parish reaches out to the hurting and hopeless.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus was moved with compassion toward anyone in pain. People experience as much social alienation now as ever before. The amount of pastoral care needed in a parish cannot be accomplished by any single priest or sodality. Evangelizing parishes mobilize the people of God through a variety of ministries that includes soup kitchens, supporting the bereaved, conducting retreats and prayer groups for those with health problems. In times of community tragedy or natural disaster, the church, through Caritas is often the gathering place for prayer and consolation for those people most affected. Evangelizing parishes extend the compassion of Christ to all those in need.
5. An evangelizing parish works for justice.
Evangelizing parishes promote the rights and dignity of all people, especially those in poverty or marginalized in society. Throughout history, the Church has been most credible in its witness when it has stood with the poor. Some parishes sponsor soup kitchens, jersey and shoe collections, food collection, food hampers, water boreholes and justice and peace initiatives. Some parishes support cooperatives. Some parishes support poor families for funerals and other disasters. Some parishes support victims of rape and abuse. Some support marches for service delivery. Some challenge municipalities and government on issues of corruption. Some support He For She campaign against women and child abuse. Some fight the scourge of Human Trafficking, hunger, poverty, unemployment, retrenchments and the disasters from the mines. There is no dichotomy between faith and politics for an evangelizing parish.
6. An evangelizing parish announces the Good News and invites people to know Jesus in the Catholic faith community.
Many people are asking the big questions of life. They are spiritual seekers who want to feel God’s presence and struggle to know how. Spiritual seekers will find a church that address these questions in a humble and non-doctrinaire fashion as a valuable resource. An evangelizing parish provides access to a variety of spiritual experiences. It may host concerts, Small Christian Communities, Renew Africa, Heartlines and other programmes. An evangelizing parish equips people with a credible faith who will take the initiative to reach out to those who are enquiring about our faith or those who have left and ask the spiritual questions: What helps you make sense of life? What do you believe about God/Jesus? Do you ever pray? Do you ever think of coming back? What would you need?
7. An evangelizing parish is a welcoming community.
It connects with people, welcomes people and retains people. In a word these parishes are sticky. Evangelizing parishes go out of their way to invite neighbours to experience their community. These parishes take time to get to know visitors. On Sundays, visitors are welcomed and then introduced to the parish.
In some cases where we have new developments, squatter camps and RDP’s. Parishioners go out searching for Catholics and giving information about the address and mass times. They also invite non-Catholics to join the RCIA.In a parish like St Michael, there is tea for all after Mass and this is done as a way of welcoming new people as well. These parishes give everyone a chance to do what they do best as part of a ministry in the church. Newcomers are invited to be part of a small Christian communities or a faith-sharing group so that they can have a friendly, supportive and challenging experience of church.
Evangelization should be the organizing principle for all ministries and activities in the parish. When the pastor and the PPC are convinced of the importance of evangelization as the organizing framework for the parish, it is essential to inform and inspire the entire parish community. Many Catholics are unfamiliar with what Catholic evangelization means. Help them to learn through homilies, bulletin inserts, Mass intercessions, Lenten talks and workshops or seminars.
7. ENDURANCE: While I was preparing for the Chrism Mass, I realized that we needed to include a last E, which is Endurance. St Peter says:
“12. My dear friends, do not be taken aback at the testing by fire which is taking place among you, as though something strange were happening to you; 13. But in so far as you share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, so that you may enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.” 1PETER 4:12-13
The Trials and Tests We Encounter
Below are brief descriptions of eight types of tests that every Christian will likely face:
• Fiery trials: intense encounters or struggles; bursts of anger, grief, or lust
• Infirmities: physical limitations and illnesses
• Reproaches: ridicule and rejection on account of faith or holiness
• Persecutions: harassment and oppression due to religious convictions
• Necessities: wear and care of daily responsibilities
• Distresses: disappointments and deep hurts
• Tribulations: unusual pressures and challenges
• Temptations: opportunities to yield to our sinful nature
Your Response Makes All the Difference
The Apostle Paul regarded these “tests” as opportunities to grow spiritually. Instead of despairing when he encountered trials, Paul said he would glory in his infirmities so that the power of Christ would rest upon him. (See II Corinthians 12:9.) As we, like Paul, choose to trust God and accept the grace He gives us, Christ’s character will be formed in us.
“More than that, we[a] rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.(Romans 5:3–5).
Unless you accept God’s grace to deal with suffering, inevitably you will become bitter. However, if you choose to trust God to bring about His purposes through the suffering, you can avoid the trap of bitterness and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. (See II Corinthians 5:7, Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:14–15, and II Peter 3:18.)
You can be confident that God will not allow anything to happen to you without His permission, and He will not let any “bad thing” happen that will not ultimately bring you more good than destruction. (See I Peter 4:12–13, Romans 9:14–24, Isaiah 55:8–9, Job 1:6–12, Genesis 50:20, and Psalm 121.)
How can we take advantage of these opportunities to mature spiritually? The following five responses are keys to enduring tests and trials through God’s grace:
1. Give thanks.
Sometimes being thankful in a difficult situation is the most difficult thing you can do. Yet, Scripture is very clear about this response: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). To be thankful rather than to complain takes a conscious act of the will and a sacrifice of natural desires. Psalm 107:22 appropriately speaks of this choice in terms of a sacrifice: “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.”
Unfortunately, most of us respond with murmuring or complaining when we face hardship of any kind—emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical. However, through trials, “for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”(Philippians 2:13–15).
Thanking God in all things does not mean that we thank God for evil. It means that we are thanking God for the benefits He intends for us when He allows things to happen.
Along with giving thanks, we also are instructed to rejoice in all things: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Thanking God is an act of the will, but rejoicing is a response of the spirit. Therefore, it is possible to be sad and joyful at the same time. We cannot escape the pain of a difficult situation, but we can learn to rejoice in God Himself and in the good things God will do through our suffering.
We should try to discern the positive benefits that could come about through the situation. Ask the question, Why did God allow this to happen? Tests and trials give us opportunities to come to know God better and to bring glory to God.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”. (Romans 8:14–18).
When you experience a trial, choose—by faith—to put your trust in God. This choice will help you be more objective and consequently more alert to the reasons why God may have allowed the trial to occur. As you deal with the difficulties, remember the following truths:
• Gaining intimate knowledge of Christ exceeds the value of gaining more possessions. (See Philippians 3:8.)
• Developing stronger character is more important than getting your own way. (See Hebrews 5:8.)
• Demonstrating self-control is more heroic than dominating your competitors. (See Proverbs 25:28.)
• Eternal treasures are more valuable than earthly riches. (See Matthew 19:21.)
3. Cry out to God.
Perhaps the greatest reason God has for taking us through the trials of life is to bring us to the firm conclusion that we need God. What is God’s purpose in giving us commands that seem impossible to carry out? He desires to work powerfully through our lives; therefore we must learn to depend on Him. He alone must become our source of strength, provision, protection, and direction.
5. Overcome evil with good.
Jesus gave His disciples a clear set of instructions about responding to those who made life miserable for them. (See Matthew 5:44.) These directions are completely opposite to what we would naturally do:
• Love your enemies.
• Bless those who curse you.
• Do good to those who hate you.
• Pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.
Such responses would never be a person’s natural tendency, but they do reflect the heart of God: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
If you react to a person who offends you and become bitter toward him, you actually put yourself in an emotional prison. Bitterness will control your thought life, your emotions, your free time, and your health. In order to be freed from this prison, you must forgive.
Scripture provides many examples of those who forgave offenders, including Job, Stephen, and Jesus Christ:
• Job’s companions were about to encounter God’s wrath, but Job prayed for them and God delivered Job: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends . . .” (Job 42:10).
• Stephen prayed for God to forgive his murderers, even as they were stoning him: “And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”(Acts 7:59–60).
On the 7th of May 2013, Pope Francis in his morning homily commented on Acts 16, in which St. Paul and Silas were persecuted and thrown in jail for proclaiming the Gospel.
But they “were joyful because they followed Jesus on the path of his passion, a path the Lord traveled with patience,” he added. “This does not mean being sad. No, no, it’s another thing.”
“This means bearing, carrying the weight of difficulties, the weight of contradictions, the weight of tribulations on our shoulders: this Christian attitude of bearing up, of being patient.”
“This is a process — allow me this word, ‘process’ — a process of Christian maturity, through the path of patience; a process that takes some time, that you cannot undergo from one day to another. It evolves over a lifetime, arriving at Christian maturity. It is like a good wine.”
The Pope observed that many martyrs were joyful as they approached their final moments, such as the martyrs of Nagasaki who helped each other as they “waited for the moment of death.”
Some of those men and women went to their martyrdom as if they were going to a “wedding party,” he said. This attitude of endurance, he added, is a Christian’s normal attitude, but it is not masochistic. It is an attitude that leads them “along the path of Jesus.”
200 YEARS OF CATHOLICISM IN SOUTH AFRICA
25 June 2017 marked the beginning of the Bicentennial of the Church in South Africa. Cape Town like our diocese and many others had their own celebration on the 200 years of Catholicism in South Africa. Cape Town had a Choral Music Festival dedicated to this event, they had a Eucharistic Procession and Deanery celebrations.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, His Grace Stephen Brislin, has extended an invitation to diocesan delegates from Southern Africa (SACBC AREA) to be part of the Bicentennial Closing Mass on Sunday 24 June 2018 at the University of Stellenbosch. 24 June is a Sunday. We will put together a package for our diocese to see how much it will cost. Those who would like to make their own travel arrangements must please let the chancery know. We are supposed to submit a number of attendees. On our part, we will book a special train-coach, exclusive for the diocese and we will also book accommodation in one of the Catholic Pastoral centres in Cape Town. We will have to hire a bus and take this opportunity for a tour of Cape Town. We will let you know as soon as possible and you will have to indicate if you are interested.
NEW VISION OF SACBC IN THE LIGHT OF THE 200 YEARS OF CATHOLICISM IN SOUTHERN AFRICA.
The new vision of the draft pastoral plan of SACBC says: ‘ We, the church, the family of God in Southern Africa commit to work together with others for the good of all, by responding to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, through Worship, Proclamation of the Word of God, Formation, Advocacy, Human Development and Care of Creation and the Environment. We have 5 themes which will be part of our Vision Document: RACISM, CULTURE, LAITY AND CLERGY, CREATION, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE.
OUR LADY OF MERCY SHRINE: JOHANNESBURG
WE ARE ALL INVITED TO MAGALIESBERG – THE SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF MERCY IN JOHANNESBURG FOR THE CELEBRATION OF 200 YEARS OF CATHOLICISM IN SOUTH AFRICA. IT IS THE EVENT OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF JOHANNESBURG. THEY INIVITE US TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ROSARY AT 10 AM FOLLOWED BY HOLY MASS. 21 APRIL 2018.
WORLD YOUTH DAY – PANAMA
I would like to invite Your Parish to consider sponsoring one young person to go to Panama in January 2019 for the World Youth Day. I attended the World Youth Day in Poland together with the Youth Chaplain without young people. This year, I hope we can send a group of youth to represent our diocese. There is a group of young people in Durban, over 20 of them who have paid the full amount and have had two retreats and two meetings to prepare themselves for the WYD. We are late. We wanted to focus on the Mini World Youth Day in Durban. The Archdiocese of Johannesburg has invited us to join them. R30 000 per person. All included.
40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DIOCESE
Thank you for being part of this celebration on the 4th of February. I would like to request three things from you.
i) Organize your own celebration of the 40th Anniversary on the local parish level. Share with your parishioners the history of the diocese and the prayer for the 40th anniversary. Every parish is expected to buy an anniversary candle. They will be available on the 10th of May. Include the 200 years of Catholicism in your celebration.
ii) Look for the history of your parish. Write it down and send a copy to the diocese. Where was the first mass celebrated? How was your church built? When was your church consecrated? By whom? Do you have pictures of your parish community, old and new? Share the pictures with us, for the website.
iii) Collect a story of a Christian who, according to you has shown or manifested a missionary spirit. Who are the people in your parish, or in this diocese who have witnessed to the mission of Christ, who are known for their Christian example, their virtues and who enjoy recognition of holiness in your Christian community or in the diocese? Send their stories, Biographies, virtues and contribution to the mission of the church in this diocese to the chancery.
If you have a picture or pictures, they will be useful. Rome requests them as Pope Francis has already called for ‘AN EXTRA-ORDINARY MISSIONARY MONTH TO BE CELEBRATED IN OCTOBER 2019. This year prepares us for 2019. Please send these stories by the end of May 2018. You do not have to work alone, get some parishioners to help you. If you have a writer, let them help to put the story together. Some people are missionaries in their own countries. They have given their time, talents, resources and faith to build the kingdom of God and draw people to Christ and to His Church.
CONVERSATIONS ON RACISM
2 Chronicles 7:14 “I will hear from heaven and heal their land”.
The Southern African Bishops’ Conference has invited all Catholics to be part of the healing of the past and the creation of a new vision for South Africa. As a church we would like to contribute to the ending of racism, racial divisions, and economic inequalities. I think that racial tensions escalate at times as a result of economic hardships. Our economy is not growing and for the privileged, there is fear that changes might erode their economic privileges. For the previously disadvantaged, they fear that lack of growth means that their situation will not change.
To tackle the burning issue of Racism, the bishops have called for ‘Courageous Conversations’ that can lead to change of behaviour. Tackling racism is for me part of our Christian calling (I will share with you my homily on Good Friday where I emphasized the fact that the Blood of Christ has destroyed the wall that used to separate us). I invite Small Christian Communities, Sodalities, Faith Sharing Groups and any other group in the parish to take time and enter into those “Courageous Conversations for racial harmony and social cohesion”. In 2015 the Bishops issued a pastoral letter on Racism and they said: “ Seeking racial reconciliation and healing from social trauma because of the violence of the past centuries of colonialism and decades of apartheid, we need to dialogue and work together to bring healing”.
We are some leaflets from the Bishops’ Conference Justice and Peace to guide us on how to dialogue and how to enter into Courageous Conversations. Once that has been done, decide on an action plan. Do something positive to promote racial harmony, for example you can make friends with a family of another race or adopt a child from a less privileged background and sponsor him or her at school. You might choose to sign an Anti-Racism pledge and commit yourself to do something to end racism. In our dialogues we will be guided by the Word of God and the counsel of the bishop through the Good Friday homily.
ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC TERTIARY STUDENTS will celebrate their jubilee at St John Vianney Seminary in June 2018. All Catholic Tertiary students who are part of ACTS are requested to attend. Please make sure that in your Tertiary Institution you establish ACTS and inform the parish nearer to you. Thanks to FR Gerald OMI who has volunteered to assist the students of NW University Potch campus. I am happy to hear that most of them attend mass at St Michael on Sunday 9.30 am. Please be organized and let the chancery know about your existence and contact details.
FAMILY LIFE DESK
We have already issued invitations to families and couples to try and attend the Family Congress in Ireland in August this year. It is about R25 000 per person. I ask the priests to help us identify people who can afford to go and represent the diocese.
– I would like to have all couples preparing for Marriage to be part of the Marriage Preparation Course (Engaged Encounter Weekend). The details will be sent to the parish.
– I would like to invite our happily married couples to go for their own renewal which is the Marriage Encounter Weekend. Details will be sent to your parish.
– Do not forget to set up a Marriage and Family Life Desk in your parish.
– For your Celebration and Renewal of Marriage Vows in the parish, we recommend the 22nd Sunday of Year B. Our Diocesan Desk will assist you with ideas on how to prepare for this event. Contact them now and start preparing.
CATHOLIC MEN’S RETREAT AT TSHITANINI, THE PLACE OF BLESSED DASWA.
Catholic men from the whle of South Africa are invited to be part of this retreat from 1-3 June 2018. You can organize yourselves and attend. We will get more details from Fr Sakhi Mofokeng at the Bishops’ Conference.
SUPPORT YOUR DIOCESE
Support the diocese through your 10% from the parishes; Harvest, Gala Dinner, Golf Day and by paying for your priests’ medical aid and the insurance of your church property. The sodalities are reminded to send their R20 000 for seminaries soon. Men and Women’s forums are working hard to raise funds for the diocese. Let us support all other initiatives as our diocese is struggling to survive. Our income is much less than our expenditure and we have no other sources of support. We depend on you. We are a diocese in need of financial assistance. Of course the first assistance must come from us locally. Be generous!
THE CANONICAL ERECTION OFPARISHES IN THE COUNTRY
Is your church or parish duly erected as a parish or it is a quasi-parish. Do you have a copy of a decree describing when you were erected as a parish and by whom? Which Canon Law did they used in erecting you as a parish?
The Nuncio spoke to us at the Bishops’ Plenary and made us aware that Rome is not happy that most of our churches in Southern Africa have not been officially established as parishes and yet most priests in the Conference Area are called parish priests. Can you confirm whether you are a parish or not? Check your church records, files or archives to see this and let the chancellor know by the end of May. We will also check from the diocesan archives to see if there is any information to that effect.
I hope that all our parishes have a Renew Parish Core Community in place. I gave guidelines in the previous Pastoral Newsletter. They will be the coordinators of Renew in the parish and must set up other Renew subcommittees or teams according to guidelines. What is important now is to make sure that the Small Christian Communities are revived. Those who do not have SCC, must create Faith Sharing Group. A “SIGN UP SUNDAY” must be set aside to give parishioners a chance to sign up for Faith Sharing group. SCC’s and Faith Sharing Groups will need facilitators who will guide the Renew faith sharing. A workshop will be organized for all facilitators, so that they can be trained properly in the Renew method adopted by Renew International. Every member of the parish must belong to a Faith Sharing Group. Our Renew Faith Sharing starts only at the beginning of September 2018. In the meantime, people can already share on the reflections on “Racism and healing” from the Bishops’ Conference.
PARISH PASTORAL COUNCILS AND PARISH FINANCE COMMITTEES
I hope that you have completed your election process. I recommend that the outgoing chairperson and secretaries must put together a report with their achievements and struggles, their inspirations and downfalls. Such a report, together with the minutes and the correspondence file must be handed over to the incoming Chairperson and secretary. The Finance chairperson must give a report to the Outgoing Parish Council. Let it be approved and signed. You must share the report with the parish. A date for the change of signatures in the bank must be set. There must be no delays. I want a smooth handover in every department. Send the copy of the Chairperson’s report and the Financial report to the diocese.
THE RE-CONSECRATION OF ST PETER:
We will be re-consecrating St Peter Jouberton after the desecration of the Church. We invite only top 5 from every parish in the diocese and the Kosh Deanery. Deacons, priests and Religious sisters are also invited. Mass at 9am.
PRIESTLY ANNIVESARIES AND THE GALA DINNER
For the 30th anniversary of the bishop’s priestly ordination and the silver jubilee (25 years) of Jonathan Shand’s priestly ordination, we invite top 5 of every parish at the cathedral on the 19th of May, 10am. The clergy and religious who are free are invited to attend. We will have light refreshments after Mass. You are invited to a Gala Dinner at 4pm on the same day. Tickets for the Gala Dinner will be sent to the parishes. Those with Gala Dinner tickets can attend the Mass even if they are not part of the top 5 in the parish. Macecilia are to start the Mass from beginning to Offertory. Youth will take from Sanctus to the end. We invite the youth of Wollies Deanery to lead the Mass on behalf of the youth of the diocese.