MY VISION FOR THE DIOCESE AS I TAKE OVER AS BISHOP (2015)
PROVIDENCE HAS PLACED OUR DIOCESE UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF ST PETER AND ST PAUL.
ST PETER: Christ himself gave him a name Cephas or Peter. We, as Catholics, believe that Peter is the Prince of the Apostles. He is the pillar of the faith, the foundation of the Catholic Church, and he received the keys of the Kingdom from our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. The pope is the successor of St Peter. In response to Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus stated: “Upon this rock, I will build my church (Mt 16:13-20).
Despite his human weaknesses, Peter was chosen to shepherd God’s flock (John 21:15-17). St Peter spent his last days in Rome, leading the Church through persecution and eventually being martyred in the year 64 AD. He was crucified upside down, at his own request, because he told his persecutors, who were about to crucify him that he was not worthy to die as his Lord.
ST PAUL: As a youth, Saul went to Jerusalem to become immersed in the Law and had as a teacher, Gamaliel. He acquired skillsas a ‘tent-maker’ a work he continued even as an apostle. He discovered a flourishing Christian Community wherever he evangelized, a community he once persecuted. Paul came to faith in Christ around 34 AD, on his way to Damascus, to persecute Christians ((Acts 19:1-9). After his conversion, he proceeded to Damascus where he was baptized and his sight was restored. He took the name Paul and spent the rest of his life preaching the Gospel tirelessly to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean world. Paul was imprisoned and taken to Rome where he was beheaded in the year 67 AD. He is buried in Rome, in the Basilica of St Paul outside the walls.
Paul was incredibly resilient. He endured many hardships for the sake of the Gospels. He was beaten, stoned, was shipwrecked and suffered many sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, cold exposure and terrible anxiety (2Cor 11:24-28). He teaches us then not to let anything keep us down, but carry our crosses and proclaim Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Lord, Saviour and Redeemer of all.
MY MESSAGE TO THE DIOCESE OF KLERKSDORP
It is by God’s grace that I, the least among my brethren in everything, has been called to the see of Klerksdorp. It is a humbling experience. Thank you for receiving with such love and enthusiasm. You have no idea how scared I was before I came here. Your hospitality made me at home and your participation at my episcopal ordination convinced me that I am at home! May God bless your love and generosity.
It is my prayer that we, inspired by these two giants of the Church, these great evangelizers, we can reach out to lapsed and inactive Catholics. Our mission should include interacting with other believers as well, reminding them of the universal call to on-going conversion and holiness. I call upon all our sodalities, Small Christian Communities and all the baptized children, youth, men and women: You are called and sent. The work of Evangelization belongs to priests, to the religious and the laity. We all have the mandate. We can transform our society and make it more humane, respecting the values of our cultures and of the Gospel.
As a diocese of Peter and Paul, let us bring Christ and His message to all people, all over the world (Mk 16: 15-16). Are you ready to proclaim Christ in the streets, at schools, hospitals, prisons, informal settlements and in the city? I urge you to reach out to all through love, retreats, crusades, healing services, house visits, pilgrimages, night vigils, seminars and one to one encounters. Let us reach out to the disabled, the sick, the elderly, those who are lonely and those who are lost. Show them your care, your love and compassion. Let us teach them the benefits of behaviour change and faithfulness.
Let us give ourselves completely to God, our first priority. Remember the words of St Paul who asked us to offer our bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect”(Rom 12: 1-2). Let us regard it as a great privilege to follow in the footsteps of St Peter and Paul, Bishop Verstraete and our early missionaries in this diocese. Are you hungry for renewal and spiritual growth? Do you know that God loves you with affection and that he cares for you and is with you? Do you know that Jesus has already saved you and paid the price for you?
You are called upon to renounce sin in your life. Continue with confidence the journey of salvation which you started at baptism. Embrace a life of holiness and freedom. Love God and love your neighbour. I appeal to you, in the spirit of joy, the spirit of Pope Francis, to reach out and meet others where they are: in their sufferings, their hopelessness and fears. I urge you to love them, serve them and bring them the compassion of Christ. With great humility, I encourage you to persevere on the path of on-going conversion. We are neither perfect nor worthy and we all need the grace of God.
Young people of the diocese: Use your talents, music, creativity and your skills to evangelize. Use them to preach and to motivate others. Become ministers of healing and bring others back to God. Let us make ourselves available to be new witnesses who show their faith through action. Let us live and proclaim the Gospel with power and conviction: the Word liberates, the Word heals and the Word is life. You young people! You have a message for the world and in particular to the youth: Tell them that God loves them!(John 3:16-17) Christ died and rose for them and they are precious! (Rom5: 6-9). Know that you can have fun, enjoy life, celebrate life, but do not sin. Be near to those who suffer. Give them support, pray for them and support them. Fight injustice and corruption, preach justice and honesty. Promote the Word of God where you are. Share the Word, give your testimonies, celebrate the Eucharist with great devotion and never lose hope. Accept your limitations and weakness and know he is ready to forgive (John 20:21-23).
I pray that Mary, Star of Evangelization, my walk this path with us. I am your fellow-pilgrim. I will journey with you through thick and thin. Pray for me to persevere in my ministry as shepherd of this diocese. Pray for unity, respect and reconciliation in our church, families and society. Pray for the unity of the clergy and of all lay members of the diocese. Let us also pray for vocations.
ST PETER AND ST PAUL, PRAY FOR US.