Pastoral Letter on Challenge for change in the Diocese.

 

Aliwal North at Ascension Day for Pentecost, 9 May, 2013

CIRCULAR LETTER ON CONFIDENT AND COURAGEOUS COLLABORATION IN THE DIOCESE

Dear Sisters and Brothers

Greetings and blessings from your Bishop! Please study this letter thoroughly in your SCC, with your fellow leaders and in the sodalities. Please look for positive solutions and your contributions in the diocese so that the life of faith flourishes. We can act like the early Church after Pentecost.

In the book of Acts we read about the young Church. Its members showed daring courage and boldness for the proclamation of faith despite big challenges (e.g. Acts 4:31). The risen Christ showered them with his Spirit of courage and counsel. Approaching Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, we pray for this Spirit.

We need this Spirit. There are many challenges for us: These days we welcome back home Frs Ketso, Makoa and Nku from their courses. Later this year Frs Noah and Deo will return to their home-diocese in Uganda. Fr Mpambani SCJ will leave us to follow his call as Bishop of Kokstad; we rejoice in his appointment. Fr Sompane SCJ will be assigned to a new task within this congregation in Johannesburg. Hence we will see a number of transfers and changes in the diocese in order to serve you, the People of God as well as we can.

At the ADPC we presented some facts of the diocese. They, too, challenge us all to cooperate and to develop the life of the diocese in the best way possible:

  • We have a total of some 16,000 Catholics in all our communities
  • Some 3000 Catholics attend Sunday Services in the whole diocese. Among them are quite some children and old people.
  • For these 3000 Catholics we have 59 church-buildings, many vehicles and presbyteries that must be maintained.
  • In ten communities more than 100 people attend Sunday services. In 20 communities less than 20 – and even less than 10 – go to church.
  • The numbers of baptisms, confirmations and weddings are steadily going down.
  • Despite the varying contributions to church dues and the generosity of quite some of the faithful we are facing a major budget deficit in the diocese.
  • We are blessed to have one priest for some 1500 Catholics. In other dioceses it is normally a ratio of about one priest for 4000 or 5000 Catholics.

know that seeing such figures, these numbers can be discouraging. Even the Gospel tells about this. Please read the story in the Gospel of John, chapter 6, verses 1-15. The disciples had just five loaves of bread and two fish. They were discouraged when they saw the big crowd: “It would not be enough”. Without Jesus they would have been lost and defeated.

We must turn to Jesus too. Do you recognise what Jesus did? He was not discouraged at all. Jesus took what was there, gave thanks, broke or shared it as the other Gospels say. And he got his friends to distribute it. These four steps are the mystery behind Jesus’ power:

  1. He accepts and takes even the little what he receives as gift
  2. He gives thanks and makes use of the powerful attitude of gratitude
  3. He breaks for sharing and thus changes what he received in grateful generosity
  4. He involves others in distributing or sharing.

We find these four steps of Jesus in many variations. Just open and read the Gospel of Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44 and Luke 9:10-17. And we celebrate and repeat them literally at Mass. The Gospels always state the outcome: that the people got their fill and began to believe. Sharing scarce resources like Christ brings life and awakens faith.

I believe that we will be satisfied. That is if we follow the example of Jesus. We can work wonders if we deal gratefully and generously with the little that we have. And we give an example of the power of Christ working in us.

Let us be grateful for the priests, the 215 SCCs, the 800 leaders, the sodalities, the presbyteries … you name it. Let us pray in thanksgiving for them – right now! -– And in gratitude we can continue:

Let us become creative like Jesus by “sharing” these assets, by making them available for many in many different ways:

  • Let us share the priests in the best ways – we can combine Masses on Sundays, we can arrive more punctually, we can use weekdays for Masses in small communities/outstations
  • Let us share in efficient ways the priests with diocesan tasks so that all communities in the diocese benefit from their wisdom. – I hear that their service is appreciated.
  • Please share your talents by getting involved and qualified through training – all of you are needed and called by baptism and confirmation.
  • Let us share and develop the giftedness of our many leaders through ongoing formation.
  • Administer our assets with the PFCs in a clever and wise way.
  • Let us share our faith and nourish it in the SCCs with well trained leaders.

When sharing Jesus took care that nothing got lost. Everything was carefully collected and could serve still more people. Let us follow Jesus and not waste anything:

  • Make sure that you turn up for the training offered by the priests. Don’t make them come in vain.
  • Attend the Masses celebrated on Sundays – this day is for the glory of the Lord.
  • Keep our assets in a good shape and repair what is broken.

Please remember always that Jesus like the priests was not at every place at every time. But wherever he went the people turned up and he could effectively do what he was sent for by his heavenly Father. So please use these times when the priests are with you. They are there for you!

Let me say one word on vocations: Yes, we need priests. Yes, it is good that you continue praying for vocations. Imagine there is an intelligent young man. He is convinced that faith is most important for human life. Would he go for priesthood when he experiences time and again that the work of the priests is apparently not appreciated by those who don’t turn up for scheduled meetings?

The care for our faith is in the hands of all of us. Bishop and priests try their best to assist you in your call. Soon a number of transfers will take place. The teams of priests in the pastoral areas will be led by moderators. These teams will together with the PPCs organise their work in the most efficient ways.

The Cluster of Aliwal will be led by the team of Fr Makoa (moderator), Fr Mpiti, Fr Ntsikelelo and Monsignor Kizito – assisted still by Fr Noah until his departure. The cluster/unit of Sterkspruit/Teresa will be led by Fr Ketso (acting moderator), Fr Kasali (with emphasis on finances), Fr Nkunyane and Fr Matiwane – assisted still by Fr Deo until his departure. The cluster/unit in Dordrecht will be led by Fr Musafiri (moderator), Fr Nku and Fr Goliash. Monsignor Aertker continues in Indwe. Please make the priests feeling welcome in your communities.

May our loving God bless you all and renew the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Aliwal North, 9 May 2013