YEAR OF FAITH LOGO

Pastoral Letter on the Year of Faith

Pastoral Letter to all Catholics of the Diocese of Aliwal on the Year of Faith

Dear Friends of Christ, dear Sisters and Brothers,

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, calls us to celebrate a Year of Faith as from11 October 2012and to take care of a renewal in the proclamation of faith, called New Evangelization.

With pain we realise that our faith appears often as powerless: In Marikana we find a tragic symbol of the failure of humanity with a deadly mix of power, greed, agitation, xenophobia, fear and anxiety. Humanity and faith lost out to the disregard of rules. Respect for one another got lost. Values that keep life going were abandoned. Yes, many people pray “thy will be done”: but they do as they will. The fruits are death, hatred, and fear. They are so different from the fruits of the Holy Spirit. What happened in Marikana happens in many places to different degrees.

Indeed we need a renewal of faith. This is not about learning books and formulas. Faith is much more: Faith is powerful; faith transforms; faith is the important mystery that leads us to life. It is the driving force that makes us keep our relationship with God alive. It is that which gives us conviction that Christ lives in us and we in him.  Faith is about a living relationship with God that changes our life to the best of our potential.

We know that faith that follows the will of God can do a lot. The letter to the Hebrews (11) looked back into the History before Jesus. “By faith” Abraham, David and many others were able to do great things. And Pope Benedict continues this story-line by Hebrews saying “By Faith” Mary, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the Saints, many faithful and we too, you and me are able to do great things.

We may feel tempted to say: I am weak; I am not a saint; our church is too small; I don’t know a lot. But faith is not about our strength, hypocrisy, knowledge and size. Many could have given up: Abraham could have said “I am too old”, Joseph could have said “I was abused by my brothers”, Moses said “I cannot speak”, Jacob could have said “I had to fight with God”, Isaac could have said “I was about to be killed”, David could have said “I was an adulterer”, Solomon spoiled his kingdom, Elijah could have said “I was about to commit suicide”, Jeremiah said “I am too young”, Jonah wanted to run away from God, Philip would have said “what we have got is not enough”, Peter could have said “I do not know this man”, Paul could have said “I am too sick” – and there are many more who say: I am weak, leave me out; there are many excuses.

God needed all of them to bring about change; he needs everyone of us, the faithful Church-goers and the resting Catholics. Some may think that they don’t know enough. But it is very easy, very practical. It is about doing something we all already know: It is about making friends. This is what Jesus said right in the beginning of the Gospel in Lk 4:18-21: Good News is making friends with the poor. And this is how he will examine our faith at the end: According to Mt 25:31-46 he will not ask about the number or rosaries that we prayed or how nice we sang on Sundays and the books we read. He will ask about our friendship and love.

True Christians make friends with poor people not because they are good and will reward you (Lk 6:35). The poor can be as bad as many other people. But our love for them is purest: No hidden agenda, nothing to expect in return. We don’t just preach about love, we don’t write and read about love, but we live and reveal love. Bringing Good News does not mean just to sing Alleluia, Praise the Lord, and to entertain nice feelings and confuse them with the Holy Spirit. Instead we can experience very extraordinary things: We can become friends even with people whom we do not like or despise.

Just pause for a moment and think what could have gone differently in Marikana if all parties would have tried to befriend one another: the managers the workers, the miners the police, the trade unions and others. Just to sing Alleluia, praise the Lord is not enough if it is not done by friends. It is as friends that we praise the Lord.

This is the mystery of Saints like St Francis or Mother Teresa. St Francis overcame his reservations of befriending the poor when he kissed a leper. St Lawrence said the poor were the treasure of the Church. This is not because poverty is good but because with them we can meet God who is unconditional love (1 Jn 4:16). They are the “class-room” of faith.

The year of faith is a year of your faith. It is a year of your hope. It is a year of your love. It is a year of you. Indeed, this is a year of you as a person created in the image of God (cf. Gen1:26). You and me are meant to be like Jesus Christ “who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). Jesus called us friends (Jn 15:15). You are meant to make friends like him. The most simple and most effective thing you can do to learn about faith is extending this friendship.

Friendship is our very first catechism, our school of faith. So trust and simply follow Jesus: Make yourself a friend of others in particular of the poor, the aged, the disabled and the disadvantaged, of those who “don’t deserve it”. They need an experience of new life, of dignity, respect, of hope and love. They need an experience of resurrection. This is a faith one can really experience. Everybody well see it: it is about love.

We have to plan properly how to hand on our faith and our spirit of friendship to the next generations. Priests, PPCs and PFCs have a great responsibility to take care of this. Our catechetical leaders need all our support and special training (with the Animation Team) to do their best. We have to make sure that our children and youth enjoy becoming friends of Christ: “I have called you friends”.

I call on all our Small Christian Communities, the sodalities and our families to become schools of faith. Each of us needs to do something special this year of faith to strengthen our faith. Make this year of faith an opportunity to becoming more and more the image of Christ. Let us allow Christ to transform us into people of FAITH, people of friendship, into people of hospitality, into people who love the poor whom Jesus loved so much (cf. Mt 25). Reading the Bible meditatively every day is a good way to discover his will. We can also gear ourselves to reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and other catechetical books, as well as spiritual books and books on the lives of saints that will help us deepen our faith by learning how other people clung to their faith and their determination to be Christlike. Let us reflect on the virtues and values that Christ is living (CCC 1805-1809; 1812-1829) and how they respond to the vices (CCC 1866) that destroy so many people.

I am sure: The joy of our friendship with God and one another is our strength. Together with our many leaders, all of us, bishop, priests, and all the faithful can do a lot during this Year of Faith to develop as one our friendship. For example:

  • We will solemnly open this Year of Faith on11 October, 2012, in the Cathedral and the parishes (the following Sunday).
  • In Advent and Lent we can have penitential services (prepared perhaps by your liturgical committee) that emphasise the theme of the African Synod: Reconciliation, Justice & Peace, or the theme of friendship, or use one of the services e.g. in Bongan’ iNkosi.
  • Our preachers will have special workshops on preaching our faith in 2013 before the Bishop commissions them.
  • We will celebrate our togetherness on 24.11.2013 when we close the Year of Faith together.

Let us pray – Loving God. In Jesus Christ you made us your friends. We thank you for all who offer his friendship and soften the heart of others. Strengthen the bond of friendship within our Diocese of Aliwal. Strengthen the friendship between Bishop, Priests, Religious and all the faithful. Make us witnesses of your compassion und unperturbed commitment. Make us missionaries through the spirit of friendship that has the power to unite people and bring peace. Amen!

May God bless you all, X the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Aliwal North, 1 October 2012

Bishop Michael handing over a copy of the SACBC policy on safeguarding our children to Vicar General Joseph Kizito after promulgating it at the senate on 15 August, 2012.

Policy on safeguarding our children

Protecting Children and Young People in the Diocese of Aliwal North

Children and young people have a very important place in our Church and we are always eager to encourage their active participation in parish life. We are committed to doing everything we can to create a safe and welcoming place for our young parishioners, where their welfare is of greatest importance. It is our Diocesan policy to ensure that children and young people will always be safe, protected and supported in all activities associated with the Church.

If you have any concerns about the well-being of a child or young person connected to, or involved in the Church, or you suspect that a child or young person may be suffering abuse by anyone within the Church, please report the matter immediately to one of the Contact Persons (details given below) or to a priest whom you know.

If you or you know of a child or young person who has been sexually abused, or if you suspect that a child or young person has been physically abused or neglected, you should report this to the police or a registered social worker.

Please provide as much detail as possible, so that the matter can be quickly and fully investigated. It is important that we do everything we can to protect children and to prevent them from being harmed in any way.

The names and telephone numbers of the Contact Persons are:

  • Name: Fr Paul Musafiri / Telephone No: 072 5912077
  • Name: Sr Gladys Papiso / Telephone No: 076 9019257

Thank you for your help in protecting children and young people.

The Church’s Policy on Safeguarding our Children is downloadable here: SACBC_ALIWAL-Policy-Safeguarding-Children

From the Catholic Church To all Children and Young People

KEEPING YOU SAFE

You are always welcome in Church and in our parish community.

We are committed to keeping you safe from harm.

If you have been hurt in any way by someone, or you are at risk of being hurt, please tell us straight away so that we can help you.

or

If you know of another child or young person who has been hurt by someone, or is at risk of being hurt, please tell us straight away so that we can help him or her.

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Contact one of these people listed below:

  • Name: Fr Paul Musafiri / Telephone No: 072 5912077
  • Name: Sr Gladys Papiso / Telephone No: 076 9019257

Thank You!

N.B:  This poster should appear prominently in all our churches, Mass centres, presbyteries, parish halls, schools, etc.

Picture: Bishop Michael handing over a copy of  the SACBC policy on safeguarding our children to Vicar General Joseph Kizito after promulgating it at the senate on 15 August, 2012.

Diocesan Pastoral Letter to the Learners concerned with well-being

Dear Learners! I greet you at the beginning of the new school-term. I greet also your communities, your parents, your teachers and all your peers who do not belong to our Church.

The friends of Jesus were called disciples which means actually learners. You are disciples in a very special way. You have the privilege to develop and unfold your talents, the gifts you received from God, in a special way when studying the many different subjects at school. Your teachers have the honourable and wonderful task to lead you in this process and to develop your potential in the best way. At school together you lay the foundation for your future.

Everybody knows that not all is that ideal and well at school. The recent school-book saga is only one indication for this. Some get very frustrated, others see no meaning in committing themselves properly at school.

I am proud of having you as the youth of our Diocese. Many of you I gave the sacrament of confirmation. At confirmation I express my joy that we have people with courage, people who can counsel, people with wisdom. I am happy when I see how quite a number succeeded already at school. They continue with further education. I am happy to see young people who contribute to the quality of life.

This is exactly what Jesus wanted: You can make a difference. It needs your commitment to your studies. It needs your commitment to your home-work. It needs your charity with your fellow learners who may have difficulties with learning and concentrating. Please assist the weaker learners. Don’t leave them alone. St Paul says that when he is weak he is strong. You can be strong when others are weak. Make use of this God given gift of support. All of you can do this: the young learners in primary school as well as those in secondary school.

Those who approach their final exams with matric are very close to my heart and prayer. You are challenged in a special way. Not only do you have to think and plan what to do afterwards. You have already to apply for bursaries and see to get support for further education or training. I wish that you make the right decisions.

I wish that you can be proud after the exam by saying I achieved it on my own, I did not cheat. You have to prepare for your examinations.

It applies to any learner but in a special way to you: You must make very good use of the gift of time by planning it. You must plan for study time at home. You must also plan for rest. Some say you should only sleep for 3 to 4 hours. Your body needs more sleep, rather 7-8 hours. After a good rest you will study much better. And don’t forget physical exercise. They help also to clear your mind.

I hear that some spread the myth that drugs help. I assure you they don’t. They bring you down instead. So please take care of your body. After all it is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and it needs proper care. Such care happens also through good nutrition. Especially fish is good for your brains; some school feeding schemes include it deliberately.

I hope that your parents take interest in your progress at school and are supportive. They can monitor your school work, visit the school and talk about your performance. They may give you extra time at home while preparing for exams; instead of doing the usual homework such as dishes they may release you for your studies.

Please take care of one another. As fellow learner you are much more aware of changes in the behaviour of your peers as teachers may be. Observe one another. Some may get depressed and suicidal. If you think that one of your peers is in trouble try to get assistance for instance through a social worker.

Some learners are perhaps not bad but cruel for some reason. They bully peers and incite others to do so. Maybe someone has special features, an impediment in speech or looks different: I am proud of all who resist the temptation to howl with the wolves and show solidarity and support for such beleaguered fellows.

I know from some schools who offer extra learning time in the afternoons. This is a laudable initiative. Make use of it.

A word for those of you who are on the School Governing Bodies: Please use your position to contribute to the positive development of your school. This applies also to parents who serve on the SGB. As Diocese we offer sometimes workshops for the SGBs of our schools. Make use of these and other formation events. It helps to become more effective and efficient.

One thing is sure: We need you. We need young people wit a good character. We need young people with a good education. You need a good education.

The pass-rates are still cause for concern. As Christians we can make a difference! If all of us take our responsibility, learners, parents, teachers and communities, things can turn out much better than they did previously. What we need is mutual respect, attending to the needs (not just the wants) of the others.

And so I wish you all well, those who will write matric and all other learners. I ask our communities to support you with their prayer and in other ways. The PFCs may for instance consider holding a service of blessing.

One of our Saints who was very much committed to formation, St Ignatius, said: “pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you.” So I pray to the Lord that he may grant you serenity and strength, perseverance and vigilance, joy and unwavering hope so that you can make best use of your gifts.

May God bless you all, + the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Your Bishop,

Michael Wüstenberg
Bishop of Aliwal

Participating in Traffic as witness to life

Pastoral Letter to all communities, SCCs and sodalities in the Diocese of Aliwal

Dear Sisters, dear Brothers,

Time and again we realise the dangers of the traffic on our roads. We mourn the loss of life and health. Many have lost their relatives: breadwinners, parents or children. Tears, funerals, visits to hospitals and the care for maimed beloved ones are proof of this.

We are looking at a matter of life and death. Many of you like to begin prayers by saying: “God, we thank you for the gift of life!” What a wonderful prayer! This gratitude must translate into care: we care for life. Jesus gave us his example so that we care for life in all its stages and in all its forms, from conception to death. We care for life also on the roads. Holy Scripture aims at healing when challenging us; God gives us a choice (Dtn 30:19):

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.”

People get sick, people get old and people die. All of us will die – hopefully full of trust in the loving care of God. God who gives us our natural life also shares his eternal life with us. Death should be a grace filled encounter for Christians: Gratefully handing over life and receiving life to the fullest (cf. Jn 10:10).

We cannot avoid death. But we can avoid premature death, be it through crime, some diseases like AIDS and through accidents. We have a choice. Accidents are man-made, many are avoidable. They bring unnecessary misery and pain for the victims and their friends and families. I wish and pray that they find comfort in the communion with the suffering Christ.

Can you explain why Christians who worship God forget their virtues, values and morals when it comes to traffic? Most of the drivers on our roads are Christians. Most of them pray. I wonder how the Good Spirit of God seems to evaporate when they enter vehicles as drivers or participate in traffic as pedestrians. Can you explain why it is that:

  1. Pedestrians walk drunk and run into vehicles
  2. Pedestrians don’t wear bright clothes at night to be seen better
  3. Pedestrians pay little attention to traffic when chatting on the road or crossing the streets
  4. Children run across the street as if they never got any education
  5. People don’t stop their friends from driving drunk despite knowing the dangers
  6. People still drink and drive despite knowing about the incapacitating power of alcohol
  7. People drive recklessly and intimidate others by overtaking dangerously where it is forbidden
  8. People push those who stick to the speed limit by not keeping proper following distance
  9. People get distracted when using their cell-phone while driving
  10. People leave late for appointments and are tempted to catch up by over-speeding
  11. People drive with bad tyres or breaks or road-unworthy cars
  12. People don’t wear safety belts
  13. People overload their vehicles
  14. People drive without proper training and driver’s licence
  15. People lose their temper (get a fit of road-rage), patience and love for those making mistakes
  16. People do many other bad things that you know very well (you name them)
  17. People don’t stop those who are doing wrong?

We may feel tempted in some of these issues. But we do not have to give in either to temptation nor to intimidation. You may ask “Why should I care?”; or: “What can we do?”
We are created in the image of God. We are like him when we are lovers of life and prevent premature death. Even in traffic we share the healing ministry of Christ. Our commitment to life is part of our mission and proclamation as Christians. Your style of driving and walking on the roads should be Good News for others.
The rules of the roads are not meant to limit freedom but to safeguard life. They create reliability. Any person on the road must be able for instance:

  1. to trust that others will adhere to the rules so that they can cross the roads without fear
  2. to trust that the speed of an approaching car is not exceeded
  3. to trust that the driver of any car they enter is sober and following the rules

Participation in traffic is a matter of trust. As God’s faithful we are principal agents of trust. In this example of traffic we can prove that we are trustworthy and create trust. Otherwise we cast many doubts on our faith:

  • How can people believe that we found the God of Life through Jesus Christ if Christians do not care about life?
  • And how can people believe that Christians are agents of the Gospel which many times says: “Do not be afraid” but they intimidate people through their way of driving or walking?
  • And how can people believe Christian preaching if we talk about the dignity of each person guaranteed by God and do not show respect?

We must never undermine our mission. If people can trust us in little things it will be much easier to trust us in big things (cf. Mt 25:21) when we talk about and witness God.

Do you want to be such faithful witness? Do you feel challenged to serve life? Don’t get confused by those who bring death. Take heart. Jesus says to you: Don’t be afraid. In your SCC, sodality, youth group or family you can address the 17 issues mentioned on page one. Take your time (it is an important matter). Follow the well known steps:

  1. Choose one item (and you can choose another one for the next meeting and so on) and describe it in more depth, give examples.
  2. Find out as many reasons why people act this way
  3. Share what your faith, the Gospel and the teaching of the Church is saying about this and how it is challenging you (your priest can help you; ask him for advice and information)
  4. Plan what you can do to contribute to safety on the roads. Make concrete and lasting resolutions and evaluate them by sharing your experiences during a follow-up meeting.

You may arrive at resolutions such as renewing our faith; getting proper training in first aid; start a campaign in your sodality or SCC to use seat belts; dissuading people who want to drive drunk; educate children about participating safely in traffic; resolve not to drive after even drinking a little; or many other good things that you can do. In all this choose life. You are not alone. We can support one another. We can do what God expects from us: Choose life!

And I ask you to pray together with me for:

  • The victims: the injured, the maimed and those killed on our roads
  • The drivers that drive responsibly
  • Those who through their behaviour endangered or even ended the lives of others
  • The traffic cops and police who are dedicated to ensure safety on roads
  • The paramedics and other rescue services that take risks to save lives
  • The relatives and friends of those killed and wounded and those who care for all disabled

May God bless you all!

Aliwal North, 1 August 2012, Your Bishop

Michael Wüstenberg
Bishop of Aliwal

26 May 2012: Themba Goliash & Mlulami Matiwane ordinations

On this Saturday May 26, Catholics from all over the Diocese of Aliwal North rejoiced in the ordination of two new priests, Themba and Mlulami, in a packed Cathedral.

An outdoor procession led by Holy Cross majorettes was followed by an amazing songful 3 hours mass (you can hear a few songs on the “Listen to choirs” page of this website). Everyone was then invited to a meal into the next door hall and SCJ convent sisters. Watch the video on You Tube