Circular 16: The prison ministry

Dear Friends


Handover of the prison ministry to Fr Ketso (l) from Fr Mpiti SCJ (r).

“Goedemoed – Centre of Excellence” – freely translated “good spirit” the name presents a vision for the big prison some 35 kilometres from Aliwal.

Instead of having a Christmas-Story the Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus being baptised, receiving the Spirit. The Spirit that, then, leads Jesus into the desert is not qualified as “holy” as in the other versions of the story. It is just a spirit, leaving it to the reader to find out what kind of spirit it is.

Maybe it is our Christmas story to find out what is happening with our prison ministry that is concerned about restorative justice. It aims at re-integration of offenders and restorative justice. The victim-offender-dialogue is an important tool. Visiting victims at home the team realized how little attention they receive and what bitter memories and fears rule their lives. Victims of sexual violence feel vulnerable and violated again in court when defence lawyers try to discredit them.

Just at the end of the Year of Mercy we celebrated a little festival of victims of crime at our pastoral centre Mount Carmel. It aimed at showing respect and appreciation, empowering and accompanying a process of turning from being victims into being victors. Different stakeholders of police, psychologists, social workers and the parole board were present to assist and advise.

When our team for prison-ministry organises trips to Goedemoed for school-classes with children tempted by crime and parents notice an impact, then, maybe a spirit that is good, healing and promoting life has become again palpable. Many didn’t expect any good coming out of Bethlehem. And here we see again something good, something humanizing, coming out of the context of Goedemoed this time, hope for a humanity promoted by the dedication to the ever-adapted vision of our pastoral plan “Community Serving Humanity”.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas, the feast of becoming truly human

 T Michael Wüstenberg

  Bishop of Aliwal

A blessed Pentecost to all of you


Let me share the thoughts that I circulated to the members of our diocesan senate:

A blessed Feast of Pentecost to all of you. As the Spirit hovered over the waters in the beginning and filled creation, as the Spirit came down on Mary in Nazareth to give us the body of Jesus and as the Spirit came down on the Apostles and disciples at Pentecost to give us the Body of Christ which is the Church, so may the Spirit come down on us that we form the body of Christ in our Diocese and make the boldening inspiration an experience for many.

Whatever others try to instigate with calling for political change with the barrel of the gun or now very recently saying the elections must be approached like an army and that one must have ammunition and guns, the inspiration of the Spirit is very different. People of differing cultures and languages listen and speak to one another, are understood and understand and make their causes mutually their own; not seeking power but standing for the common good and shared wealth; not advocating one’s own interest but the interest of all; not hyped inequality and group interest but fundamental equality of all.

What a difference it would be if Xhosa would stand up for Khoisan, Khoisan for Sotho, Sotho for Hlubi, Hlubi for Puthi, Afrikaaners for the Griquas, Coloureds for the English, the Haves for the Havenots, the Residents for the Immigrants … And imagine they would change and extend partnerships and mix always anew and listen, and speak to one another.

These are some “pentecostal splinters” that can truly lead into the response: “You send forth your spirit … and you renew the face of the earth”, as Psalm 104 says.

My pentecostal wish is very minimal and big at the same time: If only we who are supposed to be as Church a sacrament of unity of mankind would manage to develop and cherish further such culture within our small Diocese with its different cultures and languages.

A blessed Pentecost for you and your communities, and may you all be a pentecostal blessing for many

Yours +Michael

Pastoral Letter on Challenge for change in the Diocese.


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


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

Becoming a self-sustaining Diocese

The Diocese of Aliwal has started a process of finance and administration improvement, final objective being to reach the self-sufficiency of the diocese. At the present time more than half of diocesan income comes from overseas. To achieve it two volunteers Benoit and Vanessa have arrived from Fidesco (French Catholic’s NGO) at the beginning of March at the chancery in Aliwal North. The “Diocesan Finance and Administration Team” called DAFT have already met all the Parish Finance Committees (PFC) of the diocese. These meetings have enabled them to introduce themselves. It has also been a chance to hear and understand how PFCs are working and what needs they meet and problems they face. It has been a great source of information with very different but also common problems.

Once information compiled and small scales tests finalised the first new tools will be implemented. In regards to the overall monitoring, the first concern is monthly reports: ensure on time reception and good completion. To avoid mistakes, a new Excel® pattern has been designed and is being tested now. Still a major problem needs to be solved: computer equipment.  Findings show that some PFCs are not equipped and do not even have the basic computer skills. Furthermore PFCs are very new in some parishes that makes them very dependent on the priest who used to manage finances. Special support and accounting training will be necessary in these parishes.

Second concern to approach is the collection support. Parishes have shown a lack of communication towards parishioners regarding purposes of collections. It results in global low collections. A diocesan way of communicating is expected in order to better explain the purpose of each collection and so to better involve parishioners. Some efficient parish incentives could hopefully be shared and adapted by others. Aside of this concern is the way finances are reported to the parishioners in order to ensure 100% transparency in finance management.

Third concern is the parish budget planning. It has been done so far straight from last year’s figures instead of basing it on real upcoming needs and wishes. Parishes need to realise the importance of term-managing their finances through: budgeting, reporting and monitoring. DAFT plans to organise together with DFC (Diocese Finance Committee) annual budget meeting with each PFC in order to have them presenting and explaining their figures.

A deeper reflexion on the consistency of finance management throughout the diocese and parishes is on-going. The question is how to split roles between the diocese and parishes. In other words how and how far should the diocese be involved in the finances of the parishes and what level of involvement should parishes have in their own. Should the finances be managed independently in each parish or should parishioners be considered as being diocesan above all and so share according to the different parish needs? Whatever the conclusion is, this reflexion will be translated into new tools and ways of working.

At the diocesan level some work is also being done at the accounting management level in order to optimize finance and administration and harmonise them with parishes. Account management is being completely reviewed with a new consistency implemented. Some reorganisation in the saving management is on-going.

Financial needs to enable proper work on finance and administration: 

  1. Providing each parish with a computer and software will ease records and avoid mistakes.
    For that the diocese is lacking funds for:  15 computers + office pack = 15 x R 6 000 = R 90 000
  2. A diocesan PFC meeting with training and workshops would be a great chance for all PFC to get skills and also share their return of experiences and best practices:  15 PFC X 3 people (transport + catering) = R 15 000

Bishop Michael guest of a German parish

On Trinity Sunday, Bishop Michael met the community of St. Mary’s in Germany to celebrate the Mass and to talk about his important work in Africa. Since last year, St. Mary’s supports the diocese. A big project called Mount Carmel Centre urgently needs material assistance. The centre will be primarily a meeting place for training children and young people. They will be educated about AIDS, get religious instruction and spend their leisure time together.

Read the article: