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

A blessed and happy Easter to all of you!

 

I was offline for about two weeks just now after lightning destroyed my computer, printer, phoneline and affected even the cellular network. I am slowly recovering and trying to catch up. It will take some time.

Just a brief update about last week, if you like.

We cedlebrated on Wednesday Chrism Mass in Burgersdorp. It is in the meantime a tradition that I give a short reflection/recollection for the priests before they renew their commitment. It was very much to reconfirm the wide area of commitment coming from our special participation in teh threee offices of Christ, bein Prophet, Priest and King and leading the faithful who got exactly these tasks as well, as expressed very clearly at the baptism of children.

Thursday began with a celebration in the huge prison of Godemoed. More than 40 prisoners were in the group. I addressed them with the theme of the Holy Year of Mercy and the Pope’s Letter, Misericordiae Vultus, teh Face of Mercy. Would it be possible that they could show their faces to people, in prison and perhaps after many years only, then outside, and let people read their faces and understand that they talk about “mercy”? We put a huge canvas with the picture of Christ on the floor. All came to have their feet washed, after they knelt down on the picture looking into the face of Jesus in silence; some of them for quite some while. What was going on in their minds, nobody knows. But maybe there was some spark of a better perspective in life.

I celebrated Good Friday with the community of Mokhesi in Sterkspruit in my former parish. The youth performed a passion play. The impressive performance ended with them carrying the dead Jesus into the sacristy. “That’s all?”, I asked them. No Happy end? Not even a trace? It was a bad ending from a certain perspective. But I asked them further whether it could be that they would be the happy end, or rather the happy new beginning.

The readings at Easter Vigil tell a story of this powerful new beginning: Fundamental equality of humans, not sacrificing the future of our children, the commitment to freedom, and the liberty to get things for free, especially those that are essential (some vision of Isaiah). Just let imagination play and feel the challenge of the Gospel to fulfil what was said. The societal issues that I filled in may not be relevant for all of you. You may know your own challenges.

Best wishes and blessings before I leave to visit a priest who is on a renewal course

Yours Michael

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