The Pastoral Policy of the Aliwal Diocese follows the vision of the Pastoral Plan for the Church in Southern Africa “Community Serving Huma-nity” and its subsequent pastoral directives. It aims at building up a community that reflects the community of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As the Pastoral Plan highlighted the work with Small Christian Communities and the collaboration with community leaders as means to achieve this aim, all pastoral efforts of the diocese shall comply with this vision.
Shared Leadership, Councils on Parish- and Diocesan level
Each parish must have a Parish Pastoral Council
In this diocese it is obligatory to establish Parish Pastoral Councils. They shall follow the guidelines issued by the ADPC and promulgated by the bishop 9 May 1998.
Where a parish consists of several communities or Church centres (formerly called “outstations”), these are all equal and there is no preference of communities which are older or of the community where the priest lives.
Where a parish consists of several centres, each of these must have its own Church council (often called “Committee”)
When a community is large enough to elect a Church committee, it should do so. Communities which are too small for having a separate committee, should decide all their affairs through meetings of the whole community.
The Aliwal Diocese Pastoral Council (ADPC)
The diocese has a Diocesan Pastoral Council since 1996. Its constitution was issued by the bishop 8 May 1996. In 2001 a different interim executive was formed through the circular of the bishop, dated 6 April, 2001.
The ADPC aims at creating a spirit of togetherness among the widely scattered communities rather than at detailed decision-making.
Each year the diocese conducts two Regional Meetings in each of the regions
Many events of the diocese are conducted in the three pastoral Regions: Aliwal-Rouxville-Burgersdorp-Bethulie; Sterkspruit-Teresa-LadyGrey-Barkly; Indwe-Tafile-Dordrecht-Molteno. In March and in September of each year each Region conducts a half-day meeting on one important topic. The topic is chosen by the senate, but the meeting is always conducted by a small team of one parish. The meetings aim at creating a common awareness in the regions and in the diocese and are of value in policy making.. The Regional Meetings were the forerunner of the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
Training of local leaders
Community leaders are trained in their own parish.
It is one of the main tasks of each priest to personally conduct training sessions for the leaders of the parish. The priest can delegate some types of training to efficient animators such as the Animation Teams consisting of Religious Sisters.
It is desirable to train some assistant trainers from among the members of the parish, but these should conduct training together with the priest as much as possible. The priest remains responsible for the quality of training. Priests and animators will ensure that they themselves are constantly updated and receive ongoing formation.
Training of leaders is ongoing and unending
Formation and training is never complete. It is an ongoing process. It is the duty of priests and animators to ensure that new training materials are always added to the training.
No leader may consider training as being completed or unnecessary.
Ongoing formation, strengthened by Annual Community Week
Each parish annually conducts a “Community Week” which ensures contact between the bishop and the leaders. At regular intervals the bishop blesses and authorises the leaders and workers chosen by the parish and trained during the year. Authorization is valid only for service to the community which presents the leader to the bishop.
Community leaders who do not take part in continuous formation may not be presented to the bishop for this blessing of leaders.
Training of leaders includes spiritual, theological formation.
The training of leaders exceeds the acquiring of practical skills. It includes a deepening of spirituality and of theological knowledge. Training is a privileged place for efforts towards inculturation. A local theology is begining to emerge through this collaboration and reflection of local people and the theologically trained presbyterium.
Full-time lay animators will always serve several communities.
The over one hundred communities of the diocese are animated by a small number of animators who are Religious Sisters or lay persons. Each of them serves more than one community and trains a large number of voluntary leaders. Through these animators the diocese replaced the former 45 full-time catechists each of whom usually served one community and thereby made it passive by doing what voluntary leaders can do.
Leaders wear liturgical garb, kept at the church.
The trained local leaders should wear liturgical garb at important functions. It is not a personal uniform but signifies that they act in the name of the Church, not in their own name. The garments may not be the property of each leader and may not be kept at their home but are kept in the sacristy. (see bishop’s circular of 25.5.2004)
Small Christian Communities
Each parish should have SCCs
It is the policy of this diocese that each parish should have Small Christian Communities ( SCCs). These should not be too large and not too small, so that they can also deal with catechesis of small children, with funerals, with communion to the sick, and other tasks. For important parish issues such as baptisms or funerals the SCCs may issue a written recommendation. The SCCs should also assist the parish by presenting suitable candidates for leadership tasks which serve the whole parishes.
SCCs are based on neighbourhood
In this diocese each Catholic should participate in the SCC of his/her own neighbourhood.
The SCCs should elect the members of the PC
The Parish Council and the local Church Councils should not be elected in a meeting of the whole community but should rather consist of delegates elected in each SCC.
SCCs are continually developed through priests & animators
Ways are developed in each parish to keep the SCCs alive and to develop them further. This can be done by periodic visits, by house Masses, by periodic training meetings for all leaders. If there are many SCCs it may be advisable that the Parish Council establishes a visitation team which will visit and strengthen the various SCCs.
SCCs are developed through an annual SCC FEAST
It is highly recommended that the SCCs of one parish or of some neighbouring parishes conduct an SCC FEAST annually or bi-annually. During this feast or gathering the SCCs can learn from each other and can learn new methods from animators. It is recommended that at such gatherings the SCCs jointly devise means for dealing with social problems which affect the whole area.
SCCs should link bible and life and in this way work for J&P
SCCs should also use bible methods which help them to link their faith to social problems of the area. They may use the well known existing methods such as GROUP RESPONSE, may use published SCC NOTES, or may devise their own SCC NOTES.
Additional SCC NOTES can be produced locally
It can be a worthwhile undertaking to invite parishioners or leaders to develop SCC NOTES dealing with the particular problems or issues of the area. These NOTES can be shared in the senate meeting and can give inspiration to others.
Inculturation through co-operation
Inculturation is a major task of the local church. Hence the emphasis of the Synod On Africa on inculturation. All efforts towards inculturation should be done in close co-operation with the pastoral workers of the parish. These in turn will coordinate their efforts in the senate of the diocese. In this way an isolated approach can be avoided. The transfer of priests should not become a reason for the discontinuation of an inculturated practice.
Inculturation through our liturgies
The Sunday liturgy is a privileged place of inculturation. The simplest form of inculturation is that people feel at home during the service. We therefore avoid forms of prayer, singing, and moving, which appear alien to them. We rather choose forms which are close to their culture.
When using cultural forms of singing and celebrating we will respect the difference between liturgy and entertainment. When making use of forms of dance it should be done in such a way that it directs the attention towards God, towards the gospel book, towards the altar, towards the point of liturgical action, and not just towards the skill of the performers.
When using inculturated forms of singing, one should use different forms for expressing joy, different forms for expressing sorrow, or awe, or respect.
Inculturation through SCCs and gospel sharing
In Small Christian Communities people express their faith with their own words and by linking scripture to the daily events of life. This contextualization is at the same time inculturaration. When SCCs give neighbours a chance to plan together and to act together in the same way as this has been done for centuries in their villages, they promote inculturation.
Inculturation through shared leadership.
Shared leadership practiced on all levels of the Church is a policy of this diocese, not only for coping with the multiplicity of tasks but also for the purpose of inculturation. Leadership itself can gain much by drawing from traditional practices. A subsequent chapter deals with the details.
Inculturation by acceptance of traditions and customs
Some forms of inculturation may include the introduction of some main customs such as the slaughtering of animals into our liturgies, or the participation of priests in such customs in the homes. This requires great caution and reflection. Even those well informed on inculturation disagree at times about such attempts. For this reason it is desirable that such attempts are discussed during senate meetings. We wish to maintain a certain unity in the diocese and therefore avoid one parish introducing forms which another priest would not continue in that parish.
When Christians become afraid that inculturation might endanger their true faith they should find courage by studying the Guidelines on inculturation issued by the Bishops’ Conference in 2002 “Our Journey towards Wholeness”.
Our liturgies should be meaningful to the assembly.
The prayers, the symbolic actions, and the whole atmosphere of the liturgies should be experienced as meaningful by the people who attend.
This means in practice that the leaders, when planning the liturgy alone or with the priest, should ask themselves from time to time: “will this appear meaningful to the people who are present? Why can we say they find it meaningful? Why not?”
This also means that we will try to avoid empty formulas, avoid monotonous or bad reading of texts, avoid meaningless routine, and avoid conducting the liturgy in boring manner.
Our liturgies should enable all to participate
We try to design the liturgies in such a way that everybody present can participate in singing, in responding, in some of the processions. Not only the choir should sing, but all.
People who come to the services should not get the impression that they are reduced to passivity. Even those who are not leaders should be able to participate in as many ways as possible.
Our liturgies should be conducted by several leaders
The same aim of wide participation can be achieved by having the service conducted by several leaders, not only one. The main leaders who conduct the service and who wear liturgical dress should be two or three or even more, when that is meaningful. In smaller congregations where it is difficult to find more than one person who can conduct the services the church committee should continue searching for additional leaders even if they have only minor roles to fulfill.
Our liturgies should be well prepared.
The liturgy leaders should meet during the week to prepare the service, not only a few minutes before it begins. There should be a roster of leaders, so that everybody knows whose task it is to prepare.
All liturgy leaders should receive ongoing formation.
There should be sessions of formation for all liturgy leaders even if they have the impression that they already know their tasks. At least once per year all must receive ongoing formation. This ongoing formation should avoid mere repetition. It should not only deal with technical skills. It shall include spiritual and theological deepening. Special formation is needed for preaching.
Liturgies should be evaluated.
The parish council should find ways of periodically evaluating all aspects of the liturgies of the community: whether it is well prepared, dignified, relevant to young and old, and whether the readings are well presented.
Catechesis is given by many voluntary workers
It is diocesan policy that all catechesis be given by voluntary workers. Priests, Sisters and other animators may also conduct catechesis themselves from time to time in order to experience the challenges of catechesis themselves. They should, however, entrust the bulk of catechetic work to voluntary workers.
Catechism teachers are continuously trained by animators
It is the task of the priests and the animators to train the many voluntary catechism teachers, also called “sowers”.
It is our policy that this training be continuous , without end. It should not be a once-off training. All catechism teachers should receive several training sessions during one year. These sessions should include some form of evaluation. Training of catechism teachers should also include some spiritual formation and retreats.
Catechetic books published by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference are the basic materials.
The series PEOPLE OF GOD and OUR CHRISTIAN HERITAGE are mainly used, while other materials may be added.
The guidelines given in the CATECHETIC DIRECTORY FOR SOUTHERN AFRICA are applied in this diocese.
As much as possible the children should become familiar with using the full text of the bible during catechesis.
Catechism teachers are appointed by the community.
It is the task of the SCCs and of the Parish Council to select suitable catechism teachers. They will subsequently be recognised publicly by the blessing of the bishop during Community Week.
Confirmation is administered above the age of 16.
In each parish confirmation should take place at least ever third year. The preparation process should concentrate on an initiation into the active adult faith life of the community and not on theoretical knowledge alone. Candidates should become aware that they are expected to take over certain leadership tasks within their community.
The diocesan coordinator for catechetics.
The senate appoints a catechetic coordinator whose task it is to maintain contact with the catechetic structures of the SACBC.
Additional measures: Catechetic camps of 3-5 days should be held especially for those children who otherwise never receive catechesis, e.g. children of distant farms and inaccessible rural areas.
The parishes follow the RCIA by using “Our Journey Together”
The parish council should be aware of the main ideas of the RCIA as presented in the adult catechism “Our Journey Together”. The council should hear regular reports from those who conduct the catechumenate. It should ensure that the catechumenate does not become a mere technical outward exercise but becomes a genuine journey of faith.
It is highly recommended to baptise the catechumens at Easter Night
The parish council should be made aware of the profound reasons why Easter is the most suitable time for baptism. The council should make a long-term plan which will make it possible to baptise at Easter. The final selection of candidates for baptism should take place early enough (perhaps before Christmas already) so that last-minute requests for baptisms can be avoided.
It is of course possible to baptise adults at other times of the year but this should not become a habit in the parish.
Catechumen groups are conducted by voluntary workers
It is desirable that the priest himself is often present during the sessions of the catechumen groups and that he himself conducts certain sessions. The bulk of sessions should, however, be entrusted to trained leaders of the catechumenate.
Sponsors for adult catechumens should be chosen at an early stage.
Parishes should avoid choosing sponsors for adult catechumens at the last moment. The sponsors should be made aware of their role as outlined in “Our Journey Together”. Sponsors should be encouraged to take part many times in the catechumen groups together with their catechumens. They should also take an active part during the preparatory rites which are conducted long before baptism.
The catechumenate of adults should last at least one full year
The catechumenate may often last two years or even longer, but it should not be shorter than one year, even if the catechumen has a good knowledge of the faith. This will ensure that the catechumen has sufficient time for making a permanent decision.
Justice & Peace
In all aspects of Church life the diocese wants to integrate faith and life, prayer and work for justice.
Work for J&P should not be a separate effort, unconnected to the main stream of church life. It should rather permeate the liturgies, the training of leaders, the work in the SCCs, the discussions of the senate and all other sectors of pastoral life.
All SCCs of the diocese should regularly use reflection methods which link faith and life.
It is in the SCCs where the people find it most easy to voice their own difficulties and those of society. SCCs should therefore choose methods of gospel sharing which make it easy for people to voice those problems. SCCs should act on these problems as much as possible. Often their power is limited and they should therefore bring those larger problems to the parish council for action. It is the duty of the parish council to encourage the SCCs to voice the problems of society.
Youth work should include a strong focus on Justice & Peace
Youth has always been keen on trying to improve society. Youth work in the diocese should therefore encourage young people to deal with problems of society in the light of faith and to cooperate with the parish council and other structures of the diocese in attending to those problems.
Structures for J&P
It is the intention of this diocese that the efforts towards J&P should not be confined to one small special group in the diocese but should rather be designed and owned by the people. It should therefore start at the SCCs and the parish councils and should continually involve them.
The structures for Justice & Peace are not yet decided in a final way in this diocese. It has not proved feasible to maintain a permanent diocesan J&P commission. Some parishes have a special Justice & Peace group, while others only have a sub-committee of the parish council dealing with these questions, and in others it is only the youth who work for J&P .
The diocese appoints a Youth chaplain
The diocese of Aliwal is too small to have a full-time chaplain. Therefore one of the priests working in the parishes will be asked to work as part-time chaplain for the youth of the diocese. Parishes are encouraged to invite the youth chaplain and to make use of the youth programs designed through his help.
The AGM of youth leaders selects a Year Theme for youth of the parishes
Each year, around the end of the year, delegates from the parishes together with the youth chaplain, evaluate youth ministry in the diocese. They also choose a year-theme with him and submit it to the senate of the diocese for approval and implementation.
Most youth work should take place in the local community and the parish.
In view of the long distances in the diocese it is preferable that youth activities take place in the local community or regionally. Only the annual AGM and few other events should take place on regional or diocesan level.
Training of youth leaders should take place each year.
Youth leaders usually work only for a short time. Therefore there will be a need for training additional youth leaders each year so that the work may continue. Neighbouring parish can train their leaders together.
Youth should be given scope during the liturgy.
In most parishes youth is automatically entrusted with the singing during the liturgy. Where this is not yet done it should be strongly encouraged.
Youth should also be given additional active roles during the liturgy. This should be done in close consultation with the parish council so that problems can be avoided.
Continuous efforts are needed towards self-reliance, overcoming old attitudes of being provided by overseas donors.
The parish council of each parish should repeatedly reflect on ways of helping the parishioners to move from the attitude of financial dependency towards the attitude of self-reliance.
The parish council should receive reports on the finance of the parish, showing also the percentage to which the parish is already self-supporting.
The parish council should consider both the ways of reducing spending and of finding local finance.
It should not only be the priest who reminds the parishioners of the need for increased self-support, but it should be the finance committee of the parish.
Each parish must have a finance committee.
Each parish council has to elect a small finance committee. This committee must give regular reports to the parish council. It must also give overall reports to the whole parish and must encourage it to take responsibility for the financial needs of the parish.
A certain percentage of parish income is given to the diocese annually
At the end of the financial year, each parish should send the annually defined percentage of its income to the diocese. This should be done even if the parish is still heavily dependent on subsidies of the diocese. It should serve as a reminder that eventually it will have to be the parishes which finance the diocese.
Each adult Catholic should have a card where the payment of monthly church dues is recorded.
It is the task of the parish council to find ways so that each adult Catholic will have a card which records the church dues. Since old people are continually leaving us and young ones become adults the parish must ensure that the young ones will have a church dues card.
Adults who refuse to contribute.
Many efforts should be make to convince all Catholics of their duty to contribute financially to the work of the Church.
Adults who refuse to pay Church dues should not be accepted as members of sodalities.
Those who already are members of sodalities and yet do not pay Church dues should be severely reprimanded by their sodalities. They are not eligible for any office in the sodality or in the parish.
Subsidies to parishes are transitory, not permanent.
Each year all parishes submit budgets. If parishes need a subsidy, it is to be regarded as transitory and not as a right. Steps should be taken to reduce and eventually discontinue it.
Funerals should be as equal as possible.
Since our faith teaches us that all people are equal (Gal 3,23-29) and since the Second Vatican Council has again emphasised that “there is a basic equality among all members of the Church” ( The Church, No 32 ) it is the policy of our diocese to avoid, as far as possible, distinctions between the solemnity of funerals. In particular we wish to stress that a funeral which is conducted in a liturgical way by authorised lay leaders is of the same value as a funeral conducted by priests.
Funerals should be conducted by more than one person, either by the priest with two leaders or by three community leaders.
When a priest conducts a funeral it is recommended that he be assisted by two adult community leaders wearing liturgical garb. When authorised community leaders conduct funerals they should be a team of three.
The decisions about funerals are taken by the priest and the parish council.
Whenever possible the decisions about a funeral are taken jointly by the priest and the parish council. When this is not possible the local Church Committee takes the decision alone, informing the priest afterwards. Decisions about funerals should never be taken by one community leader alone.
Women are accepted as funeral leaders if the community so wishes.
Each community is free to choose men or women as funeral leaders. The diocese does not enforce the appointment of women but encourages it. The inclusion of women among funeral leaders should be discussed openly in each community. If a large majority favours this, care should be taken that it be done in a way which is most acceptable to all.
No Sunday funerals
In 2002 the Diocesan Pastoral Council decided to forbid the authorised community leaders to conduct funerals on Sundays. The Pastoral Letter of the bishop for Lent 2002 emphasised this rule.
The funerals of inactive Catholics have to follow the guidelines issued by the diocese.
Guidelines were established through careful consultation among all priests and lay leaders of the diocese and were published 5 October 1993 in English, Xhosa and Sotho. Catholics who remained totally inactive for a long time will not receive the normal solemn liturgical funeral while the Catholic community may conduct prayers at the graveside in a non-liturgical way.
Collaboration: essential feature of pastoral work in the diocese
Active participation in senate meetings
The pastoral workers of the diocese meet every month. The statutes of the senate, as published 1st May 1990 allow also lay workers and Religious Sisters to participate in an appropriate way. All pastoral workers make sure they attend the senate meetings, accept leadership tasks in the meetings, and contribute to the best of their ability.
Sharing of experiences during senate meetings
During senate meetings the members of the senate do not only plan their work but they also share about their work, telling each other of positive and negative experiences in their parishes. Such sharing, during the senate meetings and in other ways increases their ability for pastoral work. It is an important element of collaboration.
Assisting in other parishes of the diocese
Each pastoral worker is responsible for a certain parish or area of work. He or she will refrain from uninvited interference in other areas but can be requested to assist in other areas and is then asked to collaborate in the best possible way.
The pastoral workers want to equip themselves for their work as best as possible. They will therefore make efforts to receive Ongoing Formation in many ways each year.
Team work is our preferred option
Among pastoral workers and among local leaders team work is our preferred option. Team work is demanding. It needs openness towards each other, sharing of information, having time for each other, being ready to make concessions. Although this is demanding, it is the preferred policy of the diocese.
Keeping Church Registers
Extra care – safety measures
We wish to avoid the painful experience of people to be told one day that their baptism, conversion, or other sacrament has not been registered or was not entered properly. We therefore take extra care to avoid any oversight. Immediate entry is the best method. Whenever an immediate entry is impossible, safety measures must be taken to avoid the failure of entry (Reminder papers, double reminder, pencil marks, second copy, etc).
If other persons assist with entries in the official registers of the parish, the priest has to check each entry. The responsibility for any wrong or incomplete entry remains always with the priest, never with the assistant.
Annual copy for the Diocesan Office
At the end of each year a copy of the baptismal register is given to the diocesan office, preferably on computer disk but it is also acceptable in handwriting.