Bishops’ Message for Lent – On the Jubilee Year of Mercy – 2016

“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt. 9:13)

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ

This year the Lenten period forms an integral part of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, a special year set aside by His Holiness Pope Francis for all the Catholics to, first take into cognisance the abundance of the mercy of God to us his people and to enable us to show mercy to one another, “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

In this letter I will generously quote from the Popes message for Lent, 2016. In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 17). By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative “24 Hours for the Lord”, he sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word.

God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy.
The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth.

This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him “mercy incarnate” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8). Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21), thus restoring his relationship with him.

The works of mercy.
God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15).

The Sacrament of reconciliation
The time of Lent is a time where we are called to do self-introspection and discernment in order to see where we need to make good with the Lord. This sacrament is received by someone who has repented from the wrongs he/she has done. On Ash Wednesday, as we received ashes on our foreheads the priest said: “Repent and believe in the Good News.” It is called Reconciliation because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God” (2Cor. 5:20) He who lives by God’s Merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go, first be reconciled to your brother/sister” (Mt. 5:24) (The Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you are urged to frequent the Sacrament of reconciliation, especially during this period of Lent and right through this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The Parables of mercy
The Gospels are full of readings on mercy; it is fitting, particularly during this year of mercy to read and understand those and let us be guided by them, in particular the parables of mercy. In these parables Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy – (see Lk. 15:1-32; Mt. 8:22; Mt. 18:33; Mt. 18:35; Mt.5:7) (Pope Francis – Misericordiae Vultus) These must be accompanied by the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The Catechumens
I ask you brothers and sisters to remember in your prayers all those who are to receive the sacraments of initiation on the Easter Vigil in our diocese of Kokstad. That marks a turning point in their lives and they will, henceforth, be full members of the body of Christ whose members we all are. Let us welcome them warmly in our communities and continue to pray for them as the whole Church is praying for them in a very special way.

Living in harmony – Result of forgiveness and mercy
It is very important and necessary that we live in harmony, one with another, wherever we are, at home, at work, in church and in society. As Christians we have a special duty to imitate Jesus Christ in our thoughts, words and actions. “Live in harmony with each other. Do not be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And do not think you know it all” (Rom. 12:16) “No foul words should ever cross your lips; let your words be for the improvement of others, as occasion offers, and do good to your listeners……… Any bitterness or bad temper or anger or shouting or abuse must be far removed from you – as must every kind of malice. Be generous to one another, sympathetic, forgiving each other as readily as God forgives you in Christ” (Eph. 4:29-32)
In the words of Pope Francis, let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion. We ask this through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness,(Lk. 1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (Lk.1:38)
May the Lord bless and keep you.

+Zolile Mpambani, SCJ
(Bishop of Kokstad)

Transfers of Priests

Dear People of God of Kokstad Diocese:

Greetings to All of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have been blessed with the arrival of five new priests to the diocese. In a short while they will be ready for appointment to any of the parishes of the diocese after having been learning Xhosa at Mthatha. We thank the Precious Blood Sisters for having accommodated them at Glen Avent Convent.

Other priests who have been serving the diocese for many years will be leaving the diocese, according to a plan already programmed quite a few months back.

All these things considered, we have no choice but to make some changes and to move some priests around the different parishes of the diocese. We ask you, People of God, to be understanding with all the changes, and to welcome the new priests into your Parish Communities.

In short, this is how the changes will affect different parishes:

Three Divine Word Missionaries will be appointed to Bizana parish. As a result, Frs. Gabriel Thabang and Patrick Kofu will be shifted. Fr. Gabriel will take up Mount Ayliff and Tabankulu and Fr. Patrick will be posted at Bhongweni.

The two Comboni priests now working in Mount Ayliff and Tabankulu – Frs. Melese and Paul, will take up new assignments with the Comboni missionaries outside the diocese.

Two other Divine Word Missionaries will be stationed at Cedarville parish, in which case Fr, Major Zanemvula will move to take care of Mount Frere parish. Fr. Mariano and Brother Hermann will also move outside the diocese to their new appointments. The transfers are expected to take place around 15 of April of this year and concerning Cedarville and Mount Frere will be at the end of June when one of the priests return from his leave overseas.

We are so much grateful to the Comboni Priests and Brother for their generous service to people of Kokstad Diocese and wish them plenitude of God’s blessings in their new appointments.

Dear People of God, we did not want to make too many changes because we had been promised that soon we would be given a new bishop for our diocese. Since this has not happened and the new priests are ready to start working, we have been left without any choice. As we said before, please welcome your priests wholeheartedly and support them as much as you can.

Let us also thank the Lord because during the course of this year, one of our local seminarians, Br. Fidel Muhase, will be ordained to the deaconate; he will also be working in one of the parishes of the diocese once he is ordained a priest. Keep on praying for local vocations to the Church and support them financially.

We are in the time of Lent; let us all pray for a true change of heart and mind in order to turn our lives back to God.

United in Jesus and Mary,

______________________________

+ Stanislaw Dziuba, OSPPE

Apostolic Administrator
Diocese of Kokstad                                            

Kokstad, on 27th of February 2012

Administrator’s Address: PO Box 332, Harding 4680. Phone: 039 4331421, Cell: 083 7062146
Fax: 086 5136280. E-mail: stanley.dziuba@gmail.com

Bishop Stanislaw’s Letter on Finances

Pastoral Letter to the Church of Kokstad Diocese


Theme: “May the Word of Christ dwell in you abundantly” (Col 3.16).

 

This theme will lead us on our journey of re-discovering of our identity as the Members of the Catholic Church and the members of the local parish communities, as we desire that the Word of God would enlighten us in our daily life.

The book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us about a man called Barnabas. He was not one of the twelve but the Church remembers him as an apostle. “He owned a piece of land he sold it and brought the money and presented it to the apostles” (Acts 4, 36). We might be surprised about this but the sharing of what each one had seems to have been common at the beginning of the Church. In fact we read: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, as everything they owned was held in common… None of their members was ever in want as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from the sale of them to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any who might be in need” (Acts 4:32.34).

No one was obliged to do it. In his second letter to the Corinthians Pauls says: “Each one should give as much as he has decided on his own initiative, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9, 7).

This sharing would provide for each other’s need, especially those of the poorest among them and for the needs of the Church. Paul writes to the Corinthians regarding the churches of Macedonia saying: “I can testify that it was of their own accord that they made their gift, which was not merely as far as their resources would allow, but well beyond their resources; and they had kept imploring us most insistently for the privilege of a share in the fellowship of service to God’s holy people…” (2 Cor 8, 5).

They were deeply generous and had great joy supporting financially each other and the apostles.

 

Already a year has passed when our beloved Father – Archbishop William Slattery was called to lead the Church of Pretoria and we wait for the new Shepherd to come to our diocese. We remember and are grateful for all the care and support the people of Kokstad Diocese have received from the generous hands of Archbishop Slattery – how he used all his connections, friends, family and organisations to support financially the poor, education of the young people, different training in skills, and the work of the Church in our Diocese – so that no one was thinking about the local contribution from Catholics from our parishes to the expenses of the diocese and parishes.

But now, he is gone and also all the resources for the support of the priests, buying and maintaining of the vehicles, payment of the insurance for the vehicles and buildings in the parishes, building of new churches, priests’ houses, education of our 12 seminarians, support for the pastoral work and formation of catechists, families, prison pastoral care, administration and so on.

So now it is time to renew of the spirit of the first Christians, whom we mentioned in the beginning of the letter, among the Christians of the Kokstad Diocese to live fully the Spirit of Jesus Christ who although was God, he humbled himself and became one of us in order to bring us salvation. This is the call for all Catholics of our Diocese of Kokstad to open wide your hearts to accept others and their needs as St Paul in the letter to Philippians said: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2. 4). It is the time to stand on our feet and walk without crutches making our parish communities and diocese self-supportive, not always begging for the money from the funders abroad. The Bishops of Southern Africa in the letter wrote: “Our parishes and dioceses in Southern Africa have to become financially self-supporting. This means we have to raise enough money in our own parishes and dioceses to keep the fire of God’s message and love burning in our midst. We need to raise enough money to allow the work of God to continue in our parishes and dioceses” (No 2).

How to do this? You can do this by making your gift of money an act of holy worship of God. How? When we give money for the parish car, buying food for the priests, for the education of seminarians or other needs of the diocese – we can make it a gift of thanksgiving to God. God has given us so many gifts, such as life and health; brothers and sisters, work and pension; Jesus and the Holy Spirit; Mary and the Saints; the Church, priests, Sisters, faith and joy in God – and many more.

Therefore, when we give money to the Church, we can pray: “Lord, you have given me everything. Take this money as a sign of gratitude and love for you”. In this way you make your money contributions an act of gratitude and holy worship, praising and thanking God for all the good things which he has given to you.

Your financial contributions to the needs and work of the Church of Kokstad Diocese could become your prayer and expression of your faith as it was for the first Christians who beside giving themselves to Lord gave also all they possessed trusting in God’s providence as it was also with the widow whom Jesus praised in the Gospel.

So I ask that:

v  all parishes should establish working Parish Finance Committees with members who have expertise in financial matters and fundraising to look for the financial support for the parish and the diocese as well to manage the funds according to proper accounting practices. The financial committees should also send to the diocese every three months the financial report from the parish according to supplied forms. The parishes should send to the diocese 10% of their total income for the payment of the expenses of the insurance of parish churches and buildings, purchase of cars, priests’ stipends and formation, education of 12 seminarians, support of difference pastoral commissions, administration as well support for the bishop for whom we eagerly wait to come.

v  It is essential that we commit ourselves faithfully with our pledges. You know that most of the Christian churches would ask for 10% of your income. Is your contribution at least 2% of your income? I ask you to remember Paul’s words: “Each one should give as much as he has decided on his own initiative, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. Commit yourself to your Church and do it with joy. Pledges should be renewed annually so as to keep up with inflation and make it a gift of thanksgiving to God.

v  My special appeal is for a yearly once off contribution for the education of our 12 Seminarians who are the future priests of our Kokstad Dioceses. The funding from Franciscan Order overseas has finishes with the leaving of Archbishop Slattery and now there are no funds to pay for their education and formation in the seminary. The cost of education for one seminarian for one year is R55 000.00 and we have 13 of them. It makes R715 000.00 per year. There are no funds to pay for this year. If we will not get your support – the seminarians will have to come back home and wait until the Church of Kokstad will find funding for their education. So their future is in your hands!!!

I ask that every adult Catholic as well youth according to their possibilities give a gift of R100.00 for the education of our 12 Seminarians, although it is not restricted to this amount – we cannot limit the generosity of your heart. We need only 7150 committed Catholics from our Diocese to achieve this goal!

I would also invite each one of you to put your personal gifts at the service of the Church. It is quite common to see teachers teaching catechism. Could we apply this to other gifts we have received? There should not be any need in employing someone to fix our churches, the priests’ cars, cut the grass, visit the sick, look after orphans, clean the church… We have so many Catholics with such expertise that should be used for the building up of our Catholic Church. Would you…?

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a very important time for our Diocese that is waiting for the new Bishop to come. What a welcome gift will you give? Would not be it your generous and loving of the Church heart that shares the responsibility of the supporting our own Catholic Church?  I invite you all also to be grateful to God for his constant blessing upon us, to pray and reflect the Biblical texts I quoted above and to grow in love and support for our Church. May God’s Word dwell in us all abundantly.

 

Fraternally yours in Christ and Mary,

 

Kokstad, on 20th of February 2012

 

______________________________

+ Stanislaw Dziuba, OSPPE

Apostolic Administrator
Diocese of Kokstad                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

Administrator’s Address: PO Box 332, Harding 4680. Phone: 039 4331421, Cell: 083 7062146
Fax: 086 5136280. E-mail: stanley.dziuba@gmail.com

Talk on Saint Francis

Franciscan Theology of the Eucharist

Devotion to Jesus Christ was the passion of the life of St Francis of Assisi.  He saw the Eucharist as a unique meeting-place with Christ where he came as near as it was possible to see and touch Him.  Thomas of Celano who knew St Francis and wrote the life of Francis says; “ Francis  burned with a love that came from his whole being for the sacrament of the Lord’s Body, and he was carried away with wonder at the loving condescension and the most condescending love shown there” 2Cel 201.

Francis was a vernacular rather than an academic theologian, he had not been to the schools but the doctrine of the Eucharist was much discussed during his life time. Innocent the third, the Pope who received Francis and who had approved his first rule had convened the Fourth Lateran Council in response to various heresies and teachings which threatened faith in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.

Theologians like Berengarius of Tours had raised questions regarding how the Lord was present in the Sacrament and had favored the opinion that Christ was present in figure or symbolically and not in truth or in reality. The Cathars had poured scorn on the traditional doctrine of the Eucharist as for them all matter was the creation of an evil god and thus the good God could not be present in bread and wine.

The Fourth Lateran Council had insisted that Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist and had canonized the word ‘transubstantiation’ to explain what they meant.  This word would be the basic term which all the scholastics will use when they enter Eucharistic theology. Francis does not use it, he was not familiar with the philosophy of Aristotle which used the abstract metaphysical abstractions of  substance and accidents as a way of understanding reality. But Francis teaches what the Lateran Council defined as the Church doctrine of the Eucharist. At those Franciscan Chapters of the early days he gave admonitions.

In one of his Admonitions Francis writes;  “every day Jesus humbles himself just as he did when he came from his heavenly throne into the Virgin’s womb; every day He comes to us and let’s us see Him in abjection, when he descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar. He shows Himself to us in this sacred bread just as He once appeared to His apostles in real flesh. With their own eyes they saw only His flesh, but they believed that He was God, because they contemplated Him with the eyes of  the spirit. We too, with our own eyes, see only bread and wine; but we must see further and firmly believe that this is His most holy Body and Blood, living and true.”

Characteristics of Francis understanding of the Eucharist

a)  When Francis speaks about God he generally talks of a Trinitarian God.  God is Trinity, God is relationship, God is belonging, God is family.  We will see this will be brought out explicitly by the Franciscan theologians.  Creation itself, the Incarnation of Jesus, and institution of the Eucharist find their foundation in the goodness of God.  It is because God wants to enter into relationship with us that God has created us and also the Eucharist itself.  For Franciscans the Eucharist is an expression of God’s “need” for love rather than a manifestation of His power.

b) For Francis the Eucharist was a marvelous expression of the goodness of God. Others may be impressed by the power of God but for Francis it was the goodness of God which amazed him. “You are good”, he prayed, “all good, highest good” 1 Rule. For Francis all was gift.

c)  The Eucharist spoke to Francis of the goodness of  God but also of the humility of God. When Francis contemplated God and the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ he was  impressed  above all by the humility of the Incarnation( I Celano) and by the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross (2 Celano). Such humility, such simplicity and such generosity could only come from a totally good God.  “O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! That the Lord of the whole universe , God and the Son of God, should humble himself like this and hide under the form of a little bread for our salvation”.

d)  While the presence of the good God under the appearance of such humble material things like bread and wine scandalized the Cathars it was for Francis a source of confirmation and joy. It was a confirmation for him of the sacredness of all creation. For him creation contains the Word of God and the Bible contains the Word of God, but these are not two words of God.  The same Trinitarian God speaks and calls in scriptures and in creation. Brother Sun, just by being sun praises God, and Sister Moon just by being moon praises God

e)  Francis may have spoken to the birds and called all creatures his brothers and sisters but it was his fellow human beings, men and women who were for him in God his eminent brothers and sisters. His Order was the Order of Lesser Brothers. They were brought together not only by a common Father but through their reconciliation in Christ and unity in the Holy Spirit. “ I implore all of you brothers to show all possible reverence and honor to the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in Whom that which is in heaven and on earth has been brought to peace and reconciled to almighty God” (Letter to the Order 12)

f) “ When Francis received the Holy Eucharist” his contemporaries tell us, “ he did so with such devotion that he made others also devout”  His closest follower, Sr Clare received the Lord with such tenderness and love that her fellow sisters wept with wonder.  He approached the Eucharist with a heart filled with affection. Francis put spirituality and theology together, for theology without spirituality is empty and spirituality without theology is a sham.

Franciscan Scholastics and theology of the Eucharist

i) There were three principle intellectual traditions in the Western Church in  medieval times, besides the Franciscan there were the Augustinian and the Dominican. All based their teaching on the same foundations namely, scripture , tradition and the magisterial teaching of the Church.  This Scholastic theology had three components, the Dialectical Method, the Aristotelian Philosophical texts and the Four Books of Sentences of Peter Lombard.

Difference in these traditions of Christian Theology will be based on the various theological ways in which the three intellectual traditions express the implications of the word of God  and on how they interface theology and spirituality.

Theological systems like that of Thomas Aquinas and the Dominican will use Aristotle to explain the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist in a new way.  Using Aristotle they were able to say that at the Consecration with  the words, “This is my Body and this is my Blood” the substance, understood as metaphysical reality, was changed from Bread and Wine to the Body and Blood of the Lord whiile the accidents of bread and wine remained.  All the great Scholastics, and this will include all the Franciscan teachers followed this principle.

Scholastic theologians concentrated on the sacramental presence of Jesus in the species of bread and wine.  They interpreted the link between the Mass and the passion of Christ in an allegorical fashion; the succession of the phases of the celebration must correspond to the successive stages of the passion. In the time of St Thomas the priest made the signs of the cross nine times in the celebration and Thomas chooses these nine points to establish a correspondence with nine stages in the passion.

The Franciscan Theologians were deeply influenced by the vision, affective response and the spirituality of St Francis.  This was a Spirituality of real intimate affectionate love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. This was what St Francis asked of them; “Kissing your with all the love I am capable of I beg you to show the greatest possible  reverence and honor for the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”…

ii) St Bonaventure

St Bonaventure was born some years before the death of St Francis but did not know the saint, he entered the Franciscans as a young man and had as his professors at the University of Paris the Franciscans Alexander of Hales, William of Melitona and Odo Rigaldi

Bonaventure, as Minister General of the Order is deeply influenced by the vision of St Francis. His conception is the concrete Eucharistic Christology of St Francis and he completely identifies the sacrament with the person of the historical Jesus.  The Eucharist for him is a visitation of the Son of God, who humbles himself by coming in the Sacrament, the Eucharist is a kind of Incarnation. (Mazza 215)

St Bonaventure follows St Francis very closely in the way he treats the question of God.  He continually speaks of the Trinity, the Triune God. The Mystery of the Triune God stresses God as essentially relationship, belonging. Thus, the God of the Eucharist is a God of love and goodness. The medieval axiom, “ Bonum est sui diffusivum”—Goodness is diffusive of its very self” lies at the heart of Franciscan Theological discussion of God. The Eucharist is the embrace of God’s goodness.

Bonaventure explains all of God’s qualities, His power, His knowledge, His freedom within a Trinitarian context. When Thomas Aquinas deals with God his focus is on the one God.  In many ways this difference between Thomas and Bonaventure marks a major distinction between the Dominican intellectual tradition and the Franciscan intellectual tradition

In the Franciscan intellectual tradition a relational Triune God in consistently the basis of God’s own nature which is love and goodness. Bonaventure’s approach to the Eucharist is one of devotion and affection.  He in fact co-opts a devotion and affection directly into his Theological treatment which he taught at the University.

Enrico Mazza writes; “ In his view ( Bonaventure) the Eucharistic species are as it were the garment or veil which covers the Body and Blood of Christ.  When he takes the subject of the communion he speaks of nourishment and also of the welcome given to a guest, of the Sacrament of union, and of a burning coal.

The burning coal is the Body of Christ in His Passion. And it is in this sense that Bonaventure defines the Eucharist as a memorial :  The Eucharist is as it were a burning coal that sets on fire those who remember the Passion, because in so doing they have a kind of affective experience of the Passion…. The Eucharist is a living memorial because Christ Himself is present in it”. Mazza 216.  Jesus said; “Do this in memory of Me”. We could translate this with the mind of Bonaventure as saying; “when you do this you bring Me back”.

Like the Sadducees with their trick question regarding the woman whose seven husbands all died the Cathars heretics tried to mock the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist being bread and wine by asking what did the mouse eat when it burrowed into the tabernacle

St Thomas took the view that in fact it did eat the Body of Christ.  St Bonaventure took a completely personal position saying that Christ is present under the Bread and Wine of the Sacrament only to the extent that the Sacrament is ordered to  human use.

This minor question enables us to see  the difference between the Eucharist teaching of Thomas and Bonaventure. St Thomas is more objective and more closely linked to his analysis of being.

St Bonaventure is more closely linked to a personalist perspective that is based on the institution of the Sacrament of Christ, namely that the Eucharist is for a human use namely for eating and this intended purpose determines the very nature of the Eucharistic bread.

“ In the view of Bonaventure the deeply affective response of Francis is echoed in the his prayers.  He prayed; “Let my soul always thirst for you alone, Lord.  O Bread of celestial life descended from heaven , Bread of Angels, sustenance of Saintly souls, our daily bread that is beyond mere substance and is possessed of all savor, sweetness and delight.  You whom the holy Angels long to behold shall be the perpetual food and drink of my heart.  O fountain of life, O fountain of wisdom, O fountain of knowledge, O fountain of eternal light, O torrent of desire and fertility in dimension of God…  You alone shall be all in all to me”.

iii) John Duns Scotus

All Theologians of the middle ages understood creation as an act only God could perform.  Often, however, the emphasis is on God’s power.  The  Franciscan intellectual tradition does not start with God’s power. Rather it starts with God’s absolute freedom. This is where Scotus begins.  From a Philosophical point of view God’s freedom in Scotus has no limit, and from a Theological point of view it is God’s love that has no limit. There is a clear connection between God’s absolute freedom and God’s love.  A Divine act of freedom is a Divine act of Love. His concept of God is profoundly Trinitarian and relational.

This teaching of Scotus had an enormous impact on the Franciscan intellectual tradition. Everything created in the Universe exists because of God absolute freedom and because of God’s unlimited love.  All of creation is a gift.  Nothing in creation is necessary.  Everything in this sense is grace, an unmerited gift of God.

It is in this context that Scotus sees the Eucharist as the marvelous longing of God to give himself to us.  The Eucharist is totally gift and we should respond with total affection , devotion and surrender. The Eucharist is a huge affirmation by God of human dignity.

Francis and Clare felt themselves surrounded by gifts.  In his Testament St Francis writes, “The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin to doing penance in this way;….. the Lord Himself led me among the lepers and I showed mercy to them.”

If you were to ask Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas for a definition of a human being they would say a human being is a rational animal.  Scotus found difficulty with this view.  He would say that God has clearly created rational animals but has never created a single rational animal.  And so Scotus brings into the philosophy of  Aristotle, the idea of thisness. God is concerned with this person, each unique person.

Scotus doctrine of thisness applied to the human person makes each person of unique value in the eyes of the God.  Each person is wanted by God  and loved by God.  One could even say thisness is our personal gift from God.  And so when God comes in the Eucharist He comes in this unique person.  He is there for me, He will embrace me and fills me with his grace.

The theology and understanding of the Eucharist as experienced in the Franciscan tradition has had many practical fruits down through the centuries and has importance for the contemporary situation.

Fruits of Franciscan Eucharistic Theology over the centuries and for today

a) It emphasizes belonging

The Franciscan understanding of the Eucharist is God’s reaching out to be one with us and to make us one with each other.  “Where ever the brothers may be and meet one another, let hem show  that they are members of the same family.  Let each one confidently make known his need to the other, for if a mother loves and cares for her son according to the flesh, how much more diligently must someone love and care for his brother according to the Spirit” Rule of St Francis; Rule of St Clare.

To belong is a fundamental human need. Belonging like the soul itself cannot be measured but is there anything more real or felt?  Though invisible belonging holds us with unbreakable cords to those we love.  What touches those we love deeply affects us. The little hen defending its chicks from the fox, the sheep dying to protects its lambs, the little child crying in an unfriendly hospital ward is begging to  belong to a friendly shoulder.  Long ago Marx identified alienation as a pervading disease of our times, it is the root of violence and of the abandonment of relationships in family, village and nations.  In spite of the advancing communications the loneliness of human people is a constant cry in the dark.  An extensive  individuality leaves people forsaken, weak and meaningless.

Belonging is at the heart of African civilization and culture. The Church as family was the theme of the first African synod. Those of the older generation in South Africa who hail from rural villages bemoan the falling apart of the center.

In the Mass, in the Eucharist  the Church today offers a sense of belonging. The Eucharist as personal, as belonging, as sharing in the intimate life of the Triune God is the secret treasure where the madding crowd can find itself and others.

A young lady getting married searched everywhere for material to make a suitable wedding dress. Though she tried store after store she was never satisfied. Finally, an exasperated shop assisant asked her; “Please explain exactly what you want”. The girl replied;”I need a material which rustles when I wear it”. “Why must it rustle,?” asked the assistant.  “Because my bridegroom is blind and I want him to know that I am beside him and with him in everything which happens on the day”, replied the girl. Francis and Clare heard the rustling of the Bridegroom in the Eucharist. As Celano would say of Francis; “in prayer he felt the touch of the Bridegroom”

Francis and Clare experienced in the Eucharist a total sense of belonging, belonging to God.  That is why they were able to leave everything, that is why they were companions to the poor, that is why they went away so often with the Lord to experience sense of belonging.

Through the Eucharist the Lord who wished to gather His chickens under His wings calls our impersonal globalized world to come to Him and find each other. But the celebration of Eucharist must be reverent, it must be filled with a sense of real presence, it must be participative and it must express itself outside the doors of the assembly.  Space must be found for people to recognize their own reality in the celebration and sharing,; and this demands prayer, preparation and knowledge of  his people on the part of the priest.

b) The Goodness of the Eucharistic Lord; serve the poor!

St Francis was above all struck by the wonderful humility and poverty of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  In receiving the Eucharist he too wanted to become food and bread for the poor.  Francis shared intimately the life of the lepers, the poor.  In the old leper hospital below Assisi there used to be an inscription “here the Franciscan Order began”.  He wanted always to be with them.  He spent his life among them.  Having received the Eucharist he wished to become eucharist for others.

The Franciscan saints  have witnessed their time and time again.  In a special way all those Brothers, all of whom were noted for the Eucharistic love, brought the hospitality of Christ to the poor. We remember St Felix begging on the streets of Rome, sharing with the poor and then spending the night in adoration praying for his benefactors and for all who came to this humble brother with their dreadful problems.  St Paschal Baylon is the patron of all Eucharistic sodalities spent years as porter of his friary in Spain offering hospitality to all travelers.  We remember St Francis Mary who died in 1866 had as his ideal, “I came to the Friars to be a beast of burden”.  He walked the streets of Genoa begging for the poor from door to door

To list them all would turn this talk into a litany.

Bishop Moorman writes of the Third Order; “ Besides nursing the sick in their homes these people were to receive poor people who were ill or homeless into their hospitals. There were to  carry food to the hungry and sit by the dying, to visit and pay for chaplains for prisoners,….  these devoted layfolk brought the love of Christ into home where dirt, disease and death were all too common”.

Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, expelled from her inheritance built a little hospital in  Marburg to which she personally carried the abandoned poor and diseased to nurse and wash them herself; when funds ran low she went fishing to feed her poor .  She died at the age of 24 worn out for the poor but filled with the joy of the Eucharist. She is the patron of the secular Franciscan Order.

The theology of Scotus is centered on the supreme dignity of the individual human being. Such a theology, energized by the Eucharist calls Christians to be preeminent in the struggle for human rights. And this struggle must be expressed by love, for Scotus the human person is an affective rationality.

For Franciscans the Eucharist is the daily reminder of the goodness of God. It is a call for the Church to become Eucharist.  Unless the goodness we receive is echoed in our care for the poor we must question the reality of our faith in that which we receive. The Eucharist is energy. It was given with the washing of the feet, it was given so that we should wash feet. If we don’t see Christ in the poor do we really perceive him in the tabernacle or at Mass?

Why is it so easy to reduce the Celebration of the Eucharist for ministers to ritual  and be unconcerned with crying needs of real people?

c)The Eucharist; life of a humble Church.

Just before he died St Francis said in his Testament; “The Lord gave me, and gives me still, such faith in priests who love according to the rite of the holy Roman Church because of their orders that, were they to persecute me, I would still want to have recourse to them…  And I do not want to consider any sin in them because I discern the Son of God in them… And I act in this way because, in the world, I see nothing corporally of the most high Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood which they receive and they alone administer to others”.

It was the Church which brought the Eucharist to Francis and his love for priests was one expression of his reverence for it. Countless Franciscan saints saw in the church the body of Christ which gives us the Body of Christ. We remember the preaching of Anthony of Padua, Bernadine of Siena, John Capistran, Lawrence  of Brindisi, Leonard of Portmaurice and Cardinal William Massia.  One thinks of the Poor Clares living in enclosure to adore the Eucharist praying for the building up of the Church.

With the Dominicans for 400 years the Franciscan Order was THE mission order of the Church in China already in the 13th century, to India, Japan, Israel, and all  the lands of South and North America. Not so long ago we celebrate the 5th centenary of the Franciscan in South America.  Later with the Jesuits and for 200 years now with new missionary congregations the service of he Church continues.

In recent years the Church has had to suffer and as usual its greatest dangers have again come from within itself, often from its own priests. The spirit of the world, the spirit of appropriation, of material comfort has dulled the zeal and conscience of some.  In place of priests washing feet we are given a heavy, stifling clericalisation.   The Eucharist is a call to humility, a call to remember the humility of the One hidden behind bread and wine. Coming to the Lord in poverty we discover the great joy there is in meeting the richness of a generous God.

In South Africa with its 6,000 independent churches the presence of the Eucharist may seem to some to divide us; but it is a call to understand the gift Christ  has given us, a gift he wishes to offer to all, a gift based on faith and commitment to Him.

Rejection by the world, the disappearance of clericalism, the puncturing of false status is a call to find real nuggets of joy again – in humility, a humility so finely emphasized by Francis and so evident in the Eucharist.

The humility of the Eucharist does not attack wealth as such; rather it tells us, not to be satisfied with material things there- are many gems of beauty in the world to which wealth can make us blind.

A little boy who had been badly burned languished in hospital for many months. A kindly nurse took an interest in him.  Each day she spent hours with the little fellow telling him that he would indeed walk again, but he must try. And try he did. Hours went by each day until with the help of the nurse’s hand he was able to stand. But he would not let go her hand. He had no confidence in his little damaged legs. She would encourage him each day but he was too afraid to stand alone. She prayed for him, praised every effort and cajoled him. At the end of one day’s long trial and effort he slowly let go her hand and marvellously there he stood. He stood for thirty seconds and then fell back with a great expression of triumph on his pillow.  He had done it.

At that moment the nurse glanced at the T.V. where a medal ceremony of the Olympic games was taking place. An athlete received a gold medal while the flags of his country were raised, while the anathem was played and while the world acknowledged him. For the nurse the triumph of her little boy was for her a far greater joy than a thousand Olympic Medals.

There are great and beautiful moments in life, the Eucharist invites us to notice them.

d) Franciscan Eucharistic theology, the beauty of all Creation.

Francis saw in the Eucharist a confirmation of the sacredness of all creation. “ He rejoiced”, wrote his friend Thomas of Celano, “in all the works of the Lord’s hands.. In beautiful things he discerns Beauty itself; all good things cry out to Him; ‘the One who made us is the best”. 2 Celano

St Clare, that great Franciscan saint of the Eucharist prayed; “He is the One whose beauty all the heavenly hosts admire unceasingly, whose love inflames our love, whose contemplation is our refreshment….” How awesome are Clare’s dying words after her hidden life of poverty; “Thank you, My Lord, for having created me”

The insistence on the Eucharist as gift reminds us that all is gift. And the theology of Scotus makes Beauty a central moral category.

Gifted with the nourishment of the Lord’s Body and Blood through the instrumentality of humble bread and wine we should easily move to realize how the Lord nourishes our whole existence with all He has created.

e) The Eucharist a source of joy and hope and peace.

“How can anyone be lonely with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament”, said the Franciscan Matt Talbot, a Dublin working man.  And St Francis; “ We should wish for nothing else and have no other desire , we should find no pleasure or delight in anything except our Creator, Redeemer, and Savior; He alone is true God, who is perfect good, all good, every good, the true and supreme good…”

There must be a sense of confidence and joy when one believes and knows that one lives with the God of supreme goodness and love and that He has chosen me, this individual and that He wishes to give Himself as gift constantly to me. Franciscan life has always had a certain gaiety, a simplicity and joy. The individual was important for Francis, for Scotus and for the community today.

The fioretti with Juniper, Leo, Masseo and Francis himself  is a religious high jinks unparalleled in religious life. The miracle plays, the processions, the celebrations, the liturgical functions, the popular missions and devotions brought lightness, excitement and holiness to generation after generation.

The emotions which most cripple joyful living today are fear, anger and resentment. What more could God have done to show us a medicine. In Africa so much belief is centered on witchcraft in different forms, much time and money is expanded in seeking remedies. Do we present the Holy Eucharist as the touch of Him for whom all things exist and by whom all things exist. Grounding the faithful’s vision and trust on such  a medicine should surely bring hope and peace.

Franciscan theology has always been affective. Let me conclude with the praise of St Margaret of Cortona; “ I am not surprised that the martyrs should have run to meet death, a smile upon their lips and  joy in their hearts. With the strength I acquire here at the tabernacle nothing would stop me and I should count for nothing the most atrocious tortures. What should I not do for love of my Jesus? With the children of Israel, I would sing in the fiery furnace; with Mary Magdalene I would cling to the foot of the cross; with St John I would plunge into the caldron of burning oil, with the martyrs I would not only steep my lips in the chalice of bitterness, but, if possible, die a thousand times daily for God; so great is the joy I feel here in his presence.”

William Slattery ofm

23 Sept 2009.

Johannesburg

Mbuthweni

Bridge of Peace

People of two neighbouring villages who had not dared to visit each other for two months since 16 men were killed in an inter village faction fight were re-united in a Church service for peace on Easter Tuesday.

Organised by the Ministers of the Roman Catholic and Dutch Reformed churches in Mount Ayliff, Transkei, the people of the villages of MButhweni and Nokatshile came together at a small river dividing their lands to pray for peace. The trouble had started years before in a dispute between two men. Each Christmas when the men came back from the mines there was enormous tension, sometimes fights flared up. Though the two villages were originally one and the people were related to each other the sense of mutual suspicion was intense.

The 16 men were killed when the village olf Nokatshile planned a surprise raid on their neighbours. The neighbouring village of Mbuthweni had however received a tip-off and were in waiting, they surprised the attackers, 15 of whom were killed. Now everybody feared the worse. The men were at home and so everyone slept out in the fields. It was teachers in the schools who brought the matter to the parish priest Fr Giorgio Stefani, they had seen the children dozing and totally switched off in school and had divined the reason.

The people were invited to gather, each on their own side of a tiny stream separating their communal lands for a prayer and reconciliation meeting. As police planes flew overhead the Bishop stood on a board which was the bridge over the stream and spoke. Each village rendered hymns with gathering enthusiasm.

After water had been blessed the 300 villagers, standing across the stream from each other washed their hands and asked for God’s forgiveness. Two fires were lit on either side to the water and representatives placed incense in the flames begging God for peace in their own village. They then crossed over the foot-bridge and prayed for their neighbouring village. A second time they crossed the little bridge passing each other on the bridge and shaking hands. They entered each others’space and found peace there.

Bishop William Slattery of Kokstad referred in his sermon to the Scripture account of Jesus appearance to his disciples. He invited the people to allow the peace and forgiveness of the Risen Jesus to touch their wounded hearts. Jesus, he said, had seen how even the apostles, Judas, Peter and the others had abandoned Him, yet He came to them, risen from the dead to forgive them and bring them to a new peace.

The Bishop encouraged the people to have pity on their own children and not to pass on the seed of hatred and violence to them. For two months the children and women had been sleeping in the fields and mountains in fear and now sat weary and dispirited at home and in class.

The dead do not want revenge, the Bishop said, they want peace and forgiveness. Let us not embarrass them now who must stand before the face of God, the God of peace. Promotors of witchcraft who promise people medicine to make themselves invisible before enemies must remember all is visible to God who judges the living and the dead.

After the laying on of hands in prayer the people in chorus crossed the foot-bridge to embrace their one-time enemies in joy. “All my family live over there” said one woman, ” and I have not dared see them in two months”.

The Police plane up above droned off behind the mountains as people cried out with joy in peace and reconciliation. Christ gives a peace the world cannot understand.

April 6 1999.

Kokstad

Poor Clares in Kokstad

Five Poor Clare sisters from the monastery of Lusaka, Zambia, arrived in Kokstad on November the 8th to establish a new monastery. A four day journey by road brought them to their home “Santa Chiara”. The sisters are Sister Intulo, Luwa, Maria-Coletta, Mdzakazi, and Mary and they come from Zambia and Malawi to open the first Poor Clare Colettine house in South Africa. 

In June 1994, Mother Veronica, the abbess of Lusaka and Sister Intulo came to Kokstad to look at suitable sites. They selected a small holding about 8km from Kokstad beneath Mt. Currie, surrounded by trees, with water and an area for vegetable gardening. The original swimming pool was removed to make way for flower gardens while the tennis courts will now become a haven for drying vegetables. The property was acquired by generous fraternal assistance of the Minister General Father Hermann Schaluck, the Irish Franciscan Province and the benefactors of the Lusaka Poor Clares.

At the opening Mass on the feast of the Presentation of Mary, November 21 the majority of the priests and brothers of the diocese gathered to welcome the sisters. On this day of joy the Lord and Saviour, came to dwell in their house. To receive this Guest the sisters spent the night in prayer. The church of Kokstad received the Poor Clares with great joy. Their monastery is a village set on a hill calling us to worship and praise, to remember that God is among us and to place our trust in Him.

At a very impressive ceremony on November 13, in the home monastery in Lusaka a large congregation of Zambian christians said goodbye to the sisters who were leaving for good to found a new monastery in a distant land. After a solemn entry while the drums were played, the sisters stood before the altar and prayed a traditional African love song, now sung to Jesus,

I have seen my way and I go.

There is a call in my heart

Which urges me ahead

To do my Lord’s will.              

Indeed all my love is for him.
I will deny him nothing                                                                     

Since he has won my heart

And inflamed it with the living ember

Of his own life.

I will follow him wherever he leads me.

Then Mother Veronica,the Abbess of Lusaka, blessed the sisters “Now I send you in the name of Clare of Assisi, our Mother and of our Father St Francis to found the new monastery of Poor Clares there in Kokstad; a house of prayer and peace following the holy rule and traditions of our order”. She then gave the holy rule to Sister Intulo and continued “but you should also be ready to live according to those desires of your new people which harmonise the true Franciscan contemplative life.”

The sisters then renewed their total commitment to the Lord before the church of Lusaka. In response to this renewal of their dedication of their lives to Christ the whole congregation burst out in song and dance

Chiara! Light!

A new born child! Blessed are your parents!

Clare, you are a child of blessings.

Clare’s fame has never died.

It goes on spreading everywhere in Africa!

See; the daughters of Clare and going to a new village.

The first scripture reading was from Genesis, Chapter 12 which speaks of Abraham moving to the mountainous district east of Bethel, where he pitched his tent, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built an altar to Yahweh and invoked the name of Yahweh. The Pilgrim psalm captured the moment; “I rejoiced when I heard them say let us go the house of the Lord. And now our feet are standing within your gates, oh Jerusalem”.

The gospel reading speaking of the vine and the branches brings out the fact that the Poor Clare apostolate is exercised through the living in union with Jesus Christ. Their union with him, as it were, removes the stone from the door of the grave, and allows Him to enter our world in all His power and glory again. Through union with Christ the Poor Clares reach the whole world. Through their union in Jesus Christ at the heart of the church of Kokstad they will give life to the apostolate and the mission of that church.

At the offertory the Zambian congregation offered symbolic offerings and seeds to be planted in Kokstad. The priest blessed some carved white doves. These are symbols of purity and gentleness, of silent contemplation and loving song. The Mother Abbess, Sister Veronica then handed each of the sisters a dove saying “You may now fly to where God calls you to be his adorers in spirit and in truth.” The Kokstad sisters, holding the doves and dancing slowly sang;

“The wind is blowing to take you to your new land, yes, it is the spirit and we are ready. The same sun will warm you there. The same love; the same God of our lives.”

The sisters placed the doves on the altar as the offering of themselves.

 

The congregation singing the magnificat said goodbye in tears to the sisters while they parted from the people with whom they had so often prayed and gave each a small homemade scone as a sign of friendship. They then set out for Kokstad.

Saint Clare left home on Palm Sunday 1212 and Francis arranged for her to live at the little church at San Damiano. For 43 years Clare lived a life of intense prayer and union with God, and became a light for her city and for the world. In her lifetime the sisters went down to found monasteries in France. From France they moved to Algiers and from Algiers on to Lilongwe in Malawi. From Lilongwe, Sister Mother Veronica took the Order to Lusaka in Zambia. And from Zambia they have come to Kokstad. Such has been the journey of St Clare from Assisi to Kokstad.

St Clare herself explains the life: “You have one aim, to embrace the poor Christ. Keep your eyes firmly on him who for you was regarded as nothing. Your bridegroom, Jesus, is He who is a beauty beyond all the sons of men. Keep your eyes on Him, gaze apon Him, think of Him always and become like Him”.

At the opening mass the congregation was told that the sisters had not come to Kokstad to work in hospitals, or to teach in schools, or the visit in our parishes, or to do social work. They have come to bear witness to the supreme advantage of knowing and celebrating and loving and living in Christ Jesus our Lord. They are sent for the tired, the despairing, the weak, the imprisoned, those in broken lives, for the young, for the old, for families. They are sent for all of us.

Although Clare lived a life of great poverty and total simplicity, she lived a life of radiant joy as was witnessed by all who knew her. The reason for her joy can be found in her words “Oh spouse of Jesus Christ, how fortunate you are to love Jesus with all the strenghth of your heart. He it is whose beauty is admired incessantly by all the angels and saints in heaven. It is love for him which makes us happy, His kindness fills us to the brim”.

Father Robert Steward, Provincial of the South African Franciscans welcomed the Poor Clares. He assured them the whole Franciscan family rejoiced in their arrival. Father Robert highlighted the significance of the fact that these new missionaries where from Zambia, another African country.

The people of Kokstad expressed their joy by bringing gifts to the sisters. Clare of Assisi had come to Kokstad.

Our Lenten Journey

We begin the season of Lent with ashes on our foreheads.

To put on ashes, to sit on ashes, is to say publicly and to ourself that you are reflective, in a penitential mode, that this is not “ordinary time” for you, that you are grieving some of the things you have done or lost, that some important work is going on silently inside you.

IINDABA 69

21st January 2010

1.     We have a web-site. It is www.catholicdiocesekokstad.org.za . Open this web-site and you will find news of the diocese including the Iindaba and all other issues from the very beginning. You will find your mission and photographs.

The Bishop’s e-mail address is slatteryws@telkomsa.net . You will find this on the web-site with many other details about the diocese.

Personnel   We were very happy to have Fr Richard Kugbeh-Kasin visit us over Christmas. Fr Richard is the Spiritual director of St John Vianney Seminary and came for Christmas to his home diocese, Kokstad.   We are delighted to see his health is good but he has great responsibility in the Seminary formation programme.

We welcome Fr Paul, a Comboni Father who will live at Mt Ayliff and work in the diocese. His home is Kenya and we are very happy to have him.

At the same time we are sad to say good bye to Fr Memo who was part of our family. Fr Memo was a friend to all, he will work in Johannesburg.

We offer congratulations to the Jubilarians, Sister Canisia from Mt Ayliff, Sister Agnes Mgijima at Cedarville and Sr Annuarite of the Poor Clare Sisters. We thank God for their great service to the church.

Sisters Nomsa and Veronica made their final Profession at Matikwe on December the 18th . Many priests of the diocese attended, our sisters are very committed to the diocese. We welcome back Sister Nomvula who is in studies but will be available at Umzongwana this year.

Also Sisters of Kokstad, Sr Nosipho Fenicia Ndlovu and Busisiwe Lucia Hlomani Ndlovu made their first profession in Matikwe.

We welcome Br Fidel Muhase our seminarian but will do his internship at Bizana for six months.

Also we look forward to the arrival of two young priests from Ghana who will come soon. Their papers are being processed at the moment.

Fr Lizo who is in Rome studying sends greetings to everybody.

2.     Forth Coming Events
a.     The Bishop ordains four new priests on the 16th of January at Phoenix.
b.     The consulters meet in Kokstad on the 18th of January.
c.     The Bishop will be away at SACBC annual meeting in Pretoria from the 26th of January to the 3rd of February.
d.     Fr Joseph Sandri, the Provincial of the Comboni Fathers will be ordained Bishop of Witbank on the 31st of January in Lydenburg. We send congratulations to Fr Joseph and to his brothers, we thank him for his help to us during his time as Provincial.
e.     On the 6th of February , Sister Thembile of the Presentation (Ntomb’futhi Langa) will make her first Professional vows at the Monastery Chapel at Santa Chiara at 10 am. We rejoice that Sister will dedicate her life and prayer for the church and diocese. Her home is in Umzongwana, all are invited to the celebration.

f.       February the 7th in Cape Town, Bishop Steven Breslin will be installed as Archbishop of Cape Town.
g.     The Cathedral will celebrate its 85th Anniversary on the weekend 27th 28th of February, the Apostolic Nuncio will attend, the Cardinal will preach.
h.     Consulters meeting, the 1st of March.
i.       8th to the 11th of March the Priests will meet at Coolock House.
j.       21st of March will be the opening and blessing of the new church at Mqhume in Flagstaff, St Joseph.
k.    21st to the 24th of March the sisters are invited to meet at Coolock House. Could those attending please let the office in Kokstad know so that we can tell Coolock to prepare for us.
l.       31st March the Chrism Mass will take place at the Cathedral.
m.  The 2nd of April will be Good Friday.
n.     The 4th of April will be Easter Sunday.

3.     Vocations
Fr Lizo and now Fr Tabang have worked very hard to encourage vocations in the diocese. This year we will send Andile Mkafane, Luxolo Ncama and Aviwo Beata to the Preparatory course in Port Elizabeth.
Promise Mbhata will probably work in the diocese for a year. Mvikeli Mdunyelwa from Tabankulu, Napo Swayi from Umzongwana   will go to the Orientation Seminary in Cape Town. Zonwabele Njoko from Bizana will go to St John Vianney Seminary to join Brother Musawenkosi Jakuja and Fidel Mohasa. There are other candidates but they have still some examinations to do. Please pray for them, please encourage them.

Fr Thabang has asked that we speak about vocations during the year. Underline the 4th Sunday of Easter which is Good Shepherds Sunday and is the World day for vocations. Make this a special day in your parish. As you know there will be a workshop for vocations in Kokstad in July and another one in December.

4.Lumko course
Following up on the discussions in Coolock House we are inviting the Lumko team to present Theology to our leaders. They will come three or four times this year from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning. They will offer Theology, Scripture, Moral Theology and Liturgy. Each parish is invited to present four candidates for this course. They will stay here in Kokstad over night. Dates will follow.

This is a real effort to offer ongoing formation to our leaders in the diocese. We want them to have a better Catholic identity, know their tradition and be able to offer instruction and guidance to our people.

5 The Chaplains of the Sodalities are invited to meet in Kokstad on Monday the 15th of February at 11am. This comes from our discussions in Coolock.

The Chaplains are:

St Annes, Fr Mawethu,
Sacred Heart, Fr Zanemvula
Amadodana, Fr Yalezo
Children of Mary, Fr Tabang
Youth, Fr Sihle
Amajoni, Fr Lemao
Amadodakazi, Fr Vincent
Justice and Peace, Fr Robert
Nurses Guild, Fr Bongani

The meeting is to clarify our program for the Sodalities. It was felt that some of our Sodalities are acting independently of the work of the parish and the diocese. We need to help them to be the part of diocesan programs. We also need to look at co-ordinating dates and parish programs from here.

6.Sodality Leaders

At least two leaders from each sodality is invited to meet at Kokstad, Saturday the 20th of February at 10 am to continue discussion of the formation programs for the sodalities.

7.Fr Mariano is to be congratulated on providing a calendar of events for 2010 for the diocese. The Sodalities are requested to get in their dates as soon as possible. As you know there are Catechetical programs, Justice and Peace programs, workshops, retreats etc and we need to have a calendar to guide us.

8. RCIA
The RCIA program is weak. I just wanted to remind you that on the first and second Sunday of Lent those to be baptized this year Easter should be enrolled publicly and formally in the church before the community.
Obviously those to be baptized  have been under instruction from last year. One could also take this opportunity of enrolling those who will be baptized or received in 2011on the same occasion.

9  Sister Francina Mlitwa has given each priest the service for the commissioning of catechism teacher which should take place during this month of January.  It is an opportunity to remind all parents and the whole parish that they have a severe responsibility to pass on the faith. It also is the time to recognize and to thank and encourage those who are so faithful in teaching catechism.
In their report to the diocese at the end of 2009 the catechetical team made the following points.
Positive points
They said that many priests were present and this made a big difference in encouraging the catechism teachers
Again the majority of sowers/teachers attended when a catechetical team visited the parish. There was a keen desire on the part of sowers to know more about their faith and to get the training and help on how to teach.
They pointed our the following challenges.
Often outstations do not attend and are neglected in teaching of catechism.
Communication needs to be strengthened between the team and individual parishes. Hopefully all dates on Fr Mariano’s calendar will help the parents to know exactly when to expect a visit from the team.
It is necessary that when the team comes and the sowers have their workshop the parish should have some cooks ready to help. The team are also worried that there is not enough follow up. Meeting the team two times a year is not enough support for the individual sowers.
Another weakness is that there are very few young teachers, it is mainly older people\older women who are caring the responsibility for this task. Young people need to become involved in teaching catechism.
The RCIA program is very weak in our diocese and the formation of people, especially adults entering the church is not adequate.

As you know we expect each child to give R10 a year for catechism formation. R5 for local meetings and R5 to support the diocesan team.

10. Jonathan Meth with the help of those he has already trained is making a great effort to improve family and marriage life. However, people need to be encouraged\pushed to attend these sessions. It seems very unpopular with people to hear anything about marriage or family life.
And this is the area that is weakest in their Christian life and leaves them and their unfortunate children very vulnerable and helpless.

Jonathan is diocesan co-coordinator for prison-work. Needless to say the chief responsibility for prison work in your parish is with the priest. But Jonathan is available to visit the prisons, to train people to help. Prisoners are very neglected and hopeless. We should do all we can to help them.

11.We are expecting a visit from the Neo-Catechumenate to speak in various parishes.
The Neo-catechumenate is based on the policy and practice of the early church, the RCIA. However, this is a fully professional serious program. It involves people committing their lives to Christ. These people will come and speak at the invitation of parishes. They are looking for people who are willing to dedicate their lives totally to Christ in their homes, in their family and in their parishes.
They will come in the first part of the year. Please invite them to your parish and see if there are a number of people who really want to take Christian life very seriously.

12 Congratulations to Fr John on his welcome to the people who attended the Theology week in Maria Telgte. Special mention must be made of Fr Mawethu and Fr Bongani who gave full days programs to over 120 of our leaders. This years program was felt to be extremely successful and positive. People gained a lot from meeting each other, from the instructions, reflections and in the understanding of the church.

13 We hope that during the course of this year the complex at Shayamoya will be completed and the church added. By the end of January Hardenburg will be complete.

During this year we would hope to build a new church at Lukholweni and with God’s help we will start a parish church for Hardenburg. We ask the people in those areas to prepare themselves spiritually and financially for such a task.

14. The Catholic Institute of Education had a farewell Mass and lunch for Mrs Gloria Napier after years of great service. Gloria’s place will be taken by Anthony Ciro who will deal especially with Catholic Schools of our diocese. These are; Tafeni with learners 140, Ntsimbini-Telgte learners 350, Glen Edward 178 , St Paul’s Franklin 120, Tigervlei 80, St Teresa-Bizana learners 420 at the last count , Flagstaff 750. As well, Hardenberg School though a Government school wishes to retain its links with the Mission. It has 740 learners and associates itself with many of our programs.

Along with introducing our religious instruction books in the schools and helping the teachers to utilize them Gloria also brought literacy, numeracy, whole school development, English as second-language. She gave a tremendous boost to the morale of teachers.
Under Mrs Napier Echoing the Word Program was very successful in helping teachers to deal with the problem of teaching religion in schools. Last year 25 qualified.

We are very proud of Telgte and the great achievement and courage of Sister Jerome Ngcobo in creating a model school in Bizana.
AMAWELE– Twining with certain schools in Ireland enriches both Irish and South African teachers.

15 The three deaneries of the Diocese have as their deans;
Fr Vincent for the central area with secretary Fr Melese.
Fr Clement for the Maluti area with secretary Fr Zanemvula.
Fr Francis Lemau for the Pondoland area with secretary Fr Silindile.

16The Abantwana bakaMariya had their usual retreat at Kokstad from the 7th to 11th of December. This was very well organized by Fr Thabang who brought in a team of fine teachers. Also he has emphasized that boys have an important role to play in Abantwana bakaMaria. He took a fine group of boys to join their Mariannhill counterparts for retreats in July. This is a very healthy development.

17 The Youth pilgrimage which was organized by Fr Sihle and his team took place from Cedarville to Hardenberg. Great numbers of youth made this walk which is 35 km in distance for a full day and the next day spent in reflection and prayer together. They were very happy with the experience.
Every parish must try to have some program for youth during the year. Fr Sihle and his team have presented the program for 2010 but each parish should also have a program.   It is hoped that some of the Sisters of the diocese might form a retreat team offering para-liturgies and vigils during the course of the year in various parishes.

18. Sister Vianney is still and the commander of the Amajoni and she was present at Mt Ayliff on the 22nd of November, the Feast of Christ the King. 135 new members were received. This organization for the little children offers great potential for forming them in their faith and Christian action.

19 REAP. We thank Mrs Wicks for wonderful work done in this area. We expect 7 or 8 young people from the Diocese to get generous bursaries to assist them with Universities this year. The application forms for 2011 are now available. Confer the separate page at the end of this Iindaba report.

20. Fr Yalezo and his parish were very happy to have the blessing of their new Church at Ingozi in Lusikisiki on the 29th of November. In the presence of the King and the Queen and great crowds of people , the blessing took place in beautiful surroundings in the  mountains to the great joy and celebration of all.

21 On the 2nd of December the Bishop blessed New Municipal Offices for Kokstad and was given an Award for service to the town.

22 Great praise and thanks is deserved by the team at the bishop house who created a Christmas dinner for the Priests, Sisters and people of the diocese on the 22nd of December.

23 YONDL’ABANTU
Yondl’abantu is the new name of Sinosizo. We know Sinosizo because they work in all parishes helping orphans, vulnerable children and the sick and ailing people. During November I had the privilege of visiting the three areas of our diocese with Lindelwa, Nomvano and Sister Annastasia who are the regional managers.

I met about 130 care-givers who on their wonderful work. It is clear that Yondlabantu is reaching very poor and needy people.
From the reports one learned of the helplessness of many people in our area. Many have no one to cook for them, some have no food to cook, others have no fire wood or are unable to cook for themselves. Because of this they default with their medicine. The second line of default means death.
When our care-givers bring food from Yondlabantu or from Sr Christina they have only a limited number of food parcels while the demand is great.
People eat up their food parcels very fast and come back then to the care- givers demanding new food parcels. These parcels are available for a limited number of people.

The care workers meet problems in orphan care. Abandoned children cling to them and they find themselves using their own money and their little resources to relieve people whom they cannot abandon to die.

Many people cannot afford R50 the cost to travel to a clinic or town to collect medicine or to be tested or to see a doctor. All priests need to instruct people on the absolute importance of getting HIV tested. It is a matter of life or death. This can easily be presented in the notices at the end of Mass.

The Home-based carers fetch water, wash the sick, wash out houses and clean the beds of the sick. One woman spoke of carrying very sick patients up to 4km to the nearest taxi rank to get them to town. It is also difficult in places to get Social workers to visit, they say they have no transport etc.

While caregivers are doing great work it is clear that we need more supervision and continual re-training in the field. The new facility opening in Hardenberg, the Respite program, will offer something very promising  for the children. We are very grateful for the work of Respond in providing such a place to bring joy and hope into the lives of children.

The Education for life offers 36 programs throughout the diocese during the year. They offer some programs for the 10 to 14 year olds and others for the 15 to 21 group. Nosisa Ngwadla is the Director of this Institute and our priests are strongly advised to invite them because they offer training and awareness for our children. They also speak of such issues as human trafficking.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

On February 27 the Catholics of Kokstad took to the streets to celebrate the 85 years of their cathedral church. Accompanied by drum majorettes, floats representing spiritual themes, choirs, drama groups and a great concourse of    singing flagbearers and public the Catholics of Kokstad gave thanks to God for His presence among them for so many years.

Following the procession through the town people listened to a short history
of the Cathedral and greetings from dignitaries of Church and State. On Sunday a great crowd from Bhongweni and the town came to give thanks and praise to God. Each day 1400 and guests were treated to lunch supplied by the generous congregation of St Patricks. This was a great community effort by the whole community led by the parish priest, Fr Joseph Methanath.

The Bishop of Kokstad, William Slattery was accompanied by Cardinal Napier of Durban, a native of Kokstad, by Archbishop Green, the Pope’s Ambassador to Southern African countries, Bishop Stan Dziuba of Umzimkhulu, Bishop Xolelo Kumalo of Eshowe and by His Worship the mayor, Councilor Sithole and the National Minister of Public Works, Mr Geoff Doidge and many digniteries for the two day celebration.

The First Catholic Church in Kokstad was opened on this spot in September 1884. This first chapel was constructed by soldiers of the Cape Mounted Rifles. With the chapel began a little school and a resident priest, Fr Howlett, came to reside in Kokstad.

Four years later in 1888 a small group of Holy Cross Sisters made the three week journey from Umtata to establish a school. The leader was Sister Philothea Kruger a young woman of faith who left her home to serve the Lord in South Africa. With the help of the good people of Kokstad St Patrick’s school under these Sisters was to serve the people of Kokstad for 107 years. The tradition and name of the school is now proudly borne by the new school of St Patrick.

In 1924 the sisters felt that this great town of Kokstad needed a better and more ample church and so they financed the building of the present cathedral which is a true landmark in the town.

In 1935 a Church was built in Bhongweni which was replaced by a magnificent new structure in 2003. Twelve outstations in the surrounding district grew out of these beginnings including Pakkies, Goxe, Tigervlei, the Pink Church, Gogela, Brooksnek, Ngqumareni etc. Now a fine new church is planned for Shayamoya. The Irish Franciscans staffed these churches between 1935 and 2000.

We call a church “a House of God”. We do so because it is a place where we gather in the name of Jesus to pray and to hear God’s SavingWord. It is a home for God’s family.

It is here that the Catholics of Kokstad have gathered to make holy the great moments of human life, the birth of our children, the marriage of our young people, and to say goodbye to those who depart this life. We remember that God has always rejoiced to be with his people. The Ark of the Covenant accompanied Israel in the desert and God was pleased with the temple of David and Solomon in Jerusalem. In Jesus God made his tent amongst us and He is present when we gather in this Church in His name.

“This Church in Kokstad unites our people with God and with each other.   It reminds us of our common origin, we belong together in God. Here we celebrate our belonging to God’, said Bishop Slattery

This church reminds us that God is present among us. It is also a challenge to the people of Kokstad to build on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. The twin towers of this Church point to Heaven, they invite us to begin all our initiatives in Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Church has served the people of Kokstad for 126 years and will accompany the town into the future. The church will work that all people of good will and with the municipality and the whole community of Kokstad. Politics alone, money alone will never be adequate to create a human- friendly future, we need spirit -filled hearts, we need community and honesty, truth, charity, mercy and forgiveness, respect and moral lives. And for this we need God.

African Synod

Second African Synod

“Africa, rise up, take up … and walk. “John 5 v 8”. Africa is not helpless, our destiny is still in our hands. Africa is already moving; and the Church is moving with her, offering her the light of the Gospel. The waters may be turbulent. But with our gaze on Christ the Lord, we shall make it safely to the port”.

These are the closing words from the final message of the Bishops from the second Synod of Africa in Rome during Oct 2009.

Pope Benedict invited African bishops to Rome so that as he said; “we can listen to God , to one another and to the world around us”. A sense of unity and real consensus pervaded the meeting of bishops representing one hundred and seventy million Catholics throughout the Continent of Africa .

The church in Africa is the spiritual lung of humanity, said the Pope. The Church has seen its greatest growth in all history in Africa in the past 100 years. Africa glories in its saints particularly the glorious martyrs of Uganda. In the poverty of Africa the Beauty of God is radiant with a glory unknown to tired doubting Christians elsewhere. Working for Christ in Africa one experiences a peace which the world does not know.

But the African Church is also a pilgrim Church with great spiritual needs such as the adequate formation of priests, religious and laity. With 170 million members the Church has much to do to make it’s gospel values part of everyday life, especially of political and social life. In South Africa marriage and family life are very fragile with the consequent chaos for women and children.

The Word of the Lord enriches all African cultures, His Sacraments bring the immense joy of His presence to overflowing congregations, He is praised in song and exuberant dance, His schools are everywhere bringing knowledge and science to millions of young people and He embraces the sick and dying in countless clinics, hospitals and homes.

Africa has many problems and the theme of the Synod was reconciliation, justice and peace. Africa is very rich in human talents and yet many of its people are wallowing in poverty and misery, wars and conflicts, crisis and chaos.

The Bishops acknowledge that the sufferings are rarely caused by natural disasters. They are largely due to human sin and decisions. One feels this everyday. On the road out of Kokstad I see many children seeking a lift to schools. It is a journey of 30 kilometers, they arrive late and return very late in evening. In the final exams of 2009 only 12 out this group of 108 passed.

A country like South Africa which has rich resources, exploited for the benefit of foreign companies, can’t educate its own children. The Bishops tried to address these problems.

In most cases they noted, we are dealing with greed for power and wealth at the expense of people and nation. Whatever may be the responsibility of foreign interests, there is always the shame and the tragic collusion of local leaders; politicians who betray and sell out their nation; dirty business people who collude with rapacious multi-nationals; African arms dealers and traffickers who thrive on small arms that cause great havoc on human lives, and local agents of some international organizations who get paid for peddling toxic ideologies that they don’t believe in.

However, the bishops’ message is one of profound hope. Speaking to the laity they say, “You are the Church of God out in the market places of society. It is in and through you that the life and witness of the church are made visible to the world.    You share in the mandate of the Church to be “Ambassadors for Christ” working for reconciliation of people to God and among themselves. This requires you to allow your Christian faith to permeate every aspect and facet of your lives, in the family, work, fashion, in politics and social life.

The Bishops charge our Catholic women to be fully involved in the women’s programs of their nations with their eyes of faith wide open. Armed with good information and the social teaching of the church they must make sure that the good ideas are not hijacked by the peddlers of foreign and morally poisonous ideology about gender and human sexuality”.

What is the specific role of religion in the secular atmosphere of today? Politics deals with the distribution of power, the market controls the flow of wealth. But the new Africa can not be held together simply by the coercive use of power or by the mechanisms of the market. Its future can only be secured by love, loyalty and faithfulness, the very area the Churches must play their role.

People in the past were poor, even destitute, but they had faith, they had community and they belonged. It is in our homes, our churches, our Catholic schools that a way of life if kept alive which is dying elsewhere; a way which calls for fidelity, altruism, decency, civility, reverence and restrain. Without these values human dignity and human society cannot survive.

Bishop Liam Slattery ofm