1st June 2004
1. The diocese rejoiced with our Franciscan brothers on the 29th of May when Brother Simphiwe Kheswa was ordained a priest at Hardenberg. The ceremony attended by a large crowd had excellent liturgical arrangements led by Fr Sizwe Mkhonza. Was it the first priestly ordination at this 105 year old mission?
We welcome Fr Kheswa to the Diocese and ask God’s blessing on all his work.
2. We welcome to the diocese Fr Rigoberto, a Comboni Missionary. He is now studying Xhosa in Umtata and will work in Mount Ayliff and Tabankulu. At the moment Fr Aldo is on supply there and we gladly welcome him.
Fr Rigoberto is from Mexico and he will work with Fr Gunther. At the moment Fr Gunther is on holiday in Germany. We welcome also brother Bongani Dladla and Bro Sandile who will work in the diocese while some of the priests are overseas on holidays.
4. We say welcome home to Bro Thabang Gabriel Letsohla who has completed his studies at St John Vianney’s Seminary. Bro Thabang is on retreat at the moment in preparation for his ordination as Deacon on the 26th of June at Makhwaseng, St Anthony’s.
5. We warmly congratulate Sister Clare of the Poor Clare Monastery who celebrated the Silver Jubilee of her profession as a Contemplative Sister. Sister Clare was the first Zambian Poor Clare Sister . She has made a wonderful contribution in bringing the contemplative dimension of Franciscan and Christian life to Zambia and South Africa.
6. We are very privileged to receive two novices at the Monastery, Sister Nawonga oa Yesu and Sister Chiara Mwale. They have just begun their novitiate and we ask God to bless them. We thank God for the Contemplative vocation and we encourage the priests to bring girls to know the Poor Clare way of life.
7. The Chrism Mass in April in Holy week was attended by a large and fervent crowd. It was wonderful to see all the priests present.
Fr Sizwe organised the singing and it was very uplifting and suitable.
The Children of Mary led by Sr Paulus Maria had a retreat at the same time in Kokstad and this gave a lot of our young people the opportunity to be present for this beautiful occasion when priests renewed their commitment and the oils were blessed..
Please work hard for more vocations for the diocese. Brother Thabang Letsohla is available to visit your parish and to speak with the young people on the subject of vocations. We need to intensify our efforts in this area. We hope that in July to have a workshop for those who are in Grade 11 and 12. Vocations is one of the top priorities of our diocese. Please speak to young fellows and put them in contact with Fr Bongani Mbhele who is the vocation director or with his team.
9. On the 16th of May the bishop consecrated the new church of the Uganda Martyrs at Bhongweni. This church was badly needed as the old one was too small by far for the congregation even on an ordinary Sunday. The New church is beautiful and will allow our people to meet and pray together. The parish is very much alive and we thank Fr Sihlobo for the preparations for the feast. Another aspect of the celebration to be noted was brother Yalezo’s composition of various hymns and responses. This enriched the ceremony with meaningful music.
10. Fr Vincent Bwete is traveling the diocese to encourage our youth groups and to offer them opportunities for meeting, reflecting, playing and growing together as Christians. Please co- operate with Fr Vincent because our youth make up a large percentage of our congregation. On the 16th of June Fr Vincent will lead a special youth day here in Kokstad. It will be a day of sports and celebration and will take place at the Kokstad Community Hall. Congratulations Fr Vincent on the work doing and all are encouraged to assist him.
On the 2 and 3rd of July Vincent will host an imvuselelo of the Kokstad Deanery for Kokstad, Bhongweni, Mt Ayliff, Tabankulu and Mt Frere at Mt Frere. This will include presentations on vocations, marriage, police, medical, nursing and business professions. We see that our youth have an unrealistic appreciation and inadequate information regarding careers.
11. REAP. Reap is the Rural Education Access Program. This is a program to enable poor children in rural areas who have good exam results to gain access at Technikon and University. There are application forms available at the bishops office. Priests should try advertise this program. But please encourage only those who have a reasonable chance of gaining the number of points necessary to access university programs. In filling in forms it would help if the applicants filled out their answers on rough paper first and have this corrected in order to present cleaner and more impressive application forms. These bursaries are worth up to Rand 15,000.00 per annum and go with coaching at the university itself.
Those who are not so bright could apply to the bishop for assistance in attending a Technical college, for example, at Lusikisiki or Kokstad. Here there are courses for those who wish to upgrade their matric but also motor mechanics, electronics, computers, secretarial and other studies.
Then, there is the possibility of send girls for two year training at Mariannhill with the Precious Blood Sisters in dress, making, tailoring etc. We have 34 there this year. We finance this.
12. Sinosizo. This program which tries to reach out to all the sick of the diocese and in a special way all afflicted with Aids is now divided into three branches. There is the home based Care branch of which Miss Qwebeba is the Chairperson. This branch deals with the training and supervision and support of Home based Care volunteers. They do get an incentive and we are trying to improve the amount. It has great success , however we do lose quite a number of our volunteers. But we are trying to access small money to support them in their work for the poor. Many, who have been well trained by us are taken up by government or Municipal groups.
There is also Education for life programs. This is headed by Ms Patience Nogabe. The program here involves putting on workshops and meetings especially with young people to tell them the origins and the dangers of Aids. It is a program that tries to offer our youth values so that they make right decisions in accordance with the gospel and in accordance with their own human nature.
Then there is the St Kizito orphan branch. This is headed by Mrs Lindelwa Mangisi from Flagstaff. Here there are programs which try to help orphans to register to access grants , and we are planning to offer some kind of ongoing supervision and help for them. This area will involve a lot of work as all child care work is becoming more and more professional and only open to properly trained people.
Hopefully this July during the holidays and in the second half of the year we hope to offer Respite programs. This will involve bringing the orphans of an area to a school or to a mission.
We would hope to have two unemployed teachers with them for most of the week offering them games, play and useful learning. We will offer them good food and also have them visited by the social worker and a Doctor during that week. It is a trial program to make contact with the orphans and to judge the extent of the problem and to offer support .
Recently, in Mzongwana alone speaking with twenty Home based care women, I found that they were caring for 189 orphans. The situation is dreadful in our diocese, we must do something. The official figures for the Eastern Cape section of the diocese speak of 79% living below the poverty line and 24-30% HIV positive.
The diocese owes a very special debt of gratitude to Mr John Bosman who has put his considerable expertise at the service of the above programs. Over the year John has visited every parish.
13. The week of Christian Unity. On Ascension Thursday, 20th of May, the bishop opened the Kokstad week of prayer for Christian Unity preaching at the Presbyterian Church in Town. On the following Sunday the Presbyterian Minister Rev Mike Craig preached at our church in Bhongweni. The other churches also had services attended by Christians from various Denominations. Praying for Christian Unity is a fundamental desire of the Lord..
14. Sincere sympathies go out to Fr Bongani Mbhele whose sister passed away on the morning of 5th June. This is a great glow to the family . Already Mrs Mbhele has seen her husband, her brother and now her daughter laid to rest in the space of one year.
Sympathies also to Fr Lulama Msongelwa on the death of his aunt. She was sick for sometime and she finally passed away at Lulama’s home.
We also remember with sadness Mr Marcus Khambule of Brooksnek, his sister is in the Assisi Convent and he has always been a stalwart of the church at Brooksnek. May they all rest in peace.
We were happy to receive the sister and niece of Fr Manus Campbell RIP who came to visit and pray at his grave on the 2nd of April. They were very consoled to call at Bizana and find the St Anne’s society in church. The ladies sang for the visitors and spoke of Fr Manus and his work in Bizana. They later visited his grave in Kokstad and went on to Maria Telgte and Matatiele. Fr Manus was associated with Bizana and Matatiele for many years.
15. Saturday October the 9th we hope to have our first Kokstad Diocesan pilgrimage. This is a Marian pilgrimage to Maria Telgte. Just like the Kevelaer pilgrimage it will have a full night program on Saturday night. Please let the people know now so that they plan and we get a good crowd. In Coolock this year we will continue to discuss the site of all future pilgrimages.
On the 13th of March pilgrims went from the Cathedral in Kokstad to Emmaus in the diocese of Umzimkulu to remember and visit the shrine of one of the founders of the church in our diocese , Abbot Franz. The Mariannhill congregation is promoting his cause for beatification. All are invited to pray and support this man who set some of our missions in motion.
16. Peter Shanahan stayed four weeks in our diocese. He is an expect in social welfare and social development projects. He looked at the many projects in the diocese and was impressed by the work being done. We hope to work with Peter to propose programs to allow us access more funds for the various developmental works he wish to promote. In this diocese 79% of our people live beneath the poverty line. This is the official figure. 25% are HIV positive. Great numbers are unemployed and many are facing this winter hungry. We must do all we can to bring Christ’s love and hope into the lives of our people. The good news also involves the human body and human needs.
17. Fr Lulama Msongelwa organised a special day of prayer for his parish at Lugada on the 10th of March. The bishop came to address people and to conduct a retreat which was very well attended during the week.
The Parish of the Cathedral in Kokstad must be congratulated on all their efforts and financial generosity to improve the church and the grounds. The annual general meeting spelled out all that have been achieved in the past year.
16. Forth Coming events
a. 14th of June. Catechetical commission and co ordinators meeting at Kokstad.
16th of June. Youth day at Kokstad for diocese. Fr Vincent.
b. 19-20 June. Sacred Heart Society from all over the country meet at Centocow.
c. Brother Tabang Letsohla will be ordained a Deacon at Makhwaseng on the 26th of June.
d. The Consultors of the diocese will meet on the 28th of June at Kokstad.
e. The leaders of St Annes will meet in Kokstad on 2nd and 3rd of July .
July 2 and 3, Kokstad Deanery Youth to meet at Mount Frere, Fr Vincent.
f. 25th of July blessing of Enyanisweni Church. Bizana.
g. 4th to the 11th of August the SACBC in Mariannhill.
h. 8th of August Golden Jubilee of the Diocese of Umzimkulu at Lourdes. All the bishops of the country will be present.
17. a. Catechetical Committee of the diocese meet on the 14th of June. Committee, Sr Callista, Sr Paulus Maria, and Sr Chrysanta.
b. 11th -13th June Dutyini
c. June 15th and 16th Makhoba.
d. June 22nd Makhoba – Lubaleko
e. 2nd to 4th July Pondoland Region at Flagstaff. For all teachers of catechism.
f. 8th to 10th of July Makhwaseng – St Anthonys.
g. 23rd to 24th of July Mt Frere.
h. 27th to 29th of July Mt Ayliff.
i. 9th to the 11th of August and 13th to the 15th of August, Mvenyane.