25 April 2005
1. There was a great attendance for the commemorative Mass for Pope John Paul. Like people throughout the world we also felt a great sadness at the passing of the great man who became part of our lives, our inspiration for 27 years. We also had a particular interest in the conclave with a son of our own diocese as a participant in Cardinal Napier.
2. Fr Richard Kugbeh-Kasin has been appointed to St Peter’s Seminary. The Seminary Department has great difficulty in finding staff for formation of our seminarians. Fr Richard with his long experience of teaching pastoral work and his great ability in working with people is sent to the seminary to assist in this priority of the church in South Africa. We have 8 seminarians and we too as a diocese must contribute..
3. As you know we have now quite a number of girls qualified at Mariannhill in all kinds of hand- work and sewing. I strongly suggest to the priest and to the societies that they buy uniforms from our own girls. In June and July the Saint Anne’s and Sacred Heart and many other societies will be receiving new members, please encourage them to get their uniforms made by girls trained by the diocese.
This year we have almost 50 girls at Mariannhill and Umtata. In Umtata the Precious Blood Sisters offer dressmaking, candle making , cooking, housekeeping and catering for tourists.
4. The sisters of the diocese are invited to the annual diocesan meeting at Coolock from August the 21st to the 24th . We were unable to go in February because time did not permit.
5. Fr Thabang Letsohla has been appointed Vocation Director for the diocese. This is a heavy task and a very important one. I encourage all priests to work with Fr Tabang and help his initiatives.
This year we have sent two fine young man to preparatory Seminary in Port Elizabeth. They are MusaweNkosi Jakuja and Mashiyandile Tibane.
6. The bishop will be away from the 26th of April until the 13th of June. The South African Bishops will have the Ad Limina visit with the New Pope from the 30th of May until the 12th of June. Before that the bishop will have his retreat and also visit his mother in Ireland.
7. The Catechetics team of the diocese headed by Sister Callista had three sessions in different deaneries. Please invite the team and get the catechism teachers together. Even trained teachers find difficulty in keeping the attention of children in schools today . Our catechism teachers need a lot of help. Sr Callista is there to do just that.
8. Sr Natalia has been appointed as Director of Sinosizo in the Diocese. She will oversee all the operations carried out under the name of Sinosizo. Sister has just completed her Degree at University of KwaZulu Natal.
Sr Natalia has begun her work with great enthusiasm. She has already visited most of the parishes , she has seen many of their problems and plays a very active part in facilitating the work. Please invite Sr Natalia to help you reach the poor and dying.
Sinosizo continues its work throughout the diocese. They are training and retraining our home-based carers, they run Respite programs and now we are establishing drop-in centers.
It is estimated that we have 50 000 vulnerable children in our diocese . We cannot pass them by. We must offer them all the help we can.
9. We thank Fr John and the Hostel in Maria Telgte who now have 52 orphan children boarding the school. It is a great joy to see the children how have settled in, they fill at home. Children who are left without anybody in their homes are now in a beautiful secure environment.
10. Ms Patience Nogabe and her team are working with the youth of the diocese. The youth Director is Fr Vincent. They are co- ordinating plans in order to bring hope and recognition to youth. We have a serious responsibility for our youth and Patience can offer them a very great assistance.
11. REAP scheme offered 9 young people bursaries in our diocese. Substantial bursaries to the value of R10 000 help rural youth to enter Third level Education at University and Technikon. It is true that we give out 81 application papers. This was narrowed down to 23 who are serious candidates. Of those 9 were selected and are now studying at the University.
REAP is largely funded by the Irish Government and has just now won an award from the Minister of Education of South Africa for its outstanding work in enabling poor children to have a chance at serious Education.
12. On the 6th of February the bishop blessed the New Church of Kristo Umsindisi at Shayamoya. Great credit is due to Fr Sihlobo who organised the building of this church in very first time. It is now full on a Sunday with up to 300 families making use of it as a centre. Bro Siphelele is building up the community with his visits and pastoral care.
We hope to expand the centre to provide skills training and a creche on the same site.
13. Those who have visited the Cathedral and priest house recently in Kokstad will see the beautiful new all-weather roofs which Fr Joseph has organised and seen to completion. This is a wonderful achievement. The large amount of money necessary for this job was also facilitated by his parish council. Congratulations to them.
14. We are in the process at the moment of re- modeling at the bishops house in Kokstad. We wish to turn it to pastoral centre that will be more up to date and provide all the necessary requirements. It was a boarding school in the old days. Re- modeling will allow Bishop’s house to be separated from the pastoral centre. We hope to use it a lot for the training of leaders in the faith.
15. It has been regularly expressed in this diocese by laity, religious and priests that the catholic identity of many of our people is weak. Even many of our leaders do not have a sense of the catholic culture or catholic tradition. The catechetical team with the bishop and Sr Callista hope to formulate a course which will be offered from now on at the pastoral centre in Kokstad. This will take place over a few week- ends each year and will offer intensive theological formation for many of your leaders. We hope to start in 2006.
16. We say good bye and thanks to Sr Paulus Maria Mncwabe who was a zealous member of the catechetical team. The team held a farewell lunch and thanked her for great commitment to catecheses and to the Children of Mary.
17. The three Deaneries, Pondoland ( 22 February) Matatiele (24th February) and Mount Frere ( 1st of March). Met and initiated what hopefully will be an opportunity for us to plan apostolic work and cooperation ever more effectively.
All three deaneries felt that there would be an executive for each deanery of which all priests would be members.
As well , perhaps two times a year, the deaneries would meet with priests and representatives of all parishes to plan programs together.
18. We have become aware of the society of the Amadodakazi ka Anna in 7 parishes of our diocese. In One parish there is 119 members. As this society has started on an Ad Lib basis, there is some confusion regarding its origin, its aim, its constitution and its formation.
The bishop and his Consultors asked Sr Natalia to make an investigation so that we may put order into this society.
19. Please note that no sodality should be started in the diocese without first seeking permission from the bishop and his Consultors. At the moment we have many societies and many of these are leaderless and priests are not sure of their laws and their plans. So to bring order please make sure that any new society presents itself to the bishop before expanding its operations.
20. Please try and get your Lenten Appeal moneys to Mrs Wicks very soon. Also try and increase the money received over last year.
Last year the diocese put together 50,000 rand for the poor of the country . This was the biggest increase of any diocese in South Africa last year. So let us try and continue. But even with that generous grant, when we break down the contribution of the individual catholic in the diocese we see that they contributed 39 cents per person only. People can still do better.
21. The Legion of Mary signified its continuing life and existence when it held its Acies at Matatiele on the 12th of March. There was a very good turn out. One is very sympathetic to the Legion of Mary since many of our parishes have been built precisely by this sodality . It has the great blessing of being under Mary’s protection , of combining prayer and work and of supervising the activities of its members.
22. It was very gratifying to see all the priests present at the Mass of the Oils on the 23rd of March in the cathedral. Thanks once again to Fr Sizwe and the people of Makhoba and Makhwaseng who led us in singing. This has become a beautiful ceremony now very well attended making people aware of the unity of the diocese and the essential role of the priesthood.
23. Remember that from May 5 to 15 there is the Novena for Christian Unity. That is from the feast of the Ascension to the feast of the Pentecost. We all should make effort and invite our people to participate in prayer for the unity of the Christian Church. We pray that all the people may enjoy the fulness of faith.
24. Each year the Bishops Conference in the person of Fr Vincent Brennan, offers a course in Priestly renewal at Coolock house. It is led by experts in Spirituality and Theology and lasts for two weeks. This year Fr Francis Lemau represents the diocese.
25. The Catholic Institute of Education and the bishop held three days for teachers to motivate them in their vocation and in their commitment to learners. They were reminded that theie work is a participation in the creating work of God. 50 teachers attended in Kokstad , 45 in Matatiele and 75 in Bizana.
The CIE was widely acclaimed for its great success with projects of literacy and the numeracy in the Bizana area . Their program showed a tremendous improvement in the ability of the children.
26. Keep remembering that this is the year of the Eucharist. This for us is the great medicine. If people really believe that their Risen Lord is present in the Eucharist so many of their worries would evaporate, many of their anxieties would find consolation and strength. I am very happy to see many parishes with the ceremony of Holy Hour of processions , and of visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Let us exercise our minds in a particular way at the feast of Corpus Christi this year which will be on the 29th of May.
27. We continue to remember that on October the 8th , the diocese will go on pilgrimage to the Shrine of our Lady at Maria Telgte. We celebrate the feast of Mary of the Rosary.
28. Fr Bill chaired the Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting held in Kokstad on Saturday the 23rd of April. The bishop told assembled parish representatives that the bishops of IMBISA had selected “ becoming a self sufficient church” as the theme of church activity over the next period of time . It is obvious that as the church grows with local ministers and membership it must also grow in the ability to look after itself in pastoral care and funds.
In the discussions time was spent on the need of financial contributions to the work of the church in the diocese. The bishop told the delegates that he was reducing the subsidy paid by 10 % each year.. So the parish must become more and more self sufficient.
It was pointed out that people would be much more generous in giving if they have clear information on their need and on the use of their money in the diocese.
The bishop undertook that he would give parishes an outline of the money received from within the diocese, money received from outside the diocese. It will also contain expenditure showing how much it costs to run a parish, a house, program, seminary etc.
29. It was also felt that if parish priests gave a simple outline to the people on the cost of running their parishes it would also encourage people to give more.
Many people are generous but it is felt that they are not adequately challenged by us to contribute more.
It was agreed that parish councils most have a parish finance committee.
The next Diocesan Pastoral council meeting will take place in Kokstad on November the 12th .
At this meeting there will be election of an executive for the Diocesan Pastoral Council . Each parish try to have two delegates present.
30. The annual retreat for the priests of the diocese will hopefully take place in October this year. This has still to be confirmed.
31. It is hoped that in cooperation with the Department of Education we will offer hospitality to children who are slow learners by opening up the old buildings of Hardenberg. Anything that will help the children who are generally overlooked is surely the work of God.
32. While I am away and while Fr Richard is in Pretoria, consult Fr Bill for issues affecting the diocese.
33. The diocesan priests monthly recollection days, the second Tuesday of each month will proceed as normal.
34. May is the Month of Mary, and a time for a renewal of the practice of the family and church Rosary.