2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

It is essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message
that she herself live and testify to mercy.
(From Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy)

The Church wants to show herself as loving mother to all;
patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness.
(Pope Francis quoting St. John XXIII)

The signs Jesus works …. In the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalised,
the sick and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy.
(From Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy)

In the parable of the Prodigal Son we find the core of the gospel,
because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything.
(From Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy)


Dear Fathers and Deacons, dear Sisters, dear Seminarians, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This is my first circular of this new year 2016 – a double one as it includes also February – and I want to start with wishing you all a blessed and joyful new year. I want to quote some words from the Pope’s message for the World Day of Peace, celebrated on 01st January: “God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind! God does not abandon us!” Pope Francis encourages us all to build a culture of solidarity and mercy to overcome indifference and this has to start in the family as he says himself: “I think first of families, which are called to a primary and vital mission of education. Families are the first place where the values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on.” At the end of his message Pope Francis offers some examples of praiseworthy commitment which demonstrate how all of us can overcome indifference. He concludes saying: “Compassion, love, mercy and solidarity must become our true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another. This requires a conversion of our hearts: the grace of God has to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, open to others in authentic solidarity.” Let us make this our New Year resolution.

The Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita on the 08th February keeps us aware of the scourge of ‘Human Trafficking’ and, I hope, that our Justice & Peace groups will continue to remind us of being alert and active in our drive against it. Bishop Joao of Tzaneen diocese, where the beatification of Blessed Benedict Daswa took place last year, invites us to celebrate our first South African martyr on 01st February. He provided us with texts and prayers we could use for the Eucharistic celebration that day.

Everybody who was present will agree with me, I think, when I say that the opening of the Year of Mercy in our diocese on the 12th December at our Marian shrine in Tsheseng was a well-attended (however only few from our town communities turned up), joyful and meaningful celebration. Thanks to all who prepared and animated it. I hope that something happened as well in the parishes after that day and that ‘Mercy’ will be focused on in our pastoral programs all throughout the year. I shall in the course of the week forward to all parishes the resolutions of the last DPC meeting which also include the Year of Mercy during the first year.

Thank your people who contributed so generously to the PMS collection. Two parishes still have to send in their contributions. Please do so urgently. We also expect the moneys of the Provident Fund collection held on the first Sunday of Advent to come in during this month of January.

Thanks for your presence and support for the celebration of the Diaconate Ordination of Lerato Mokoena which took place on 21st December at the cathedral. I wish our new Deacon a fruitful apostolate in Ladybrand parish. Our Seminarians will be (or have been for some) involved in some pastoral work in a number of parishes (including helping with inventories). I hope that it will be a formative time for all of you and I am looking forward to meet with you at J.P. II centre starting on Sunday evening, 03rd January (be at Bishop’s house before 18h00) and finishing on Tuesday morning 05th January for our yearly meeting. Good news! We have two new candidates, Tshepang Vincent and Lesetla Gabriel, both from Bethlehem parish, who will start a preparatory year at St. Ambrose Formation House near Durban on 29th January. Let us support them with our prayers.

I already sent out a liturgical diocesan year program. Please let me have the year programs of Sodalities and Diocesan Committees as far as diocesan activities concerns so as to avoid clashes between various activities. Please do not wait planning with me concerning dates for confirmation and parish visitation (for those parishes I could not visit last year).
The Year of Consecrated Life which we started in February last year will come to a close with the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on 02nd February. This will be celebrated on Bishops’ Conference level in the Sacred Heart cathedral in Pretoria on Saturday 16th January during the Bishops’ Plenary. But on diocesan level there will be a special closing celebration in Bethlehem parish on Sunday 07th February. Let us give thanks to the Lord for the marvellous work done by Religious of various Congregations in our diocese. Let us be united too in prayer and thanksgiving with all those who will take or renew their temporal vows or make final vows these coming days, especially those belonging to Religious Congregations present in our diocese.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated on Sunday 10th January, has always been a special day for the catechists known as Commissioning Sunday. From this year onwards, catechists, who have been selected for this service in the Church, will make a temporary commitment in all parishes throughout the diocese. They will then be monitored in their performance by the Parish Priest and those in charge of catechesis on parish and diocesan level and eventually will make a full commitment either on Easter or Pentecost. To have capable and committed catechists is of prime importance for the faith growth of our adult catechumens, our children and youth who are being catechized. Let us pray for them and support them.

As already indicated in my previous circular Priests in our various parishes are asked to organise the World Day of Prayer for the Sick and the Health Care Givers in their parish on Sunday 14th February which is also the first Sunday of Lent.

This year Lent starts early. We start this precious time, even more precious during this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, with Ash Wednesday on 10th February. This time has been singled out to organize activities on parish level celebrating the Year of Mercy. I shall forward to all Priests the Lenten message of Pope Francis in due time. Let us also remember to encourage our people to contribute to the Lenten collection as one of the ways to live this special time. Lenten material will be available at the diocesan office.

We shall have our first Presbyteral Council meeting on Tuesday, 01st March, a bit later than usual because of my participation in the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu from 22nd January till 08th February.

I shall be participating in the SACBC Plenary session from Thursday 14th till Thursday 21st January. Part of the agenda is elections for various departments and offices. I ask for your prayers that we, bishops, may be truly guided by the Holy Spirit.

The year theme for Family Life is chosen in the light of the Year of Mercy: ‘Building Homes of Merciful Love’. January has as theme ‘Merciful Love. A New Vision’ which is the vision of Jesus Christ who is the face of the Father’s mercy. A practical tip for the month: add an image depicting Christ – it could be also a Divine Mercy poster – at the family’s prayer corner at the home. February has as theme ‘Love is at the Heart of Mercy’ recognizing that families need healing from wounds inflicted through selfishness and lack of kindness and tenderness. Let us intensify our actions of charity in the spirit of Lent (corporal and spiritual works of mercy) and reflections on Scripture as Pope Francis suggests (making use of the SACBC reflection booklet) and ask for the intercession of Blessed Benedict Daswa.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of January are: the universal one that sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice and the one dealing with Evangelization ‘Christian Unity’ that by means of dialogue and fraternal charity and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians may overcome divisions. Those for February are: the universal one ‘Care for Creation’ that we may take good care of creation – a gift freely given – cultivating and protecting it for future generations and the one dealing with Evangelization ‘Asia’ that opportunities may increase for dialogue and encounter between the Christian faith and the peoples of Asia.

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:
01st January, Mofumahadi wa Kgotso, at Bohlokong (Bethlehem parish)
21st January, St. Agnes, at Mamafubedu (Lindley parish)
31st January, St. John Bosco, at Bluegumbush (Phuthas parish)

Engagements of the bishop during the months of January and February
03rd January Mass at the cathedral
03rd till 05th January meeting with Seminarians at J.P. II centre
05th January special meeting with consulters at Bishop’s house
05th and 06th January participation in AGM of Sacred Heart at St. John Vianney Major Seminary, Pretoria
07th January meeting of Department of Laity at Khanya house, Pretoria
08th January meeting Sotho translators at Bishop’s house
09th till 10th January visitation and confirmations at Reitz parish
12th January meeting with Department of Education in Bloemfontein
12th till 13th January participation in meeting of Missionaries of Africa in Hartebeest
14th till 21st January SACBC Plenary at St. John Vianney Major Seminary, Pretoria
22nd January till 02nd February participation in International Eucharistic Congress at Cebu, Philippines
02nd till 07th February visit Missionaries of Africa at Cebu and Farm of Hope at
09th February BBTP Board meeting at Bishop’s house
10th February Ash Wednesday liturgy at cathedral
11th February meeting of Social Awareness Committee at Sekwele and of Justice & Peace Committee at Bishop’s house
12th February CCS Board meeting at CCS
12th till 14th February visitation of Lindley parish
15th February meeting of Missionary group at chancery Johannesburg
16th February Sekwele Board meeting
16th February John Paul II Board meeting
17th February meeting with Deans at Bishop’s house
17th February meeting of Executive DPC at Bishop’s house
18th February meeting of CBE Free State at J.P. II centre
19th February meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Committee at Bishop’s house
23rd February participation in reflection day of Priests at J.P. II centre
24th February participation in Diocesan Priests’ meeting at J.P. II centre
26th till 27th February meeting of Laity Council at Lumko, Benoni
29th February meeting with consulters at Bishop’s house

Special Feast days
Anniversary of Priestly Ordination Fr. Mokesh Morar on 07th January; of Fr. Lekhotla Papi Atoro on 21st February.
Birthday of Bp. Jan De Groef on 07th January; of Fr. Mpho Mona on 25th January; of Dc. Vincent Mohlaping on 29th January; of Sr. M Michaela Masijane, CSP, on 02nd February; of Sr. M Dominica Seotlo, CSP, on 13th February; of Sr. M Lioba Motjotji, CSP, on 26th February.
May the Lord bless them and fill them with His Joy, Mercy and Peace.
I wish you all a blessed New Year,

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.
Bishop of Bethlehem

Posted in Bishop's Corner.

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