2017 Building Healthy Christian Families


If a family is centred on Christ, He will unify and illumine its entire life.

(From Amoris Laetitia nr. 317)

We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance.

That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel.

(From Amoris Laetitia)

In the darkest hours of a family’s life,

Union with Jesus in his abandonment can help avoid a breakup.

(Amoris Laetitia nr. 317)

Dear Fathers and Deacons, dear Sisters, dear Seminarians, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We just started the season of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday which highlights how we can live this very important season of the liturgical year. Pope Francis in his Lenten message – which I already emailed to a number of you – reminds us that Lent is a favourable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered to us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the Word of God, which, during this season, we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. He then adds an inspiring exegesis of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).

Looking at the events which happened on diocesan level, the World Day of the Sick celebrated at our diocesan Marian shrine at Tsheseng, was surely a highlight. I want to thank all who contributed to the organisation of this event, in particular the shrine committee together with Deacon Vincent Mohlaping, Fathers Lerato, Tsolo and Buang together with Deacon Tumelo as well as Msgr. Gregory who gave us an inspiring homily. Though the total attendance was perhaps a bit less than last year, many sick people were brought to the shrine for the anointment of the sick.

I was invited to the 25th Jubilee of missionary work in South Africa by the Missionary Society of St. Paul which took place at Ficksburg being the main celebrant at the thanksgiving Mass which took place on Sunday 12th February. I must say that it was a lovely celebration, very well prepared by the local parish community and attended by many visitors from all over the country from the parishes where the MSP are engaged. Two Nigerian MSP Bishops, a few South African Bishops and a number of MSP missionaries from outside South Africa also attended.

This last weekend I was at Bertoni centre in Pretoria North for the annual meeting of the SACBC Laity Council. It was a very lively animated meeting with a lot of sharing among the members and valuable inputs of Bishop Duncan and Archbishop William Slattery, supporting and challenging the Laity Council members to live out their mission in the Church highlighting the important role Laity can play in the Church’s mission in today’s world. Another valuable and down-to-earth input was made by Fr. Molewe about Canon Law and the Laity. The major part of the meeting however was focused on the Laudato Si encyclical of Pope Francis and its practical implementation in our SACBC area.

We had the visit of the new president of Fazenda, Fr. Luiz Mineres, accompanied by Fr. Emerson Anizi coming from Brazil who stayed at our Bethlehem Fazenda for a couple of days. They were impressed with the progress made so far. We had quite a discussion about the way forward. Let us hope and pray that we may see the fruits in the coming months.

At the end of last month the mother of Msgr. Gregory passed away. May her soul rest in peace and may the Lord give consolation and peace to Msgr. Gregory and the whole family.

The total amount finally transferred to PMS came to R51,583.10 which is a remarkable increase compared with last year. Thanks for the diocese’s contribution to the world mission. What the Provident Fund collection concerns, up till now only 3 parishes contributed. I want to ask you, Priests of Bethlehem diocese, to encourage your communities to contribute generously to the Lenten collection, making use of the new Lenten material, especially the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal newsletter where you find the 2017 message for Lent of Pope Francis and also some examples indicating for what the money is being used. Please do not forget to hold the Good Friday collection for the Holy Land mission of the Church.

I am sorry to have to remind you again about the parish statistics. Most of the parishes are still outstanding. Without sending in your statistics I cannot proceed in making my annual report for Rome.

Though we only are in the beginning of Lent, I already want to remind you that the Chrism Mass this year will be celebrated in Ntabazwe, Harrismith, starting at 10h00.

The March Family Life theme ‘Act justly to and in Families’ reminds us that families have rights that need to be recognized like the right to life, security, housing and the right to marry and have a family. The Catholic Church’s Charter of Rights of the Family outlines these in detail. Abuse is a violation of these rights. Pope Francis in his Bull introducing the Year of Mercy stated that “Justice and mercy are two dimensions of a single reality that enfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love”.

The Holy Father’s monthly prayer intention for the month of March is ‘Support for the Persecuted Christians’ that persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the Diocese this month:

  • 19th March, St. Joseph, Zamini at Vrede Parish

Engagements of the bishop during the month of March

  • 01st March Ash Wednesday celebration at St. Kizito, Bohlokong
  • 04th March presence at Memorial Mass of mother of Msgr. Gregory in Fouriesburg
  • 05th March Masses at Modisa ya Molemo, Matwabeng, and St. Elizabeth, Paul Roux, in Senekal parish.
  • 06th and 07th March visit of those responsible for Africa of Fidesco
  • 08th March meeting with youth chaplains at Bishop’s house
  • 12th and 13th March days of rest, visit to Merrivale, Natal
  • 18th March participation in Chiara commemoration day in Joburg
  • 22nd March meeting with Permanent Deacons at Bishop’s house
  • 22nd March meeting with Diocesan Finance Committee at Bishop’s house

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Emeritus Hubert Bucher on 27th March and of Bishop Jan De Groef on 28th
  • Birthday of Sr. Agatha Lepolesa, SNJM, on 05th March; of Fr. Lucky Mahlomola Khumalo on 09th March; of Fr. Ngondo on 12th March; of Fr. Leuta Lengoabala on 19th March; of Sr. M Avellina Kori, CSP, on 22nd March; of Sr. M Martina Mofokeng, CSP, on 23rd March; of Fr. Stanley Bangizwe Khoza on 28th

May the Lord bless them and fill them with His Joy and Peace.

I wish you all a fruitful time of Lent,



+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem

Posted in Bishop's Corner.

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