While practically invisible to the rich man,
we see and know Lazarus as someone familiar.
He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being
whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast.
(From Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2017)
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf Lk16:19-31) first invites us to open
the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift,
whether it be our neighbour or an anonymous pauper.
(From Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2017)
At the root of all the rich man’s ills was the failure to heed God’s Word.
When we close our heart to the gift of God’s Word, we end up closing our heart to God.
When we close our heart to the gift of God’s Word,
we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.
(From Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2017)
Dear Fathers and Deacons, dear Sisters, dear Seminarians, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In a couple of weeks time we shall end the season of Lent with Holy Week leading us into Easter, the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord, which is for all of us the source of new life remembering our baptism. It really is the culmination of the whole liturgical year.
Finally I received the statistics from all parishes which allows me now to make my final report. I shall comment on it during our next Presbyteral meeting.
During this past month we received the visit of Philippe and Anne, responsible for the Fidesco volunteers in Africa, among whom we have in Bethlehem David and Paul. They were very pleased with the engagement of David and Paul and are ready to recommend a replacement when Paul comes to the end of his engagement this year. During their stay here Anne got the news that her ageing mother in France got very sick. Let us keep her in our prayers.
I enjoyed a nice walk in the Central Drakensbergen with two confreres M.Afr., Real – with whom I worked together in Merrivale, Natal, before my episcopal ordination – and Jean Michel – with whom I lived together during some years of my formation. It was a bit long for me. It reminded me that I am no longer that young.
I checked with Msgr. George concerning the Priests’ Provident Fund collection which was held throughout Advent last year. After three months only the Cathedral, Bohlokong, Lindley and Senekal parish communities transferred the money to the diocese. Many thanks to those communities. I challenge the other parishes to send in their contributions without further delay.
Together with the three Fazenda inhabitants, Paul Fotoh and one lady from the cathedral community I participated in a day organized by the Focolare movement in Johannesburg to commemorate the founder, Chiara Lubich. It was both a joyful and a spiritual event with a very varied program like a Mariapolis gathering in one day. It surely encouraged the participants to take part in the Mariapolis which will take place at our John Paul II centre in December (09 till 13 December).
Bishop Emeritus Hubert Bucher, who was staying in Mariannhill having a well-deserved rest after so many years being at the helm of the ship of Bethlehem diocese, has now decided to return definitely to his home country in Germany. We still want to thank him wholeheartedly for all he has done for this diocese and wish him still many years in his own country.
Every year we celebrate the Chrism Mass in one of the parishes of the diocese. This year we shall celebrate it on Wednesday 12th April in Harrismith parish, in St. Mary Immaculate, Ntabazwe. Please arrive before 10h00. It is a very important day for all of us as we will bless the oils of catechumens and of the sick and consecrate the Chrism oil. All Priests will renew their Priestly promises. Invite all your communities (also the town communities) to be present. It is our diocesan custom that all parishes bring a contribution towards our seminary expenses at that occasion.
Dear Seminarians, I heard from Fr. Mosebetsi that, as Easter holidays are quite short, you would stay at the seminary. Know that we are united with you in prayer specially when we celebrate Holy Week and in particular the Chrism Mass.
Though we concluded the Year of Mercy last year, we are still very much aware how much we need God’s mercy in our lives. Saint Pope John Paul II has given us Divine Mercy Sunday, celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter. To prepare properly for it we have the Divine Mercy novena (I shall bring some material to the Chrism Mass) starting on Good Friday. On the weekend of Divine Mercy Sunday the youth have their yearly pilgrimage at our diocesan Marian shrine at Tsheseng starting on Saturday morning and continuing until Sunday morning. I hope that many youth will participate in it.
During this precious time of Lent let us make use of the sacrament of reconciliation as a special way to be reconciled with God and with one another.
I already passed on to you the sad news of the death of the death of Sr. Antonia, of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Paul. She passed away rather suddenly. I also got the news of the death of Sr. Blandina, of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen (house in Assisi) from Fouriesburg parish. Both funerals will be celebrated on Saturday 01st April the one at Reitz at 10h00 at the hall near the convent and the other one at Assisi.
Fr. Emmanuel, MSP, has been appointed elsewhere. We thank him for his contribution towards our diocese these past years and wish him all the best in his new field of work. We welcome Fr. Macjoe Akpan, MSP, as the new Priest in Charge of Ficksburg parish. He will be assisted by Fr. Valentine Iheanacho, MSP, who is still learning Sotho in Qwaqwa. Fr. Valentine, I wish you much courage and progress in your language study. To know the local language is an asset in order to be able to do one’s pastoral work and build a strong relationship with the parishioners.
The theme for family life for this month ‘Walk humbly with your God’ links up very well with this Lenten season leading into Holy Week and Easter. Holy Week can be an accompaniment of Jesus from Palm Sunday right through to Easter Sunday and resurrection joy. Pope Francis in ‘Amoris Laetitia’ point out that the spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. In that variety of gifts and encounters God has his dwelling place (A.L. 315).
The Holy Father’s monthly prayer intention for the month of April is ‘Young People’ that young people may respond generously to their vocations and seriously consider offering themselves to God in the priesthood or consecrated life.
Feast of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese this month:
- 29th April, St. Catherine, Tambo at Senekal parish
Engagements of the bishop during the month of April:
- 01st April, funeral of Sr. Antonia in Reitz
- 03rd April, meeting with Missionary Group at archdiocesan chancery in Joburg
- 04th April, farewell of Bp. Emeritus Hubert Bucher at John Paul II centre
- 05th April, accompanying Bp. Bucher to the airport
- 09th April, Palm Sunday celebration at Bohlokong
- 10th April, farewell of Fr. Jean Pierre, M.Afr., at Edenglen
- 12th April, Chrism Mass at Ntabazwe, Harrismith
- 13th April, Holy Thursday celebration at Bohlokong
- 14th April, Good Friday service at Bohlokong
- 15th April, Easter Vigil at Ntabazwe, Harrismith
- 16th April, Easter Mass at Bethlehem cathedral
- 17th April, Family Day at Harrismith
- 21st April, Mass at Annual Council meeting of St. Anne Sodality in Joburg
- 22nd April, participation at CCS AGM
- 22nd till 23rd April, participation in youth pilgrimage
- 25th April, meeting of Deans at Bishop’s house
- 25th April, meeting of DPC Executive at Bishop’s house
- 26th April, meeting of Social Awareness Committee at Sekwele in the morning followed by meeting of Justice and Peace committee at Bishop’s house in the afternoon
- 27th April, meeting with Council of Sisters of St. Paul in Reitz
- 29th April, Lay Leaders Conference at Santa Sophia, Pretoria
Special Feast days:
- Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Mokhesi Mokhesi on 12th April; of Fr. Sifiso Thusi on 17th April; of Fr. Dikotsi Mofokeng on 28th
- Birthdays of Dc. Daniel Mofokeng on 01st April; of Fr. Mokhesi Mokhesi on 08th April; of Fr. Buang Mofokeng on 12th April; of Sr. Pio Eyo, CSP, on 26th April; of Fr. Sakhi Mofokeng on 27th
May the Lord bless them and fill them with His Joy and Easter Peace,
Wishing you all a blessed time of Lent and Easter,
+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.
Bishop of Bethlehem