For those who believe in you, Lord, life is not ended but changed.
Our loved ones are not lost in the shades of nothingness;
He assures us that they are in the good strong hands of God.
(From Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ nr. 256)
Blessed are the open hands that bring hope,
that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality
and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity.
Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange;
they are hands that call down God’s blessing.
(From Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Poor)
Dear Fathers and Deacons, dear Sisters, dear Seminarians, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The November month is the month we commemorate our beloved who passed on. Let us remember our brother Priests and Permanent Deacons who died these past years. Dear Women and Men Religious, I surely also remember in my prayers all deceased members of your Congregations who worked in our diocese. It is good to visit the grave yards where they are buried and take some time there entrusting their souls into the good strong hands of God.
We just ended the October Mission month. I hope that we, together with our congregations, took this occasion to deepen our mission awareness as members and leaders in the Church which is missionary by nature and to encourage our people to engage in the missionary outreach of the Church in word and deed. The PMS calendar can be a practical tool in this light. Not that many calendars are sold yet. The coming Presbyteral Council meeting could be an occasion to acquire them for your parish (cash and carry). I shall ask David to be present at the meeting as he is the one looking after the sale. Of course, you can always get them at the Bishop’s office especially on Mondays and Tuesdays. Please do not wait too long to forward the moneys of the PMS collection to the diocesan office. These moneys do not belong to the parish but are destined for the Church’s worldwide missionary action (moreover we ourselves benefitted very much from this help).
I already sent out the results of the diocesan fundraising which took place at Tsheseng during the October pilgrimage. We are just a bit below the diocesan target. I want to thank all who contributed, Sodalities included, to the fundraising.
The Pilgrimage itself, though presence was a bit less than the previous year, went very well. It was well organized and the participation of the people made up for the fewer numbers. I personally was very happy with the input of Fr. Simosakhe linking up this year’s theme ‘Mary, the Comforter of the Afflicted’ with our worry concerning the ‘Cry of the Earth’ and the ‘Cry of the Poor’, a campaign in the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Si’. Fr. Simosakhe also gave us some insight in the origin of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. His introduction linked up with Mr. Ralebenya’s witness concerning our involvement as Church in the drive for the safeguarding of creation (the poster depicting this drive is a creation of the SACBC Laity Council of whom Mr. Ralebenya is a member of the executive committee). After his address we rewarded three lay persons for their contribution to the life of the Church and society presenting them with the Star of Bethlehem.
The Missionaries of Africa, who had this year’s last quarterly meeting at J.P. II centre, enjoyed our hospitality very much and concluded with a short excursion to our Farm of Hope rehab centre and to the little town of Clarence. They have already planned to come back next year. As it is Fr. Fons’ last month in our diocese I want once more to thank him for all he contributed over the past years and wish him a safe trip and happy home-coming in his own country of Belgium. I also want to share with you the sad news of the death of Fr. Guido in his own country of Canada on Monday 23rd October surrounded by family members. He was known to many of you – please share this with your congregations – as he worked tirelessly for several years in our diocese. May his soul rest in peace.
I was present at a graduation ceremony at Ekwaluseni school in Vrede where many parents were present. My appreciation for the way the programme was animated with a great variety of performances of the children showing their many talents. The Good Shepherd Sisters, owner of the Breda school, signed an important agreement with the Department of Education about the building of a children’s hostel on their grounds. Let us hope that it will strengthen the future of this school which is showing very good academic results (100% matric pass rate).
A special Joint Witness meeting between the Religious Superiors and the Bishops of the Bloemfontein Metropolitan Province was held on the 26th October. Fr, Stan Muyebe, OP, gave an input on ‘Racism’ involving all the participants in a very challenging dialogue about this scourge which is still very much affects the life of our South African society. We should take a lead as Catholic Church in combatting this evil. All present were encouraged to take part in the 2018 Lenten campaign of Justice and Peace which will be focussing on racism.
I was invited to be present at the rally of the Sacred Heart Sodality at Tsheseng which took place from the 13th till the 16th October. Unfortunately I could only join them for the celebration of the Eucharist on Saturday morning 14th October. It is good to encourage our various Sodalities to meet at our Marian shrine as Mary is the patron of our diocese and we want to honour her and seek her intercession at this special place. I was also invited to be present at the St. Anne’s Sodality’s rally at Tsheseng on Saturday 28th October. What I found very meaningful was the thanksgiving to all past diocesan leaders of the Sodality including Fr. Menyatso.
I also was present at Tweeling where the local community celebrated 45 years of the church dedicated to St. Henry in the presence of the Parish Priest Fr. William Kaupa, Fr. Menyatso and Fr. Henry Gibis, Spiritan, who served this community for a number of years.
Dear Seminarians at St. John Vianney Major Seminary, I heard from Fr. Mosebetsi that you had a lively and charming graduation ceremony. May it encourage in your way forward as you are now concluding another year in your seminary formation. I could visit your brother Danny Mofokeng at St. Augustine Major Seminary at Roma, Lesotho. Though the only one left from Bethlehem diocese, he is happy and doing well. He is looking forward to see you all during the December holiday. We do not forget the brothers at St. Francis Orientation Seminary in Cape Town who are looking forward to join you next year at St. John Vianney’s.
On Tuesday 14th November we shall have the last Presbyteral Council meeting of the year (braai included). As we have quite a number of important issues to discuss, please be in time (we start at 09h30 sharp). Not to overload this meeting I propose to have the reports of the various chaplains and coordinators at the first meeting of 2018. I would be happy however to present your year programs taking account of diocesan events (the diocesan calendar shall be emailed to you before the meeting). I shall also present a list of possible dates for parish visitations (preference will be given to those places which did not get a pastoral visit this year or the previous year) and a list to fill in your foreseen holidays for next year according to deaneries. We shall also include a prayer for our deceased Priests at our Diocesan Priests’ cemetery.
We shall celebrate the Feast of All Saints on Sunday 05th November in order to give more parishioners the opportunity to be there while we celebrate the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed ‘All Souls’ like usual on the 02nd November. On Sunday 03rd December we start the very precious time of Advent, preparing for the Feast of Christmas. May it be a time of spiritual growth and awareness of the Lord’s presence in our life. During the time of Advent we conduct the Diocesan Advent Appeal meant for the Priests Provident Fund.
I received a message of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization inviting us all to celebrate Sunday 19th November as the World Day of the Poor, not just praying for the poor and not just doing something for them but meeting them being able to time with them and listen to their experience.
Bishop Emmanuel Kerketta of Jasjpur diocese in India, who was present last year at our closing of the Year of Mercy at the Marian shrine in Tsheseng, invited me to visit his diocese during the second half of this month to participate in some diocesan events. I shall also take the occasion to visit three families of Missionaries of Africa from India who originate from the Jasjpur diocese. This is also the reason why I include the month of December in this circular as I shall only be back in Bethlehem during the first week of December.
I shall be present at the Durban Mini World Youth Day having been asked to lead a catechetical session and to give one other input. I hope that the youth from Bethlehem diocese together with their chaplains may have a fruitful encounter with the host dioceses and with youth coming from all over the SACBC and neighbouring countries. They not only go in their own name but in the name of the youth of the whole diocese.
Bethlehem diocese will again be the host of the Mariapolis – a family gathering organised by the Marian Focolare movement – from 09th till 13th December at John Paul II centre. If you need more information, please contact Fr. Dikotsi, me or David. Even if you cannot stay the whole time, there is a possibility to join for one or two days.
The Justice and Peace office of the SACBC invites us to say a special prayer for our country of South Africa on each Friday until the December elective conference of the ANC (one can also pray it at other times). You will find the prayer at the end of this circular. Let us heed this invitation.
The Family Life theme for November is ‘Loss’ which is of course inevitable in our human condition. It can be experienced in many ways, from simply loosing one’s keys or diary to loosing a relative through death. Learning to cope with loss is a whole process in which others who are near to the bereaved and lovingly care for them can play an important role. The December Family Life theme is ‘Building Families’ which joins us to our diocesan focus of these past years. Families have to be built, brick by brick with tender loving care, with mercy and teaching right values every day. With Christmas we are used to receive and give gifts. What are the greatest gifts we can give one another, gifts that come from God, through us to each other? It may be dialogue and prayer as we prepare for and welcome the Christ-child back into Christmas and so into our families and homes and beyond.
The Holy Father’s monthly intention for the month of November is ‘Christians in Asia’ that Christians in Asia, bearing witness to the Gospel in word and deed, may promote dialogue, peace and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions. The one for the month of December is ‘The Elderly’ that the elderly sustained by families and Christian communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations.
Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:
- 03rd November, St. Martin de Porres, at Phuthaditjhaba
- 03rd November, St. Martin de Porres, at Qalabotjha (Frankfort Parish)
- 10th November, St. Leo the Great, at Clocolan
- 15th November, St. Albert, at Lindley
- 17th November, St. Elizabeth, at Mashaeng (Fouriesburg Parish)
- 17th November, St. Elizabeth, at Fateng tse Ntsho (Senekal Parish)
- 24th November, Christ the King, at Senekal
- 26th November, St. Konrad, at Namahadi (Frankfort Parish)
- 08th December, Immaculate Conception, at Tsheseng, (Makeneng Parish)
- 08th December, St. Mary Immaculate, at Ntabazwe, (Harrismith Parish)
- 25th December, Tswalo ya Morena, at Bohlokong, (Bethlehem Parish)
- 29th December, Holy Family, at Monontsha, (Makeneng Parish)
Engagements of the bishop during the months of November and December:
- 01st November meeting with Social Awareness committee at Sekwele followed by a meeting with diocesan Justice & Peace committee at Bishop’s house.
- 03rd November meeting with BBTP Board at BBTP
- 05th November Masses in Makeneng parish
- 06th November meeting with Missionary group at Santa Sophia followed by other meetings of SACBC sub-committees
- 07th till 10th November meeting of the SACBC Board at Lumko, Benoni
- 12th November blessing of St. Elizabeth church at Fouriesburg
- 13th November meeting with Consultors starting with lunch at Bishop’s house
- 14th November Presbyteral Council meeting at J.P. II (starting at 09h30)
- 14th November meeting with J.P. II Board
- 15th November meeting with Permanent Deacons at Bishop’s house
- 15th November meeting with Diocesan Finance committee at Bishop’s house
- 16th November till 01st December visit to the diocese of Jasjpur in India
- 05th December meeting with Diocesan Liturgical committee at Bishop’s house
- 07th till 10th December participation in MWYD in Durban
- 11th till 13th December participation in Mariapolis at J.P. II centre
- 16th till 17th December participation in Diaconate celebration of Missionaries of Africa in Merrivale, Natal
Special Feast days
- Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Mahlomola Lucky Khumalo on 13th November; of Fr. Menyatso Menyatso on 15th
- Birthday of Sr. Paulina Tjamela, SCIM, on 01st November; of Sr. M. Luciana Mnyandu, CSP, on 04th November; of Sr. Scholastica Ntsoebea, SNJM, on 20th November; of Fr. Mokesh Morar on 22nd November; of Fr. Cyprian Agene on 05th December; of Sr. M Emmanuela Mokoena, CSP, on 08th December; of Fr. Menyatso Menyatso on 12th December; of Sr. M Imelda Nkatlo, CSP, and Sr. Lydia Tlali, SNJM, on 13th December; of Sr. M Charles Mofokeng, CSP, on 21st December; of Sr. M Clara Motsoari, CSP, on 22nd December; of Msgr. George Wagner on 23rd December; of Sr. Catherine Owens, OP, on 24th December.
May the Lord bless them and fill them with His Joy and Peace.
PRAYER FOR SOUTH AFRICA
Lord, we present our country South Africa before you.
We exalt and bless your name for all the blessings, the graces, and love
that you have given to us as a nation.
Our country is now weighed down by various social, political and economic problems.
We ask you to join us in our boat to calm the storms in our nation.
May your grace challenge our nation and its leadership to repent
and turn away from the sin of greed and corruption,
which is a result of the worship of money (Matthew 6:24).
Protect all those who are speaking out against greed, patronage and corruption.
Renew our nation and its leadership by the light of the gospel.
Bless us with the values and the graces of your kingdom.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
May we all grow in unity, the living and the dead, as members of the one Body of Christ, who wants to be all in all. Wishing you already a fruitful time of Advent and a blessed Christmas to all of you,
+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.
Bishop of Bethlehem