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Mini world youth day: Durban 2017

December 6-10 (Dbn exhibition centre)


The South African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) in honouring the youth of their Conference region thought it would be best to motivate and encourage the youth by inviting them to the Arch-Diocese of Durban in KZN, and bid farewell to…. READ MORE


“This is our Catholic pride

The Southern African young  Catholics in 2015 had gathered together as one at John Bosco in the province of Gauteng.

This was the first time in the history of  the southern African Catholics, were all young people came together and celebrated their faith as one.

I was one of the young people who attended the event.
MWYD was a true story of our Catholic faith.
I experienced our culture as Catholics, how we are one and understand mass in the same way but in our different languages.
The love that Christians had for one another was incredible 😊 .
We showed our different  heritage and songs, showing that God has no colour or race. What a wonderful experience I had.

The most important is our belief in one holy church and the holy  Eucharist.  How we see christ in our life as young people , from the testimony of young Catholics, who in counted christ in their lives as lord and saver of their life. I started to think of my own personal life. I was amazed and grateful that I came to the mini world youth day. That motivated me to keep on trusting God and keeping my faith in christ.

It was a joyful experience, and I learned a lot from other Catholics who are still young , looking for true answers of real life and True faith.

The faith  is our lifestyle and  not what other worlds tell us today.

The joy of being Catholic is to try to live as a believer in christ and Mary.  To understand the reasons why we are on earth and to enjoy our youth life . God made us all.

Article by:

MC Mashinini (Bethlehem Parish)”


The 32nd MWYD will be rocking!

Theme: ” The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His Name” (Lk 1:49)

This youth initiative will be such an moving experience: Spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.

Despite the numbers being low, the quality of our Diocese Pilgrims attendees will be undeniably unique and amazing.

We are thankful to be witnessing the history unfold, to have the opportunity to form part of the conversations and being blessed with endless chapters of laugher and abundant joy.

Shout out to the outgoing team. You held it down. Congratulations.

To my fellow Priest and youth at large, may we rally  behind the youth, support them and uphold the spirit unity in our Diocese.

The future looks so bright!!

Kindest Regards,

Nombulelo Didebe (Bethlehem Parish)

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2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

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.


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



2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

The preaching of the Gospel thus becomes a vital and effective word

that accomplishes what it proclaims (cf. Is 55:10-11):

Jesus Christ, who constantly takes flesh in every human situation (cf. Jn 1:14).

(From the message of Pope Francis for World Mission Sunday 2017)

Many things have to change course,

But it is we human beings above all who need to change.

We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging,

and of a future to be shared with everyone.

This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes

and forms of life.

(From the Encyclical of Pope Francis ‘Laudato si’ nr. 202)

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

The October month is above all the Mission month. I hope that you will draw inspiration from the message of Pope Francis for World Mission Sunday 2017 which I emailed or sent to you before. The October month is also the month of the rosary. Let us use this special meditative prayer asking for Mary’s intercession for our diocese and for peace and reconciliation in today’s world.

PMS calendars are still available at the diocesan office especially on Monday and Tuesday. The Fidesco volunteer, David, will gladly assist you.

I am happy to hear that the workshop for those conducting the Sunday service in the absence of a Priest will now also take place in Qwaqwa deanery.

The Bongwana pilgrimage at Tsheseng was, I think, very well attended as only one parish was absent. As always with great crowds it is not that easy to conduct it in an orderly way, but Fr. Tsolo got quite a lot of support from bajada to lead it well. It took a bit more time than foreseen (especially lunch) and also the weather was not that brilliant but overall the children were full of joy and vibrancy. Lindley parish took over the trophie in the song festival making us aware that also small communities can exceed. Congratulations to the Lindley participants. It was good to diversify activities having both the song festival and the bible quiz though, of course, that takes more time. A special thanks to Fr. Tsolo and his bajada collaborators. Keep it up.

Though I could not be present the whole time, I was present for two days at the Priests’ ongoing formation gathering at Mtunzini in Eshowe diocese from Monday 25th till Friday 29th September. Though quite far for all of us it was felt by all present to be very worthwhile. Unfortunately not all Priests could be present because of various reasons. They truly missed something but we hope that they will pick it up in some way so that we can progress together as one Priest-body. The programme was quite varied with sharing and inputs. Quite a number of recommendations were made which present quite a challenge to all of us. Though we cannot implement them all at once it is important to make a start. We were warmly welcomed by Fr. Sifiso and Bp. Teddy Khumalo, who forgot in his words of welcome that he was no longer in Bethlehem diocese so much did he feel at one with us. Thank you Bp. Teddy for your friendliness, even paying for all the catering. Thanks to Fr. Leuta and the organizing committee. Much appreciated.

Saturday night, 07-08 October is already very near. I hope that you encouraged your congregations to plan for it and that many of your parishioners will be present. This year it will be again a vigil with basically the normal programme. However included will be the diocesan fundraising and the handing out of the Star of Bethlehem to three persons who showed a lot of dedication and zeal in Christian service in their parish communities. The theme chosen for this year is: ‘Mary, the Comforter of the Afflicted’.

I also want to welcome my Missionaries of Africa confreres to J.P. II centre for a few days for their quarterly meeting. Feel at home in our diocese. I was very happy too to welcome a confrere with whom I collaborated for a number of years in Siyabuswa parish, Kwa Ndebele, Fr. P.J. Cassidy, though I only managed to see him at breakfast the day I left to join the Bethlehem Priests in Mtunzini. But Fr. Fons surely made him to feel at home in Bethlehem. Fr. Fons is slowly rounding off his stay with us in Bethlehem diocese and in South Africa visiting some friends in the various places he worked. Though still too early to say farewell I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for his presence at Bishop’s house, having a confrere after many years of having none, being ready to render service and spotting wherever things needed repair. Also on behalf of Bethlehem parish, where he celebrated Sunday Mass regularly, and the diocese, where he gave a helping hand in various diocesan bodies, I want to thank you. We shall surely miss you when you depart at the end of November this year.

I want to welcome too Jakes from the Philippines who joined again the Farm of Hope as a Facenda missionary. Good news is that the whole water purification system is now in place.

Let us pray for our matriculates this month who will soon start writing exams. Two of our Seminarians, Nhlanhla Mokoena and Paballo Skotha, obtained a Degree and a graduation ceremony will be held at St. John Vianney Major Seminary on the 18th October. Congratulations to both of you. Keep it up. Some of you will be receiving the ministry of Acolytes soon. Dear Seminarians, this is another step on the way to Priesthood. Do not take it lightly as it is an important moment of discernment.

On Thursday 26th October there will be a meeting of Joint Witness at the Bloemfontein archdiocesan chancery of the Religious Superiors (Provincial, General or Regional Superiors) whose congregations are present in the Bloemfontein Metropolitan Province (invited are the Religious Superior together with one member of a community present within the Metropolitan Province) together with the Bishops and their Vicar Generals. A letter of invitation has already been sent. This is just a reminder. I hope that those concerned will respond to this invitation.

The Family Life theme for this month is chosen in the light of the October Mission Month: ‘Our Mission’ emphasizing that the mission in the family, according to Pope Francis, is to go beyond just doing good for others but ideally to be brothers and sisters to them, to care for and “bind one another’s wounds”.

The Holy Father’s monthly intention for the month of October is ‘Workers and the Unemployed’ that all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.


Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:

  • 01st October, St Therese of Lisieux, at Thaba Bosiu, (Phuthas Parish)
  • 01st October, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, at Namahadi, (Frankfort Parish)
  • 03rd October, Blessed Joseph Gerard, at Evening Star (Clocolan Parish)
  • 03rd October, Blessed Joseph Gerard, at Makeneng
  • 04th October, St. Francis of Assisi, at Tlholong, (Phuthas Parish)
  • 06th October, Blessed Mary Rose, at Mangaung, (Makeneng Parish)
  • 07th October, Moeder van die Rosekrans, at Bakenpark, (Bethlehem Parish)
  • 13th October, Our Lady of Fatima, at Fatima, (Harrismith Parish)

Engagements of the bishop during the month of October:

  • 03rd October meeting with Deans
  • 03rd October meeting with DPC Executive at Bishop’s house
  • 04th October meeting with bajadi at J.P. II centre
  • 05th October meeting with Auditors in Kroonstad
  • 07th – 08th October Diocesan Pilgrimage at Marian shrine at Tsheseng
  • 09th till 12th October participation in M.Afr. meeting at J.P. II centre
  • 14th October meeting with confirmandi at Tswalong
  • 15th October confirmations at Kizito
  • 16th October participation in graduation ceremony at Ekwaluseni, Vrede
  • 24th till 25th October Bloemfontein Metropolitan Province meeting at chancery in Bloemfontein
  • 26th October participation in Joint Witness meeting at chancery in Bloemfontein
  • 26th – 27th October visit St. Augustine Major Seminary in Roma, Lesotho

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Permanent Diaconate Ordination of Dc. Daniel Mofokeng on 07th
  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Bishop Teddy Kumalo and of Msgr. George Wagner on 10th

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

May this Mission month be for you all an invitation to renew your commitment to the missionary mandate of the Church.


+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


Invitation and Motivation Feast of the Holy Rosary

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Mary, whom we call our Lady of Bethlehem, and the Marian shrine in Tsheseng, Qwaqwa, are very precious for us as the local Church of Bethlehem diocese. That is why we gather every year twice as the People of God coming from all over the diocese to honour our Mother in the Faith, once in February, a whole-day event, and once in October, a vigil.

I want to invite you wholeheartedly to the vigil which will take place throughout the night of 07-08 October when we celebrate the memorial of our Lady of the Rosary at our Marian shrine at Tsheseng. Arrival time is planned for 18h00 on Saturday and we shall continue till Sunday morning. For this year’s celebration we chose the theme of ‘Mary the Comforter of the Afflicted’ taken from the litany of Mary. Throughout the night we want to focus on what Pope Francis expresses in his Encyclical Letter called ‘Laudato Si’ on our care for our common home hearing the ‘Cry of the Earth’ and the ‘Cry of the Poor’ and the role the Blessed Virgin Mary plays in this. I personally believe that those two cries are very much linked together. When there are disasters like floods and droughts, which are caused not just by nature but also as a result of abuse of the resources of the earth by us, human beings, the poor are always more vulnerable and suffer more under these calamities.

Part of the programme this year will be the proclamation of those who will receive the Star of Bethlehem for their faithful and loving service in their local Christian communities. Included too will be the annual diocesan fundraising. At the end of the celebration, in the morning, there will be a special blessing and sending of the young people of our diocese who will participate in this year’s Mini World Youth Day, which will take place in December in Durban.

I hope to see many of you in a few weeks time at Tsheseng,


+Jan De Groef







Violence against the vulnerable especially women and girls be it physical, sexual or psychological is defined by the UN declaration of 1993 as being gender-based. Such violence has been diagnosed to be rooted in gender inequality factors. Though recognised as a world-wide human right abuse, it has been diagnosed to be predominant in medium and low income countries with 46% of affected women found to be in Africa (in a study carried out across 80 countries by the UN).

In a study funded by the embassy of Finland and carried out by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, published under the title Gender –Based violence (GBV) in South Africa: A Brief Review, some alarming statistics confirms that GBV in South Africa remains one of the highest in the world. For example, 77% of women in Limpopo, 51% in Gauteng, 45% in western cape, 36 % in Kwazulu-Natal acknowledged to have experienced some form of violence in their life perpetuated by men (mostly intimate relations account for 51%) with sexual-related violence recording higher prevalence: 64,419 cases reported by SAPS in 2012; 62,226 cases in 2013; 66,197 cases in 2014, and 53,617 cases in 2015.

These figures are far less than real as many women are culturally afraid to report such abuses because of future reprisals or because of ignorance of their rights. Mathew et al., (2004) confirmed through another study that 8.8 per 100 000 females were killed by their partners and this remains the highest rate worldwide. Rural women and girls are especially exposed to GBV as indicated by 80% in the Southern Cape rural women report for having experienced domestic violence. Nationwide the rate remains high at 24.6 percent of domestic violence (SAPS reported cases only).

Sekwele endeavours to contribute, with others to the development of a strong, rights-based and compassionate civil society. It does this by nurturing and cultivating a tradition of social reflection and action in communities and by cooperating with those already active in the social sphere to support their efforts in social transformation.

As violence especially gender motivated violence remain high in our society, Sekwele saw it fit to embark on pursuing activities that would go a long way to stamp out GBV in our society and create a new culture of respect and responsible citizenship by conscientising young people and communities about gender based violence and its effects, build youth activism and provide youth with information in order to reduce risky behaviour which makes them vulnerable to GBV.

Sekwele targeted learners from grade 10 and 11 from the following Schools: Bodikela Junior; Khanyeng Intermediate; Ntsu Secondary; Tiisetsang High; Thabo-Thokoza Secondary; Bethlehem Comprehensive; Clocolan High; Harrismith Secondary; Lerato-Thando Secondary; Ladybrand High; M.J.Mohlahli Secondary; Meqheleng Secondary; Lereng Secondary; Reahola Secondary; Kgola Thuto; Phukalla Secondary; Sehlabeng Secondary; Ipokelleng Secondary; Kgetha-Tsebo Secondary; Akofang Intermediate; Qwa-Qwa Combine; Breda School.

Realising that the root causes of GBV are linked to lack of knowledge of women’s rights and general human rights, low literacy rate and low awareness of where to get help as well as lack of adequate structures to manage sensitive complaints while respecting and protecting the victims. Other phenomenon such as drunkenness, patriarchy gender inequality implicitly supported by some societal structures and laws equally contribute to the GBV. Certain cultural norms and beliefs that promote masculinity and traditional practices that subjugate women, eg Ukuthwala, or false belief in male manhood test or unfounded rumours of HIV cure by having sex with a virgin, etc. are ingredients to justify GBV in some communities.

Sekwele is working together with SAPS, Thuthuzela Care Centre, Child & Family Welfare, DDI, Atlehang Youth Development to deliver programs to approximately 500 learners to improve on their understanding of the concepts of gender based violence, its causes, impact, and outlined principles for mentorship which would enable them to acquire the necessary skills for addressing gender based violence in schools as Human Rights Ambassadors.

At the school level, learners organised activities such as research on GBV within their school environments, carry out awareness campaigns and dialogues on their own and some of the schools integrated the GBV prevention model into their existing school’s programmes. This initiative from these schools help ensured the sustainability of the project and facilitated learners’ outreach. This has greatly contributed to the reduction GBV incidences in schools as acknowledged by the school authorities.


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Bodikela Learners sharing their GBV School project with others

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Reahola Secondary Learners engaged in GBV campaign



2017 Building Healthy Christian Families


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



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


The Ten Most Common Liturgical Abuses

Before Vatican II there weren’t any surprises when it came to the Mass. Now in many parts of the United States you’ll find priests improvising as they go along. Even archbishops issue pastoral letters directing things at odds with liturgical regulations. As Pope John Paul II noted in a 1998 ad limina address to the American bishops of the western states, not all of the changes in the liturgy “have always and everywhere been accompanied by the necessary explanation and catechesis; as a result, in some cases there has been a misunderstanding of the very nature of the liturgy, leading to abuses, polarization, and sometimes even grave scandal.”

“Scandal” is a word much in the news these days, but it doesn’t really mean a shameful or sexual misdemeanor. “Scandal” in the Church’s vocabulary means just what it means in the Bible: a stumbling block, something that obstructs a person’s way to the faith (Matt. 18:6–9).

When the Mass is presented as something casual, entertaining, or improvisational, the whole point of it disappears. If the priest conducts himself as if Christ were not truly present in the Eucharist, why should the lay people in his parish think the Eucharist means anything? Why should they bother to go to Mass at all? Although census figures report that the Church in America is growing, only twenty-five percent of Americans who call themselves Catholic attend Mass regularly (down from seventy percent before the liturgical reforms following Vatican II). Worse, close to two-thirds of American Catholics say they don’t believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist—and many of those are among the twenty-five percent who still attend Mass.

A strong argument can be made that the loss of structure in liturgy caused an erosion of faith that in turn dealt a near-mortal blow to the American priesthood. Religious vocations, always sufficient in this country, began dropping off as the new order of the Mass was imposed without the necessary explanation and catechesis. Now many parishes have priests of other nationalities; we have become virtually a missionary country.

In an atmosphere of free-form liturgy, it’s up to the laity to know the laws about texts, gestures, the sacred objects used, and the proper conduct of the Mass; to obey those laws; and to see that the clergy obeys them, too. It’s up to us to call our priests back to due reverence when it comes to matters of taste that aren’t covered by law. It’s also important to know the difference between matters of law and matters of taste, because you have to know when you can insist and when you have to persuade. But by and large the laws binding on all priests are enough to bring back the reverence that is all too often missing.

If you question some liturgical practice at your parish, go to your nearest Catholic library or bookstore and have a look at these texts: the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM); the Code of Canon Law (its acronym, CIC, is derived from its Latin title, Codex Iuris Canonici); the Ceremonial of Bishops (CB); and the Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite (CMRR). The Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979 (DOL) published by the Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minnesota, includes many kinds of regulations in a single volume; so does The Liturgy Documents: A Parish Resource by Liturgy Training Publications at the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Check the directives from popes and Vatican congregations, particularly the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship (CSDW). The Congregation publishes the answers to questions of interest in a periodical called Notitiae. These reinforcements of law are binding on all the faithful, and they go into greater detail than the laws themselves can; but mostly they repeat that the laws must be followed in this and every other instance.. Pauline Books & Media publishes many of these documents in inexpensive editions. And if you have a computer, check the Internet. You can easily find the complete texts of just about any Church document, free, including a good many articles from Notitiae.

Above all get a copy of the Order of Mass approved for use in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find the Order outside of huge altar books, which are expensive, or missalettes, which aren’t always accurate. Pangaeus Press in Dallas publishes an affordable edition of the Order.

When you have the applicable laws, write to the offending priest, citing the law, chapter, and verse and quoting it in full. Be objective and charitable; if you can, phrase your concerns as questions. An errant priest simply might not know what he’s doing, but whether he’s negligent or willful he might get obstinate or try to save face when his error is pointed out. If you get no satisfaction after a reasonable exchange, repeat your concerns to the priest in writing and send a copy to your bishop. It might end up being a longer and less pleasant process than you’d think. So be prepared to repeat the process and to keep the focus on the exact issue and the exact laws that it violates. As frustrating as the process might get, never lose your sense of charity. If your complaint comes to a successful conclusion, don’t crow about it; you haven’t won anything. The law has been fulfilled. The Blessed Sacrament has won.

Here are the most common abuses that you find in American liturgies today, with a few references to the laws that prohibit them. Check out those references and you’ll probably find laws on similar problems in your own parish.

1. Disregarding the prescribed text of the Order of Mass.

This particular abuse is perhaps the most widespread. You might think that the mere existence of a prescribed, official Order of Mass would be enough to show priests that they’re not to change or improvise, but it isn’t.

It’s not uncommon to find lectors eliminating male references to God in the Scripture readings or using the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (or other inaccurate and unapproved ones) for the readings. You sometimes hear priests changing the words of the Nicene Creed—omitting the word “men” in “for us men and for our salvation” is the most common violation—or omitting the Creed altogether; saying aloud the prayers to be said quietly; or generalizing them, saying, for instance, “Lord, wash away our iniquities and cleanse us of our sins” (instead of “my” and “me”).

You hear priests changing the tense and thereby the sense of phrases like “pray that our sacrifice is acceptable” instead of “may be acceptable” or “the Lord is with you” instead of “the Lord be with you.” You hear them inviting the congregation to join in prayers specified as the priest’s alone. On occasion you even find priests winging it during the Eucharistic Prayer. And beyond the improvised words you’ll find a lot of flippant practices like using blue vestments for Marian feasts or gingerbread for the Eucharist at children’s Masses.

All of this is unlawful: “Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 22, repeated in documents like Sacram Liturgiam; Tres Abhinc Annos; CIC 841, 846; and many other laws and regulations). Deviations from the Order are illicit, and when done intentionally they’re a grave offense both against the Church and the faithful who have a right to an authentic liturgy (Inaestimabile Donum, CSDW, April 3, 1980).

2. Interrupting the Mass.

The priest has no more right to interrupt the Mass from the sanctuary than you have to interrupt it from the pews. At the conclusion of Mass the lector or priest may make general announcements for the information of the parish; that’s specified in the Order. But no one may stop the Mass to make announcements, give financial reports, or make pleas for funds (Inter Oecumenici; Inaestimabile Donum). No one may stop the Mass for extra homilies (CSDW, Liturgicae Instaurationes 2(a)) and certainly not for other activities that are themselves unlawful, like skits or “liturgical dance.”

3. Omitting the penitential rite.

This one is often misunderstood. A priest may choose to use the rite of blessing and sprinkling as given in the Order, in which case he must omit the “Lord have mercy.” But a priest can never omit the penitential rite altogether, and he cannot give a general absolution during the penitential rite of the Mass as a substitute for individual Reconciliation (nor can he do so during a communal penance service [CIC 961]).

There are other options available to the celebrant elsewhere in the Order. The sign of peace, for instance, is optional (GIRM 112). If he includes it, though, the priest is not allowed to leave the sanctuary to exchange it with the congregation (GIRM 136).

4. Replacing or omitting the homily.

A priest may omit the homily only on weekdays that are not holy days. On Sundays and holy days he must give a homily (Sacrosanctum Concilium; CIC 767); it should relate the readings to one another and indicate how their message can be applied to the lives of his parishioners (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntianidi; Inter Oecumenici). No priest can substitute announcements, financial reports, or pleas in place of the homily, nor add such things to it. Of course the Holy See isn’t going to make a fuss if he takes a couple of sentences at the end of the homily to make an announcement, tell how much is in the building fund, or mention a second collection.

Nobody who is not a priest, deacon, or bishop can give the homily at Mass; nobody who is not ordained can give a “talk” or “reflection” in place of the homily (CIC 766–768). Although some few groups like the Society for the Propagation of the Faith have a dispensation to speak on behalf of an order or mission at the time appointed for the homily, it is never permitted without that dispensation—not even if he (or, worse, she) gives a short homily before launching into the appeal. An ordained minister gives a homily structured on certain guidelines; that’s it.

Incidentally, he may not leave the sanctuary during the homily (GIRM 97).

5. Dictating posture.

There are parishes where the ushers will ask you to stand when you’re kneeling. Many churches are being built now without kneelers to discourage you from kneeling at all. This violates the law and does no honor to Christ nor to the martyrs who died rather than compromise the outward signs of their faith.

But if the celebrant and his ushers can’t mandate your posture, the law can, and it does. Everybody at Mass is supposed to be uniform in standing, sitting, and kneeling (GIRM 20), and there are universal rules about it. In this country you are still required to kneel during the Consecration, from after the end of the Sanctus until the Great Amen, even if there aren’t any kneelers (GIRM 21; Appendix to the General Instruction 21). You are required to bow or kneel at the words “by the power of the Holy Spirit” in the Creed (GIRM 98). You are required to genuflect whenever you pass the Eucharist, whether it’s in the tabernacle or publicly exposed except when in procession (GIRM 233; CB 71). And contrary to what you might see these days, the Eucharist’s tabernacle can’t be tucked out of the way. It should be “placed in a part of the church that is prominent, conspicuous, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer” (CIC 938).

After Communion, though, you’re free to stand, sit, or kneel as you choose.

6. Dictating the manner of reception of the Eucharist.

Vatican II never mentioned receiving the host in hand. But when some countries introduced the practice illicitly Pope Paul VI surveyed the world’s bishops to see if it should be allowed where it already existed. Rather than suddenly suppressing reception in the hand, the pope granted an indult intended to let the practice continue for a time in those areas where it already existed. Oddly enough, the bishops of the United States—where the practice did not exist—asked permission of the Holy See to introduce it here. Even more amazingly, they got it.

Still, universal Church law does not permit reception of the Sacrament in the hand, and John Paul II disapproves of the practice. The indult that allowed it specified that reception in the hand “must not be imposed” (CSDW, En réponse, 1969). Absolutely no priest or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may refuse to administer the Eucharist on the tongue. Your right to determine which lawful manner you use is stated in the GIRM (Appendix for the United States, 240b).

The chalice cannot be left on the altar for people to pick up and drink from, not even during lightly attended Masses. The celebrant must distribute the Sacrament (United States Bishops’ Directory on Communion Under Both Species, 47). In fact, you’re not allowed to dip your host into the chalice; you have to take the cup and drink from it (DCUBS 45).

By the way, as to Eucharistic ministers, it’s important to note that they’re not supposed to help distribute the Sacrament routinely; only if there’s an unusually large number of people at Mass or if they’re sent to distribute extraordinarily outside of Mass, as to the sick. They are not supposed to assist at all when a priest is in attendance. Their office has nothing whatever to do with increased participation by the laity.

7. Ignoring rules for reception of the Eucharist.

The official statement of the rules for reception has recently been rewritten by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and unfortunately it’s pretty vague. But it still says clearly that “in order to be properly disposed to receive communion, participants . . . normally should have fasted for one hour,” abstaining from food and drink except water or medicine.

The rewrite also goes to great lengths to say that non-Christians and Christians not in communion with the Church are welcome to come to Mass, but it’s not nearly so clear as it used to be on the fact that they may not receive the Eucharist. The new phrase “ordinarily not admitted to holy communion” makes some Catholics—and too many priests—figure that it’s all right for non-Catholics to take communion on special occasions like weddings or funerals, or if the non-Catholic is a prominent person like a government official or head of state. Exceptions are so few and given in circumstances so rare that it might have been more helpful to write simply “not admitted to holy communion”; but that’s for the bishops to say.

Naturally, you’re also required to be free from “grave” sin—what we all used to call “mortal” sin—which means Reconciliation before reception if you have committed a grave offense. And, no, the theology about what constitutes a grave sin has not changed, even if the terminology has.

8. Holding hands during the Our Father.

This is oddly widespread in the United States but it’s an illicit addition to the liturgy. The official publication of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacrament sand Divine Worship, Notitiae (11 [1975] 226), states the practice “must be repudiated . . . it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on a personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics.” And anything not in the rubrics is unlawful, again because “no other person . . . may add . . . anything [to] the liturgy on his own authority” (ibid).

Notitiae (17 [1981] 186)) also reaffirms that the priest may never invite the congregation to stand around the altar and hold hands during the Consecration. He stays in the sanctuary and we stay outside of it.

9. Performing liturgical dance.

Introducing dance into the liturgy in the United States would be to add “one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements” leading to “an atmosphere of profanity, which would easily suggest to those present worldly places and profane situations. Nor is it acceptable to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because it would reduce the liturgy to mere entertainment” (Notitiae11 [1975] 202–205).

10. Closing the holy water fonts at some seasons.

This is another innovation introduced spontaneously, and while holy water fonts are not integral parts of the Mass, emptying them during Lent or Advent is wrong no matter how you look at it. It’s not found anywhere in liturgical law, which is reason enough to suppose it to be forbidden. And it makes absolutely no sense. Holy water is a sacramental, so its right use carries with it a certain degree of forgiveness of sin and remission of punishment (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1668; CB 110–114). There is no positive spiritual benefit in depriving the faithful of this legitimate aid at any time. In fact, removing it during penitential seasons is bizarre—that’s when we need it most.

By the way, because the penitential rite of the Mass and reception of the Eucharist remit venial sins, there’s no need to use holy water on the way out of Mass. Unless you’ve been up to some mischief in those few minutes.

As a postscript, I mention something that might be categorized as an abuse by the laity: parish-hopping. The Code of Canon Law provides that “The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day” (1248, para. 1). Consequently, you can fulfill your Sundayobligation by going to a Mass anywhere. While your legal membership still remains in your local parish, the only times you are required to check in there are when you want to receive a special sacrament (e.g., marriage, confirmation) for which the priest needs the jurisdiction to administer.

Nevertheless, if you flee your home parish when things get ugly, you are in a sense not living up to your responsibility as a lay person. It is your duty to point out that liturgy is not entertainment. The liturgy is reality, the primary reality of this world. Christ is God, the reality on whom the secondary reality of creation depends (“through him all things were made,” remember?). And the liturgy is the sacrament by which he comes personally and physically among us. The Mass is indisputably the single most important thing that human beings can do.

You have your part to fill in this great work. In fact, that’s what the liturgy is: the word is from the Greek meaning “the laity’s job.” We are the Church itself, we are not the Church’s customers. Still less are we the Church’s audience. And we have a right to authentic liturgy (Inaestimabile Donum), liturgy exactly in line with all applicable rules and celebrated with a suitable sense of reverence (CIC 528). So if your priest offers sloppy, illicit, or even inappropriate liturgies, guess whose job it should be to pitch in and fix the problem?