2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 2/17

Catholic schools should be encouraged in their mission to help pupils

grow into mature adults who can view the world with the love of Jesus.

(From Amoris Laetitia nr. 279)

In the family too, we can rethink our habits of consumption

and join in caring for the environment as our common home.

(From Amoris Laetitia nr. 277)

Single parents must receive encouragement and support from other families

in the Christian community and from the parish’s pastoral outreach.

(From Amoris Laetitia nr. 252)

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

The year has only started and is already getting old. I suppose that you have already drafted your parish year programmes and that also Sodalities have drafted theirs (especially on diocesan level). Please let me have a copy of those which concern the whole diocese. It would be good to have them ready at the next Presbyteral Council meeting. I sent out the Pope’s pastoral letter with as theme ‘Amazement at what God has accomplished’ concerning the Day of the Sick via internet. It gives you some good ideas concerning the pastoral care for the sick. I also emailed to you a copy of the statistics form for 2016 together with a copy of the one you filled in last year. I put a hard copy in your pigeon hole at Bishop’s house. Please do not delay filling it in and returning it to the Bishop’s office (if possible hand it to me at the Presbyteral Council meeting).

Not so many things or events were on the programme of this past month but some important events happened, some joyful and others sorrowful. It was nice to meet with all our Seminarians at J.P. II Centre for the yearly Seminarians’ Day. All were in good spirits and also their seminary reports of last year were mostly positive. As part of the programme we met with some representatives of the vocation prayer groups who were interested to hear about the progress of our Seminarians and also brought a number of items responding to their Seminary needs. Their presence and their words and deeds of encouragement were very much appreciated. In name of you Seminarians and of the diocese I want to express my thanks for their continual support. Daniel and Cliff have already left for St. Augustine Major Seminary in Roma, Lesotho, starting their last year of philosophy. Ntefane has started his pastoral internship in Vrede parish. We have again 2 candidates for St. Francis Xavier Orientation Seminary near Cape Town who have both been accepted, Gabriel Lengoabala from Bethlehem-Bohlokong and Petrus Khala from Fouriesburg-Mashaeng, who will start their year on the 02nd February. The others will continue their Seminary formation at St. John Vianney Major Seminary in Pretoria in the beginning of February. Our newly ordained Deacon Tumelo is pursuing his pastoral involvement in Bethlehem-Bohlokong parish. I wish you all much courage and zeal responding to the Lord’s call.

I was present at the meeting of Kemolo representatives from a number of parishes all over the diocese. It was a very constructive meeting responding to a need for more unity between the various groups and for necessary guidance. Part of the programme was an input by Fr. Menyatso and myself about the origins, the aim and the life of this Sodality with some indications how they could imitate Mary, Virgin and Mother, in their daily lives. I thank Fr. Dikotsi for having accepted to advice and guide this Sodality in this very important stage of growth in the diocese. Fr. Menyatso’s presence – he was the one who has put a lot of effort in drafting their new constitution – was very much appreciated.

Members of Vocation Prayer groups from various parishes had a meeting at Kelleter hall, Bethlehem, led by Fr. William Kaupa. They truly are a blessing for our diocese.

Sad news was the sudden death of Mrs. Mapoea Mosala after a short period at the hospital. We shall always remember her for her continual commitment to BBTP. May her soul rest in peace and may the good Lord bring consolation to her children and relatives.

I would like to remind all Priests to look to it that parish contributions for the special collections of PMS (ended last October) and Provident Fund be transferred to the diocesan office. Up to now 9 parishes together with the cathedral community send in their PMS contributions. I already emailed you the list. We transferred to the SACBC secretariat an amount of R8221.50 in solidarity for the victims of the hurricane in Haiti. Give my sincere thanks for the communities which contributed.

Looking at the February liturgical calendar we are invited to celebrate some important Feasts and Memorials. First of all there is the Memorial of our first South African martyr, Blessed Benedict Daswa, on the 01st February. I emailed to you a letter which mentions the website where you can find a number of documents like the Benedict Daswa novena preparing for the Memorial (already starting on 23rd January), readings and prayers for the special Memorial Mass and reflections for a whole month. It is indeed very well done. Please make use of the material provided.

Thursday 02nd February we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. I shall celebrate it on Saturday 04th February in St. Monica’s, Reitz-Petsana, together with the Sisters of St. Paul and Sisters of the Religious Congregations present in the diocese for whom this Feast has a particular significance. Two Sisters of St. Paul, Sister M. Michaela and Sister M. Luciana, will celebrate their jubilees in the presence of some of their family members and other invited guests. All Religious present will renew their dedication to the Lord and His Kingdom. Moreover this year is also the jubilee of 90 years’ presence of the Sisters of St. Paul in our diocese.

On the 08th February we celebrate the Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Patron Saint of Sudan and a victim of human trafficking herself. This day was chosen as a Day of Awareness of the scourge Human Trafficking, which unfortunately is also present in South Africa. It presents us with a challenge to take action to get rid of this scourge.

On the 11th February we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes which is also the World Day of the Sick. It falls together with our yearly Day of the Sick in our diocesan Marian shrine at Tsheseng. I already emailed to all Priests the invitation as well as the programme. Let us encourage our people to attend.

On Sunday the 12th February I have been invited by the Missionary Society of St. Paul to celebrate with them their 25th Jubilee of missionary work in South Africa. A thanksgiving Mass will be celebrated at St. Peter Claver’s church, Ficksburg-Maqheleng, at 09h00. I want to express my sincere thanks for the presence and work in the diocese.

On Thursday 09th February we shall have our first Presbyteral Council meeting of the year as usual at J.P. II Centre starting at 09h30. Also the Permanent Deacons are invited. I want to stress the importance of this meeting where we share together about the life of the diocese and try to come up with solutions and a way forward concerning the many challenges facing the diocese. Looking forward to see you there.

I am sure that you already know our two Fidesco volunteers, David and Paul. David is engaged part-time in the Fazenda and part-time in our diocesan office. Paul is engaged full-time in CCS. He will receive the visit of his Seminary rector this month. Perhaps surprising to many of you Paul is indeed a diocesan Seminarian from France. Sekwele will receive also a volunteer, Paul Fotoh, a member of the Focolare movement. He will arrive on Sunday 05th February and be accommodated at Bishop’s house where also the Fidesco volunteers are accommodated. Dear volunteers I want to encourage all of you in your various fields of action in our diocese. We appreciate your service and commitment.

We also found a replacement for the deceased director of BBTP, Mrs. Mapoea Mosala, in the person of Mr. Petrus Ntsebe who will start this month of February. I wish him a good start that he may lead this precious project forward. Thanks to CCS, especially its director, for helping the project in this interim time.

The February Family Life theme ‘Love is Merciful and Tender’ reminds us that tenderness is a unique quality of true and committed love shown by God and expressed in different ways especially within marriage and in families. Tenderness is also an aspect of mercy, “opening our hearts to the pain and wounds of others” as Pope Francis writes. World Marriage Day is celebrated on the 2nd Sunday of February each year (this year on the 12th February). It would be meaningful to celebrate with married couples inviting them to renew their marriage vows.

The Holy Father’s monthly prayer intention for the month of February is ‘Comfort for the Afflicted’ that all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized may find welcome and comfort in our communities.

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the Diocese: none in February

Engagements of the bishop during the month of February

  • 01st February meeting with Department of Laity at Santa Sophia, Pretoria
  • 02nd February Mass at Tswalong
  • 04th February main celebrant for Jubilee Mass Sisters of St. Paul at St. Monica’s, Reitz-Petsana
  • 07th February meeting with Deans at Bishop’s house
  • 07th February meeting of Executive DPC at Bishop’s house
  • 08th February meeting with diocesan Consultors at Bishop’s house
  • 08th February meeting with BBTP Board at Bishop’s house
  • 09th February meeting of Presbyteral Council meeting at J.P. II Centre
  • 10th February CCS Board meeting at CCS
  • 11th February Day of the Sick at Marian shrine, Tsheseng
  • 12th February celebration of MSP jubilee at St. Peter Claver’s, Ficksburg
  • 13th till 18th February participation in M.Afr. meeting at Merrivale (Natal)
  • 19th-20th February celebration of Bp. Zolile Mpambani’s jubilee in Kokstad
  • 21st February Diocesan Priests’ meeting in Ladybrand
  • 22nd February meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Committee meeting at Bishop’s house
  • 23rd February meeting of FSCBE at J.P. II Centre
  • 24th till 26th February meeting of Laity Council at Bertoni Centre, Pretoria North
  • 28th February meeting with Council of Sisters of St. Paul at Reitz

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Lekhotla Papi Atoro on 21st February
  • Birthday of Sr. M Michaela Masijane, CSP, on 02nd February; of Sr. M Dominica Seotlo, CSP, on 13th February; of Sr. M Lioba Motjotji, CSP, on 26th

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

Wishing you lots of perseverance in the service of the Lord and His people,



+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


Diaconate Ordination of brother Tumelo Stephen Mohlaping At Holy Ghost cathedral, Bethlehem, on 12th December 2016

On this Monday just after having celebrated Laetare Sunday, in this time leading up to Christmas, the diocese of Bethlehem got a new Deacon. Many members of the Bohlokong Church communities – where Tumelo was involved pastorally and where he will go on to fulfil his diaconal ministry – but also from other parishes, most of the Priests together with Permanent Deacon Vincent Mohlaping (representing also the other Permanent Deacons), and a number of Women Religious joined in the celebration. The Kgotsong choir really expressed that deep joy we all felt, myself and our new Deacon Tumelo included.
In my homily I recalled that Tumelo’s way to Diaconate has been much longer than usual. His discernment has been a long process but all along he felt in his heart this burning desire to serve the Lord and His people as a Priest. God’s ways are indeed wonderful. I am sure that his yes today to the questions I put to him came from the depth of his heart matured and enriched by a rich life experience not just enjoying life but caring for his younger brother. When I met with him the evening before his ordination he shared with me that he really wanted to live this God-given time to the full, not letting fall anything into oblivion.
In the readings I chose for this celebration I wanted to highlight that such a calling does not come from man but from God. We only have to discern and to receive the gift in good soil where it can bear fruit in due time. A true prophet as Jeremiah recognizes this with humility and trust being aware that he is called to proclaim God’s Word and not just his own opinion. I think that this struck a cord with Tumelo who is not that shy and does not have to search for words to express his opinion. God’s Word is surely Good News but it also cuts and challenges, first of all the proclaimer himself. In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and in the gospel taken from St. Matthew I emphasized that, more important than the kind of activities a Deacon can be involved in, is the way he does things. What is required are attitudes of humility, gentleness, patience, mutual support and service.
After the Diaconate Ordination, sharing a meal prepared by members of Vocation Prayer groups, who were already at work last night, people took time to share with one another: an experience of Church as family.

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Article by
Bishop Jan de Groef


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 10/16

Each crisis has a lesson to teach us;

we need to learn how to listen for it with the ear of the heart.

(Amoris Laetitia nr. 232)

Couples should be helped that surmounting a crisis need not weaken their relationship;

instead, it can mature the wine of their union.

(Amoris Laetitia nr. 232)

Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that

children are a wonderful gift from God and a joy for parents and the Church.

(Amoris Laetitia nr. 222)

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

Indeed the year is near to its end. This is my last circular for 2016. But the end leads into a new beginning. This is also the message of the beginning of this special time of Advent.

I heard that the workshop, dealing with the Sunday service in the absence of a Priest and with the new confirmation journey, organized for Priests and Permanent Deacons was quite informative and appreciated. I hope that it has led to a better understanding and strengthened our resolve to implement it in our pastoral situation organizing the necessary workshops for all those involved in the next year’s formation program.

I encourage all Priests to be present at our last Presbyteral Council meeting on Wednesday 07th December (please be in time; we start at 09h30). I already communicated to you that the main item of the agenda will be a thorough evaluation of the year especially of your involvement as chaplains and as Priests responsible for a number of committees and workgroups. We shall also include a prayer at our Diocesan Priests’ cemetery. We shall conclude with the traditional braai.

I would like to remind you of the invitation coming from Pope Francis and our own SACBC concerning a prayer tridium including a day of fasting from Friday 02nd December till Sunday 04th December while it is understood that we have to adapt it to our own local pastoral situation. Included is the pastoral letter entitled ‘A Call to Fasting and Prayer for Victims of Sexual Abuse’. I already emailed the Sotho version to all Priests. Unfortunately I did not yet get the Zulu version. I shall email it to the parishes concerned as soon as I get it.

I hope you did not forget to hold the Advent Provident Fund collection which is always held on the first Sunday of Advent. May I remind you to send the proceeds of the special collection for the people of Haiti held on the Feast of Christ the King to the diocesan office before the 04th December so that we can forward it to the SACBC office. If some of you did not yet forward the moneys of the PMS collection, please do so urgently. There are still a big number of PMS calendars. Some parishes did not take any yet. I shall bring them to the coming Presbyteral Council meeting (cash and carry).

Dear Seminarians, by now, I suppose, you are all home and enjoying some days with your families. Fr. Mosebetsi will let you know when and where you are called to go for your pastoral engagements (including perhaps some manual work). I am looking forward to meet all of you on the 16th (day of arrival, be at Bishop’s house at 17h00) and 17th January (departure the following day after breakfast) at John Paul II centre. I already shared with you the good news of the Diaconate Ordination of your brother Tumelo. It will take place at the cathedral on Monday 12th December at 10h00. I wish Tumelo a good preparatory retreat animated by Fr. Fons.

The Bana ba Maris will have a rally on Saturday 10th December at our Diocesan Marian shrine at Tsheseng most probably closing the many diocesan events which took place at our Marian shrine this year. It is good to remember at all times – and the Bana ba Maria remind us of this – that Mary is our mother in the faith. This Advent time too reminds us of this. Mary is the key figure of Advent leading us into Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. During this rally we shall launch the new constitution (handbook) of Bana ba Maria (sold at the price of R50.00) which we got thanks to Fr. Menyatso. A special thanks to him. We hope and pray that his health may continue to improve.

The Sisters of St. Paul want to celebrate in a special way the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary – which of course is also celebrated by all Congregations and Societies who have Mary as their patron saint including the Missionaries of Africa to whom I belong – on the 08th December.

Bethlehem diocese will be the host of the Mariapolis – a family gathering organized by the Marian Focolare movement – from Tuesday 13th till Saturday 17th December at John Paul II centre. Please feel welcome.

This month’s Family Life theme ‘Building the new World of Justice and Merciful Love’ challenges all families, but also all of us, to celebrate with Mary, the ever loving and merciful mother, and the Holy Family a new season preparing us to contemplate the birth of the helpless baby in a manger, God’s revelation and sign of love and mercy. All of us as Church are called to be credible witnesses to mercy (even if the Year of Mercy as ended), professing it and living it.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of December are: the universal one ‘End to Child-Soldiers’ that the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over and the one dealing with Evangelization ‘Europe’ that the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the Diocese:

  • 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 month of December:

  • 01st December recollection of the Diocesan Liturgical Committee at Harrismith
  • 02nd December Sekwele Board meeting at Sekwele
  • 03rd December meeting with confirmandi at Clocolan
  • 04th December confirmations in Clocolan parish
  • 06th December meeting with consultors at Bishop’s house
  • 07th December Presbyteral Council meeting at J.P. II
  • 08th December Feast of Immaculate Conception, Sisters of St. Paul, Reitz
  • 09th December meeting with Shrine Committee at Tsheseng
  • 10th December rally of Bana ba Maria at Marian shrine, Tsheseng
  • 12th December Diaconate Ordination of Tumelo at cathedral
  • 13th till 17th December participation in Mariapolis at J.P. II

Special Feast days:

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Menyatso Menyatso on 15th December
  • Birthday of Fr. Cyprian Agene on 05th December; of Sr. M Emmanuela Mokoena, CSP, on 08th December; of Sr. M Antonia Mokhethi, CSP, on 10th 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; of Sr. M Stephania Molofi, CSP, on 26th December.

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

A fruitful time of Advent and a blessed Christmas to all of you,



+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


Altar boys arrive in procession during a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI to commemorate cardinals and bishops who died this year, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 3, 2011. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The Installation of Acolytes

The minor orders are import, because they are the steps towards priesthood. They prepare a person towards the ministry of priesthood. That is why one is installed to these minor orders while he is still in formation stage in order that he is able to practise these ministries fully. Last term it was the installation of lectors and now this semester in preparation for internship, there was installation of acolytes. These ministries are installed to people who are doing second year of theology in St. John Vianney seminary. These installations forms put of the formation stage of the seminary.

The seminary stages are about to come to an end if one approaches the altar. In 18 May 2016 I was installed as a lector and my work was to proclaim the word of God. Now, I have being installed as an acolyte on 26 0ctober 2016, this mean that I must assist the bishop, priest and deacons at the altar. It also means to help distributing communion to the faithful and the sick. During the installation the bishop give us the challis that has the wine and the bread as a sign to work closer to the Eucharist. This is a sign that we need to prepare the altar for the celebration of the Eucharist.

His excellence Bishop Victor Palane of the diocese of Klerksdoorp was the one who installed us to this ministry of acolytes. There were about 18 brothers or seminarians who were installed. This is the minor order that leads to deaconate. It is significance to us as we about to go for internship. Ministry of acolyte is the last minor order that leads to the ordination. It was a great joy, as it is a step closer towards the ordination.


The Installation of Lectors

In the seminary we have different stages that a seminarian should undergo. When start his theology he is to be accepted as candidate to priesthood. This is a stage or step that one receives as to show that now is getting closer to priesthood or of becoming a priest. During the later stages of his formation he will also be installed in different ministries. Here at St. John Vianney seminary, when a student reach his second year of theology studies he is installed in these different ministries to prepare him for his pastoral internship that take place during his third year of theology studies. Those different ministries are lector and acolyte.

This year as one student (Sepatala Ntefane) of the diocese of Bethlehem I was installed in the ministry of Lectors. The installation took place at St. John Vianney Seminary, by Bishop Zungu of Port Elizabeth diocese. This event took place on 18 May 2016. It was a moment of taking a step feather. It was a wonderful experience, knowing that one has achieved a certain step in life of priesthood. This meant that one is getting closer and closer to his vocation of priesthood. A lector is someone who is made an official proclaimer of God’s word. He is a reader of God’s word and he can even preach or share the word of God. He is installed by his Bishop or by his superior (if he is a religious). The church entrust you to proclaim the word of God. To be installed as a lector, one needs to apply to his Bishop, and as a result Ntefane Sepatala did apply to his bishop (Bishop Jan De Groef) and the reply was positive or was granted a go ahead by his Bishop. This is to show that no one forced you, but you chose it freely and willingly. It is a great joy.


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Love makes each wait for the other with the patience of a craftsman,
a patience which comes from God.
(From the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ nr. 221)
Fostering growth means helping a person to shape his or her own identity.
Love is thus a kind of craftsmanship.
(From the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ nr. 221)
Both short-term and long-term marriage preparation should ensure that
the couple do not view the wedding ceremony as the end of the road.
(From the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ nr. 221)
Dear Fathers and Deacons, dear Sisters, dear Seminarians, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We just ended the October Mission month. I hope that it helped to make our parishioners aware that all the baptized are called to participate in the mission activity of the Church, of making Christ and his message known to others and of showing His love and mercy involving themselves in works of mercy. Please do not wait too long to forward the moneys of the PMS collection to the diocesan office. The PMS calendar is available at the diocesan office – few parishes bought so far. David, a Fidesco volunteer, is looking after the sale (he is at the diocesan office on Monday and Tuesday). You could also make an order and we could then prepare and supply you with the calendars at the coming Presbyteral Council meeting (cash and carry).
The diocesan closing of the Year of Mercy at the Marian shrine in Tsheseng on the 08th October was well-attended and animated. Thanks for the contributions to the diocesan fundraising which also took place at that occasion. You will find the results attached to this circular. Though we closed the Year of Mercy on diocesan level it only comes to an end worldwide with the Solemnity of Christ the King on Sunday 20th November. I encourage to celebrate it in your respective parishes.
November is traditionally the month we commemorate our beloved who passed on. Let us remember our brother Priests who died these past years: Frs. Mareka, Makalane, Chris, Tshepo and in the beginning of this year Mpho Mona. Let us also remember the Permanent Deacons who passed on, especially Dc. Michael Mohalali. Dear Women and Men Religious, I surely also remember in my prayers all deceased members of your Congregations who worked in our diocese.
During this month of November two Spiritan Fathers will leave our diocese after many years of presence, Frs. Adrian and Bernard. I want to thank you both for your work in our diocese in parishes and as chaplains to the Sisters of St. Paul in Reitz and Petrus Steyn. May the Lord give you a safe trip to you home country and assure of His presence as you start a new episode in your life. Let us remain united in prayer.
Dear Seminarians, you are living a challenging time of writing your final exams. I hope that your hard work throughout the year will be rewarded. By the end of the month you will all be home. I wish you a good rest and happy reunion with your families. Fr. Mosebetsi will let you know in time about your pastoral engagements. Ntefane will start his pastoral internship in Vrede parish in January. Ntefane, this is a very important part of your formation. Commit yourself to it wholeheartedly. A special thanks to Fr. Anselm and to the Vrede parish being ready to receive Ntefane. I asked the Priests to announce in their parishes my intention to ordain brother Tumelo to the Diaconate. Let us pray for him that he may be able to take this important step on the way to the Priesthood. Going to Lesotho this month for the IMBISA meeting of Bishops I shall take the opportunity to visit Cliff and Daniel at St. Augustine Major Seminary at Roma on 20th-21st November. Lesetla will be completing the preparatory year near Durban and most probably start the Orientation Year together with Petrus Letipa Khala (from Fouriesburg) at Francis Xavier Seminary near Cape Town next year. Together with the Vocation Prayer groups let us go on praying for our Seminarians and that the Lord may call many others into his vineyard.
Fr. Dekson, director of the Farm of Hope together with a number of volunteers and our Fidesco volunteer, David Remond, started visiting parishes to talk about this important project. I hope that, very soon, there will be some young people in need of rehabilitation who will make use of this offer, helping them to be freed from their addiction.
There will be some transfers of Priests, caused partly by the departure of Fr. Bangizwe who is expected to return to St. John Vianney Major Seminary as lecturer and formator in January 2017. I hope that these past years of pastoral engagement in Bethlehem diocese will be beneficial in his new commitment. His place in Bohlokong parish will be taken by Fr. Dikotsi. Lindley parish will be served by Priest from Mariannhill diocese, Fr. Gumede Simosakhe. I hereby wish Fr. Gumede a good start in our diocese. These transfers will take place in the beginning of January. The other transfers involve Fr. Leuta and Msgr. Gregory. Fr. Leuta will move to Fouriesburg parish and Msgr. Gregory to Frankfort parish. These transfers will take place on the first Sunday of Advent 27th November.
On Sunday 27th November we start with the season of Advent entering into a new liturgical year. Let us help our people to enter this special time of preparation for Christmas so that they may be able to discover the many ways in which the Lord becomes present among us. Please remind the parishioners of the diocesan Advent appeal, a special collection throughout the Advent time for the Priests’ Provident fund providing for diocesan clergy in their old age or when infirm. I shall email to you the diocesan list of liturgical feasts and of special collections for 2017 very soon.
On Thursday 27th October I was invited at the price-giving celebration at Ekwaluseni school in Vrede. It was kept simple but very well organized giving a chance to children of the various grades (even grade R) to showcase their talents. Many parents also attended the event congratulating their children – even a father came forward. On Saturday 29th October there was a meeting of the Board of Governors (BOG) of the two remaining independent schools of Ekwaluseni and St. Joseph (Ficksburg) where the main body of the constitution was finalized.
I would like to remind the Priests and Deacons of the whole-day workshop on 23rd November at John Paul II centre starting at 09h30 until 16h00 divided into two sections: one catechetical on the new confirmation journey and one liturgical on the Sunday service in the absence of a Priest. Sisters Patricia and Phuthunywa from the Department for Christian Formation, Liturgy and Culture will animate this workshop. Please make sure to attend.
On Wednesday 30th November there will be the Joint Witness conference where the Bishops and Vicar Generals of the Bloemfontein Metropolitan Province will meet with Regional Superiors of the different Men and Women Religious Congregations around the theme of ‘Finding new paths to evangelization through sharing the joy of the Gospel (Evang. Gaudium 33)’. We shall start with Mass at 09h00 at the Archbishop’s chancery.
I would like to announce already a universal Church initiative propagated by Pope Francis and adapted and worked out by our own SACBC through the Commission for Liturgy concerning victims of sexual abuse by members of the Church. It will take the form of a tridium from Friday 02nd December till Sunday 04th December including prayer, reflection and fasting. There will also be a pastoral letter accompanying it. Of course one will have to adapt it to the local parish situation but we should all show our solidarity with the victims of such hideous crimes. We chose this time so that it links up with the international initiative of 16 days of activism ‘No violence against women and children’ which takes place every year from 25th November till 10th December. I shall email you the text as soon as it has been finalized (I hope also the Sotho and Zulu translation).
The Family Life theme for November is ‘Mercy leads from Suffering to Celebration’. November is traditionally a time to commemorate those who have died but at the same time we remember with mercy those left behind and all others experiencing loss and loneliness in different ways. We can ask ourselves: “Do we witness to others and experience the joy of seeing the face of Jesus reflected everywhere?”
The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for November are: the universal one ‘Countries receiving Refugees’ that the countries which take in a great number of displaced persons and refugees may find support for their efforts which show solidarity and the one dealing with evangelization ‘Collaboration of Priests and Laity’ that within parishes, priests and lay people may collaborate in service to the community without giving in to the temptation of discouragement.
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)
Engagements of the bishop during the month of November
• 07th November meeting with SGB of St. Benedict school at Ladybrand
• 08th November meeting with Deans at Bishop’s house
• 08th November meeting with Exec. DPC together with members of Year of Mercy and Diocesan Liturgical Committees at Bishop’s house
• 09th November meeting with Provincial team of Sisters of Holy Names at their house in Phuthas
• 10th November meeting with Sekwele Board
• 10th November meeting of Diocesan Finance Committee at Bishop’s house
• 11th November meeting with SMTs of Independent schools at Bishop’s house
• 12th November DCC meeting at Kelleter hall
• 13th November participation in a meeting of the Focolare council in Joburg
• 14th November participation in meeting with Misereor leadership at Sekwele
• 15th November participation in meeting of Diocesan Priests at Phuthas
• 16th November meeting with Fidesco volunteers at CCS
• 16th November meeting with Deacons at Bishop’s house
• 16th November meeting of J.P. II Board at J.P. II
• 17th November meeting of Social Awareness Committee at Sekwele
• 17th November meeting of Diocesan Justice & Peace Committee at Bishop’s house
• 18th November meeting of CCS Board at CCS
• 19th November presence at elections Sodality of St. Anne at J.P. II
• 19th November meeting with confirmandi at Ficksburg parish
• 20th November confirmations Ficksburg parish
• 20th – 21st November visit Seminarians at St. Augustine Major Seminary, Roma, Lesotho
• 22nd till 26th November participation in IMBISA meeting in Lesotho
• 26th November participation in AGM J.P. II
• 28th till 30th November meeting of Metropolitan Province concluding with Joint Witness meeting at Bloemfontein
Special Feast days
• Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Mahlomola Lucky Khumalo on 13th November
• 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
May the Lord bless them and fill them with His Joy and Peace.
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.

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


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which the Church is celebrating,

casts a distinct light on World Mission Sunday 2016:

it invites us to consider the missio ad gentes as a great, immense work of mercy,

both spiritual and material.

(from Message of Pope Francis for World Mission Sunday 2016)

On this World Mission Sunday, all of us are invited to “go out” as missionary disciples,

each generously offering their talents, creativity, wisdom and experience in order

to bring the message of God’s tenderness and compassion to the entire human family.

(from Message of Pope Francis for World Mission Sunday 2016)

Together with the evangelizing and sacramental work of missionaries,

women and families often more adequately understand people’s problems

and know how to deal with them in an appropriate and, at times, fresh way:

in caring for life, with a strong focus on people rather than structures.

(from Message of Pope Francis for World Mission Sunday 2016)

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

As you can see from the above quotations, all from the Message of Pope Francis for World Mission Sunday 2016, I chose to focus on the missionary mandate all members of the Church received in virtue of their baptism and confirmation – something we are reminded of each October month. I already emailed you the full text of this message which is so rich in content. Please make use of it all throughout the October month.

I am happy that Fr. Dekson already took contact with some of you to visit the parish. In fact he started to do so last Sunday in Ladybrand, accompanied by the other Fazenda volunteers and one of the Fidesco volunteers, David Remond. Could you check with the Social Awareness link-persons whether they did their homework concerning the short questionnaire about the need of rehabilitation in our diocese.

Saturday 08th October is already very near. Are your people planning to attend this diocesan Closing of Year of Mercy ceremony at our diocesan shrine at Tsheseng, assuring also the presence of the town communities (especially whites)? Make sure that all those who are asked to play a more active part in the ceremony prepare well and are present on the day itself.

Talking about Mission month I notice that, so far, only one parish took PMS calendars. Posters and the Mission calendar can play a big role in making people aware of their missionary calling in word and deed. Though the collection should not be the main focus, it is part of the response. Please encourage your communities to be generous.

On Saturday 24th September I spent the whole day with the Bongwana children (Missionary Childhood), accompanied by Paul Saison, a Seminarian and Fidesco volunteer. What a vibrant crowd! Fr. Tsolo, helped by a sizable number of bajada, had their hands full in keeping them on track. It was nice to see that even the conductor of the choir, coming from Senekal parish, was one of the Bongwana. It shows us the way forward in giving opportunities to children and youth to take an active part in the Eucharistic celebration. In the afternoon the different parishes showed their talents in song, costume and dance. The main trophie went to Harrismith this time but all the children were made aware that the main thing is to participate (all parishes got a certificate of participation). Thanks Tsolo for your energetic animation of the day and your commitment to Bongwana. I received an amount of R2000.00 which I shall forward to the Work of the Missionary Childhood (one of the three works of PMS).

Talking about our Marian shrine at Tsheseng, this past week I was there three times: once with a visiting choir from Germany (but a number of schools from around Tsheseng and the St. Kizito Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s group also took part), the second time with a number of Missionaries of Africa who went there for a recollection, and the third time with the Bongwana. All groups were visibly delighted with the shrine though we miss very much a residing Priest. Let us continue to advertise it. I look forward to join the Priests in their pilgrimage to the Marian shrine on the 18th October. Fr. Mokesh, chaplain of Holy Family College at Parktown, Johannesburg, and of YCS will have a camp there the first week of October.

Fr. Macjoe Akpan, MSP, completed his Sotho classes in Tsheseng, while being accommodated at the Phutha’s Priests house, and is very thankful to his teacher, Mrs. Mohlaping. He returned to Ficksburg parish where he will be assisting his confrere Fr. Emmanuel. I wish him a good start in the parish pastoral work while continuing to deepen his knowledge of Sotho.

October month is a headcount month. Please fill in the form I already emailed to you. It is only the places where you celebrate Mass that are to be considered for the headcount.

This month I shall be away for a few days for my yearly retreat. Please pray for me and I promise to pray for you and the diocese.

Let us pray for our matriculates this month who will soon start writing exams. It is a good thing to organize a special Mass for them. A number of our Seminarians obtained a Degree and a graduation ceremony will be held at St. John Vianney Major Seminary on Wednesday 19th October: Tumelo Mohlaping, at present helping Fr. Bangizwe in Bohlokong parish, has completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Theology Degree and Seabata Makibi, Thabiso Matabane and Ntefane Sepatala have completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Art in Philosophy. Congratulations to all of you. Keep it up! I hope to be present at the graduation ceremony.

The Family Life theme for October ‘The Mission of Mercy to Everyone’ is an invitation to open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters in families which are meeting with hardships and big challenges. It holds in an invitation to practise the Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick, bury the dead, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless and visit the imprisoned.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of October are: the universal one ‘Journalists’ that journalists, in carrying out their work, may always be motivated by respect for truth and a strong sense of ethics and the one dealing with evangelisation ‘World Mission Day’ that World Mission Day may renew within all Christian communities the joy of the Gospel and the responsibility to announce it.

In this October month, invoking the intercession of Mary, let us pray for all our sick people, those who will receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick at the Marian shrine, but also those at home or in hospital who will not be able to be there. In particular I want to mention Sr. M. Antonia Mokhethi, CSP, and the mother of Mr. Brian Aldworth (director of CCS) and also Fr. Menyatso. Praying the rosary let us ask, through the intercession of our Lady of the Rosary, to strengthen our families so that they may fulfil their mission of being a source of life and light to others in the Church and in the world of today.

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

  • 01st October Diaconate Ordination at Merrivale, Natal
  • 03rd till 09th October visit of Bishop Emmanuel Kerketta to Bethlehem diocese
  • 08th October Closing of the Year of Mercy ceremony at the Marian shrine, Tsheseng
  • 09th October Mass at cathedral
  • 10th till 14th October personal annual retreat at St. Lucia1
  • 15th October meeting with confirmandi at Bohlokong, Bethlehem parish
  • 16th October confirmations at Bohlokong, Bethelehem parish
  • 18th October participation in recollection Priests at Tsheseng
  • 19th October meeting of SACBC Lumko committee at Khanya house, Pretoria
  • 19th October Graduation ceremony at St. John Vianney Major seminary, Pretoria
  • 20th October meeting of Department of Laity at Khanya house, Pretoria.
  • 21st till 23rd October visitation of Harrismith parish
  • 23rd October confirmations at Sibonakaliso, Harrismith parish
  • 28th till 30th October visitation of Vrede parish
  • 29th October meeting with Board of Governors (BPCS) at Vrede
  • 30th October confirmations at Vrede for Mpumalanga deanery

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


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 7/16

Tenderness makes us approach a person with immense respect

and a certain dread of causing them harm or taking away their freedom.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love nr. 127)

Marital love strives to ensure that one’s entire emotional life benefits the family

as a whole and stands at the service of its common life.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love nr. 145)

Children are loved even before they arrive.

Here we see a reflection of the primacy of the love of God,

who always takes the initiative.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love nr. 166)

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

I enjoyed my leave oversees but I am glad to be back here in South Africa. I had the opportunity to visit Fatima, in Portugal, where I asked for the intercession of the Virgin Mary for our own local Church, for the Farm of Hope and for all of you. Just back in South Africa I participated in the SACBC Plenary session which, for the first time, took place in Gaborone, Botswana. One outstanding event was that all Bishops were sent out to various Parishes to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist. I celebrated Mass in Tswana but did the preaching in Sotho.

Bethlehem Fazenda (Farm of Hope) received another volunteer, Luciano, skilled in building, who is very welcome as they started transforming the existing stables into living quarters. They will be able to receive already some young people in need of rehabilitation while still awaiting official recognition from the government’s side. Fr. Dekson is ready to visit Parishes in the diocese to talk about this important project and about the scourge of addiction. Do not hesitate to invite him. I hope that the link-persons present at the workshop, organized by the Social Awareness Committee, will have done their home work: I am talking about the short questionnaire about the need of rehabilitation in our diocese.

The report about the Social Awareness link-persons’ workshop is made and will be distributed at the Presbyteral Council meeting. It is meant as well for the link-persons themselves and the PPCs. One resolution made at the workshop was: frequently communicate with other link-persons via the medium of ‘whatsapp’. Enock of Sekwele was asked to be the coordinator. Because of his departure from Sekwele, Tabi Moloi will take over from him. The first thing link-persons could do is to get involved in local initiatives encouraging other members of the congregation to take part.

Two new volunteers, sent through Fidesco, will be arriving this week, taking over from Aymar and Foucaud – Aymar left already – who are going back to France. My sincere thanks to Aymar and Foucaud for their contribution to our diocesan projects and a wholehearted welcome to David and Paul.

The program of the Concluding celebration of the Year of Mercy has been finalized. Note that it will be a day event and no longer a vigil. It wants to actively engage various groups of Christians: young and old, from town and rural communities and from all races. So, let us make it a point of inviting our people to come in big numbers to this important diocesan event at our Marian shrine in Tsheseng. We shall have Bishop Kerketta, a visiting Bishop from India, with us who will deliver the homily. At that occasion we include the diocesan fundraising. Parish Priests, please encourage your communities to be generous.

It has often been said that the whole Church is to be missionary and this in all continents, but is it a reality? Coming from outside South Africa, I have the impression that the South African Church is still very much a Church who receives a lot of help from outside both in personnel and in finances while it should have been by now an adult Church reaching out to others both locally – an evangelizing Church going out to the peripheries of society – and universally – taking part in the worldwide PMS drive not just at the receiving end but giving, even sending out Priests and Religious to other countries and continents. One of the findings of the inter-diocesan consultation was that our Church in South Africa is very much an inward-looking Church. The October mission month drive – in our diocese we already start this month – is an attempt to bring about a change. Let us all commit ourselves to this. Please use the PMS material: posters and calendars.

The last Sunday of August I was invited to join in the celebration of the golden jubilee of the church of Mofumahadi wa Kgotso in Bohlokong. It was indeed a joyful and lively celebration thanking God for all those past years remembering all those, those living and those who already passed away, who contributed to the growth of this local Church, Priests, Sisters and laity. So many happy memories came to my mind. Mofumahadi wa Kgotso, halala!

On Saturday 24th September the children of the Missionary Childhood, known as Bongwana, are all invited to join in their yearly pilgrimage to our Marian shrine at Tsheseng. It is important that children grow up in a missionary spirit, sharing the joy of the gospel and reaching out to other children especially those in need.

I shall be taking part in a convention of Bishops, Friends of Focolare, which will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 08th till 14th September. The Focolare will have their yearly Mariapolis, a big family gathering, at our J.P. II centre from 13th till 17th December. For all who would like to taste something of the life of this Church family please visit website

This month a number of confreres, M.Afr., will spend a few days in our diocese – from Monday 19th till Thursday 22nd September – for their quarterly meeting. They will be accommodated in the J.P. II centre where also the meeting will take place. But one day, on Tuesday 20th, the whole group will make a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine in Tsheseng where they will have a recollection. I wish them and myself as well – as I will be part of the group – a wholehearted welcome and a fruitful meeting.

Fr. Fons went on home leave the day I returned to South Africa. I still wish him arestful time in his home country and welcome back to Bethlehem.

The Holy Cross plays a big role in our salvation history reminding us that Jesus Christ, our Saviour, freed us from sin and filled us with His own divine life, dying for us on the cross. To remind us of this truth and committing ourselves to walk along the way Christ showed us we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on Sunday 18th September (transferred to Sunday to allow many more to celebrate it).

On the 25th September we celebrate Catechetical Sunday. The focus is not so much on the catechists (bajada) but on the precious gift of catechesis inviting all members of our Church community, starting with the parents, to take part in the teaching role of the Church. More over Christian life is to be an ongoing journey of faith which has to be fed and strengthened all along.

On the 24th September we celebrate Heritage Day. We celebrate what we received through our various cultures. In South Africa many people enjoy a good ‘braai’ that day. May we not forget the poor and needy so that they too may enjoy that day.

The Family Life theme for September is ‘The World, our Home of Mercy’. If the world is truly our home and our heritage as Pope Francis shares with us in Laudato Si, how are we blessing it with family love, accepting all mankind and all creation as God’s wider family? On the 01st September Pope Francis will present a special message for the celebration of the second World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (to those who have email addresses I shall forward it). One of the suggestions presented is to have a prayer service for a Holy Hour or Benediction to be celebrated during the ‘Time of Creation’ (between 01st September and 04th October).

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of September are: the universal one ‘Centrality of the Human Person’ that each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the centre and the one dealing with evangelization ‘Mission to Evangelize’ that by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the Diocese:

  • 07th September, St. Peter Claver, at Hammonia and Meqheleng (Ficksburg Parish)
  • 12th September, St. Mary, at Hlohlolwana (Clocolan Parish)
  • 14th September, Holy Cross, at Kgubetswana (Fouriesburg Parish)
  • 15th September, Our Lady of Sorrows, at Breda (Fouriesburg Parish)
  • 29th September, St. Michael, at Ladybrand
  • 29th September, St. Gabriel, at Matlwangtlwang (LindleyParish)

Engagements of the bishop during the month of September:

  • 02nd September meeting with school SMTs at Bishop’s house
  • 02nd September meeting with Consultors at Bishop’s house
  • 03rd September AGM of J.P. II
  • 03rd September meeting with candidates confirmation at Makeneng
  • 04th September confirmations at Makeneng
  • 05th September meeting with Missionary group at chancery Joburg Archdiocese
  • 06th September Mass at Holy Family school, Johannesburg
  • 07th till 14th September convention Bishops,Friends of Focolare, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 17th till 18th September visitation Parish of Frankfort
  • 17th September meeting confirmandi in Frankfort
  • 18th September confirmations at Frankfort
  • 19th September St. Kizito fundraising event at Tsheseng
  • 19th till 22nd September participation in M.Afr. quarterly meeting at J.P.II centre
  • 24th September Bongwana pilgrimage at Marian shrine, Tsheseng
  • 27th September Free State CBE meeting in Bloemfontein
  • 28th September Diocesan Finance committee meeting at Bishop’s house
  • 29th September BBTP Board meeting at Bishop’s house

Special Feast days:

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Bangizwe Stanley Khoza on 02nd September; of Fr. Jordan Ngondo on 06th September; of Msgr. Gregory Van Dyk on 08th September; of Fr. Mosebetsi Mokoena on 22nd
  • Birthday of Fr. Sifiso Thusi on 06th September; of Sr. Maria Agnes Khauoe, SNJM, on 09th September; of Sr. M Gerlinde Ott, CSP, on 16th September; of Sr. Christina Mabula, SNJM, on 21st September; of Fr. Mosebetsi Mokoena on 22nd September.

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

May it be Spring as well in your hearts being touched by the Divine Light and by the gentle rain of the Holy Spirit,

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 6/16

We have known a love that is prior to any of our own efforts,

a love that constantly opens doors, promotes and encourages.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

We need to learn to pray over our past history to accept ourselves,

to learn how to live with our limitations, and even to forgive ourselves.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

The truth is that family communion can only be preserved and perfected

through a great spirit of sacrifice.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

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

This circular will span over two months due to my going on home leave but I still can be reached via internet.

Dear Seminarians, by this time you will be already scattered throughout the diocese for your parish assignments. I hope you will enjoy and appreciate this time in the parish so that the diocese really becomes your home in whatever parish you may work. Deacon Lerato will be going for a preparatory retreat just before his Priestly ordination which will take place at the Diocesan Marian Shrine at Tsheseng on Saturday 09th July. Invitations are being sent out and also letters asking for parish support towards the event. Let us encourage our parishioners to be generous but especially let us keep Lerato in our prayers.

Fr. Menyatso’s health remains stable though he has to go on with dialysis three times a week and taking medication. He had to spend a night and a day in hospital to receive a new line for dialysis. He also has an appointment with the eye specialist to see whether anything can be done to improve his eye sight. Fr. William Kaupa has agreed to take over the Diocesan Chaplaincy of Bana ba Maria. Fr. Buang went for a clinical operation which, thanks be to God and the successful intervention of the surgeon, succeeded well. Let us pray that he may recover speedily. Fr. Mokhesi’s sister passed away. May the Lord console the family, including Fr. Mokhesi, and may her soul rest in peace.

We gratefully welcome the new confrere of Fr. Emmanuel, Fr. Macjoe Akpan, MSP, who is joining him in Ficksburg parish. He started learning Sesotho in Qwaqwa helped by Deacon Vincent Mohlapeng. I wish him much courage and perseverance.

The Bethlehem Fazenda (Farm of Hope) is receiving very important visitors at the beginning of this month: Frei Hans and Nelson, the founders of Fazenda in Brazil. They want to see the Bethlehem Fazenda and want to discuss with us the process to get it really operative. Other volunteers for Fazenda are expected. One, Jandir Cossa from Brazil, has already arrived. I want to make you aware that the Social Awareness link persons, who attended the workshop organized at J.P. II, were given a questionnaire which ought to be distributed to youth and young adults so as to get some more insight about the need of re-habilitation for young people in our diocese. I hope that we shall get a good response. Please return the filled-in questionnaire to the diocesan office. If you did not see such a questionnaire please let me or Fr. Dekson know. We shall forward one to you.

The workshop for Social Awareness link persons held on Saturday 18th June was very well attended. All Bethlehem projects were also represented. I felt that there was a lot of active participation. Hopefully this will bear fruit so that our social-economic projects may be known more fully in our various local communities and that the collaboration with the parishes may be strengthened. Dear Priests and members of PPCs, if the link persons did not report yet, please remind them. This was the first task given to them.

Youth Day was celebrated either on deanery or parish level in a very meaningful way. I was present in Vrede where youth from the Mpumalanga deanery converged. At the end of Mass there was a lively address by a youth animator from Joburg Archdiocese, called Dillon, who shared with the youth about his own faith journey and Christian missionary commitment. Afterwards, in the hall of Ekwaluseni school, there were inputs from two persons who shared their experience of June 16th 1976. One wish of the youth, which was expressed at the youth gathering in Vrede but also at the link persons’ workshop – participants were youth and young adults for the larger part – is to be more actively involved in the life of the parish and that they may find a listening ear from the leaders.

On the 15th August Aymar and on the 15th September Foucaud, the two Fidesco volunteers, will leave us returning to their home country in France. In the name of you all I want to thank them wholeheartedly for their contribution to our diocesan projects of CCS and Fazenda but also for their inspiring missionary presence in our diocese. Both were living at the Bishop’s house. May the Lord bless them in their future aspirations and activities: Aymar will resume the Seminary in his home diocese in France starting his theological studies; Foucaud is hoping to be employed by a firm which has activities in Romania. Two other Fidesco volunteers, Paul and David, are already allotted to the same projects of CCS and Fazenda. They are in the process of acquiring visas. Let us hope and pray that they may get them without much delay.

I shall forward to you a list with the results of various collections. Some parishes do not seem to have contributed to some of them according to our findings or some more information was needed. Please contact the diocesan office. Please thank your parishioners for the effort. I shall also forward to you the list with the targets for the diocesan fundraising which will be offered at the closing ceremony of the Year of Mercy at the Marian Shrine in October.

What our Catholic schools in the diocese concerns, both Independent and Public Schools on Private Property, I have appointed Owner’s (Diocese’s) representatives for all schools: for St. Joseph’s (Ficksburg) and Tshebedisano (Mariadal) Deacon Benedict Mokheseng, for Ekwaluseni (Vrede) Fr. Anselm, for Sibonakaliso (near Warden) Fr. Lucky and for St. Benedict (Ladybrand) Fr. Mosebetsi. The Deed of Agreement turning St. Benedict school from an Independent into a Public School on Private Property, between the Department of Education and the Diocese of Bethlehem, has been signed. The official handing over of the Deed of Agreement is planned for 22nd August. Let us hope that the present Catholic Ethos may be upheld through the assistance of the School Governing Body.

In the month of August we shall be celebrating the Patron Feast of the Church in South Africa, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has been the decision of the SACBC to celebrate it on the Sunday following the 15th of August which means on Sunday 21st August. I also want to remind you that we celebrate Bible Sunday on the last Sunday of August which means on the 28th. This would be the opportune Sunday for Lectors to be installed or renew the mandate for this ministry.

Let us pray for our Diocesan Priests who will have their annual retreat in the beginning of August at Coolock House in Natal.

On August the 09th we celebrate Women’s Day. Let us honour the women in today’s society who are the backbone of our society and Church. It is not easy to find a balance between family and work. In his Exhortation ‘The Joy of Love’ nr. 173 Pope Francis writes: “We acknowledge as legitimate and indeed desirable that women wish to study, work, develop their skills and have personal goals” but he also goes on writing: “The weakening of the maternal presence in the home with its feminine qualities poses a grave risk to our world”. In my opinion it is very indicative that Pope Francis elevated the Memorial of St. Mary Magdalen to a Feast to be celebrated on the 22nd July each year. I thereby instruct the clergy and the faithful to do so from now onwards.

As we are still going on with our goal of strengthening marriage and family life even in this Year of Mercy, let us implement what we find in the DPC resolutions like ‘to have a special time once a month in the family to have a home service of reconciliation (Deacon Mokheseng prepared such a service)’ and ‘visitation of families for healing and counselling of couples and families in crisis’. Another resolution dealing with long term marriage preparation concerns youth programs: ‘Have a discussion about the vocation of marriage with the youth. Have a married couple to share with them about their marriage and family life’. I encourage youth chaplains to take this up with the youth groups in your deanery. The Family Life theme for July is ‘Grandparents, Witnesses of Mercy’ and the one for August ‘Men and Women of Mercy’. As you can see, they focus on different groups within the family which all have to do their part to make the family a home witnessing to true love and mercy in their relationships with one another. Pope Francis in his Exhortation ‘The Joy of Love’ has a whole section about life in the wider family in chapter 5. I encourage you to have a look at it.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this circular letter I shall be taking my home leave starting this month on 11th July (departure) until 09th August (return to South Africa). Immediately following there is the Plenary session of the Bishops in Gaborone, Botswana, until 17th August. Please pray for the Bishops that they may be truly guided by the Holy Spirit in all their deliberations.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of July and August are: the universal one ‘Indigenous Peoples’ that indigenous peoples, whose identity and very existence are threatened, will be shown true respect and ‘Sports’ that sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world. The one dealing with Evangelization is for July ‘Latin America and the Caribbean’ that the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, by means of her mission to the continent, may announce the Gospel with renewed vigour and enthusiasm and for August ‘Living the Gospel’ that Christians may live the Gospel, giving witness to faith, honesty, and love of neighbour.

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches during the month of July and August:

  • 13th July, St. Henry, Mafahlaneng at Reitz Parish
  • 26th July, St. Anna, Ntha at Lindley Parish
  • 01st August, St. Alphonsus Liguori, at farm Tripolitania (Ladybrand Parish)
  • 06th August, Kriste Lesedi la Ditjhaba, at Tshiame (Harrismith Parish) and St. Francis Xavier, at Tebeng (Phuthaditjhaba Parish)
  • 14th August, St. Maximilian Kolbe, at Letshalemaduke (Makeneng Parish)
  • 15th August, The Assumption of Mary, at Makwane (Phuthaditjhaba Parish)
  • 17th August, Blessed Isidore Bakanja, at Maqheleng (Ficksburg Parish)
  • 18th August, St. Helen, at farm Kommandonek (Ficksburg Parish)
  • 21st August, St. Pius, at Manyatseng (Ladybrand Parish)
  • 23rd August, St. Rose of Lima, at Mautse (Senekal Parish)
  • 27th August, St. Monica, at Petsana (Reitz Parish)

Engagements of the bishop during the month of July and August

  • 01st July Metropolitan Bishops’ meeting at Lumko, Benoni
  • 02nd July Diocesan Catechetical Commission meeting at Kelleter hall
  • 05th July meeting concerning Fazenda at Bishop’s house
  • 09th July Priestly Ordination of Lerato at Marian Shrine, Tsheseng
  • 11th July till 09th August home leave in Belgium
  • 10th August till 17th August Plenary of SACBC in Gaborone, Botswana
  • 19th August CCS Board meeting
  • 20th August meeting of Board of Governors schools at Ficksburg
  • 22nd August official hand-over Deed of Agreement at St. Benedict school
  • 23rd August meeting of Deans at Bishop’s house
  • 23rd August meeting of DPC Executive at Bishop’s house
  • 24th August meeting of Year of Mercy sub-committee at Bishop’s house
  • 25th August meeting of Social Awareness committee at Sekwele
  • 25th August meeting of Diocesan Justice and Peace committee at Bishop’s house
  • 26th August Sekwele Board meeting
  • 27th August participation in Lay Leaders’ Conference in Joburg Archdiocese

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Diaconate Ordination of Dc. John Bosco Leluka on 10th August and of Dc. Benedict Mokheseng on 11th
  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Emmanuel Agborg, MSP, on 01st July; of Bp. Jan De Groef, M.Afr., on 07th July; of Fr. Buang Mofokeng on 11th August; of Fr. Khahliso Mofokeng on 20th August and of Fr. William Kaupa on 27th
  • Birthday of Bp. Teddy Kumalo on 02nd July; of Sr. M Victoria Seale, CSP, on 08th July; of Srs. M Scholastica Maphepha, CSP, and M Crescentia Matlala, CSP, on 10th July; of Dc. Benedict Mokheseng on 13th July; of Sr. Innes Khumalo, FSF, on 18th July; of Sr. M Theresa Ngubeni, CSP, on 25th July; of Fr. Lekhotla Papi Atoro on 27th July; of Dc. John Bosco Leluka on 10th August; of Sr. M Beatrix Khubelu, CSP, on 15th August; of Sr. Justina Matsabisa, SCIM, on 16th August; of Sr. Constantia Sebabatso, CSP, on 19th August; of Msgr. Gregory Van Dyk on 22nd August; of Sr. M Christophora Lephoto, CSP, on 23rd August; of Sr. M Raphaela Khoele, CSP, on 29th

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

Prayer for the Women of Southern Africa

Almighty God, You are father and mother to us, your children.

We thank you for the particular and special gifts you have given to women, the gift of nurturing life, of sustaining and supporting life, the qualities of compassion, commitment, generosity and a willingness to share.

As they progress towards their rightful place in society we request your blessing on all women that they may continue also to hold their rightful place in the family, that women and men together may build a society which will bring about the Kingdom You have promised us.

We call on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who nurtured and cared for her son and now reigns with Him in heaven to inspire the women of South Africa, to pray with them in their joys and in their struggles and to intercede for them with her Son.

Mary, Queen assumed into heaven, patroness of South Africa, pray for us. Amen

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem



2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 5/16

True love frees us from the sour taste of envy.

It recognizes that everyone has different gifts and a unique path in life.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

What really makes us important is a love that understands,

shows concern, and embraces the weak.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

Love lets us experience the grandeur of spending ourselves unstintingly,

without asking to be repaid, purely for the pleasure of giving and serving.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

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

First of all some news about Fr. Menyatso. He has become a resident at Bishop’s house having to go three times a week for dialysis. He also must follow a strict diet. Together with Srs. Veronica and Martina, Frs. Fons, and George and myself we try to help him. As Fr. Menyatso is not able, at least for the time being, to take care of the tasks attributed to him I have asked some of the Priests to take over from him: Fr. Tsolo will be the linkperson between the Priests and the Diocesan Catechetical Committee and Fr. Dikotsi will be the diocesan chaplain of the St. Anne’s and Kemolo Sodality. Also the Principal of Sibonakaliso school, Ms. Rekha Mathew, had to undergo a very serious operation at Mediclinic but she is now back home and slowly recovering. Let us keep both in our prayers.

If some parishes did not bring in the moneys of the Lenten and Good Friday special collections it is more than high time to do so. I would like to remind you that all throughout June we have the special collection of St. Peter’s Pence which benefits the universal works of mercy of the Church worldwide. I also would like to make you aware of the Diocesan fundraising which normally is expected some time in September. For this year of Mercy I find it opportune to have it when we are all together at the Marian shrine concluding the Year of Mercy on diocesan level on Saturday 08th October. Please did not wait until the last moment. It should not interfere with the PMS collection.

I would like to share the good news that the Provincial of the Southern African Province of the Missionaries of Africa, Fr. Stan Lubungo from Zambia, has been chosen to be the new Superior General in Rome. The previous Superior General, Richard Baawobr from Ghana, has been ordained as the Bishop of Wa in Ghana. Let us pray for both of them.

We are still progressing slowly in getting the Bethlehem Facenda up and running having it officially recognized as a centre for rehabilitation. Fr. Dekson is now back after a short visit to his home country. He was able to finally extend his residence visa. Some more volunteers are expected in the near future. Two M.Afr. seminarians will come for a couple of weeks this month to help to build a piggery. Also the Fidesco volunteer, Aymar, will give a hand.

A big concern is our Catholic schools in the diocese. The conversion process of St. Benedict Intermediate school in Ladybrand will hopefully soon come to its completion. Only the finalization of the Deed of Agreement – signing included – is still outstanding. As I said in my last circular we had the first meeting of the Board of Governors for the schools of Ekwaluseni and St. Joseph’s. We mainly looked at the constitution making some changes and additions. Next time they will meet in Ficksburg. Together with Dc. Benedict Mokheseng I am still visiting the schools, meeting with learners and staff. In my opinion there is a very good atmosphere both of learning and of Christian witness. A special thanks to the Principals and staff.

Dear Seminarians, I hope you will enjoy your winter holidays in the diocese partly at home and partly in one or other parish (for 2 weeks) rendering some service and gaining some experience. I heard that Danny and Cliff arrived already but to all of you: welcome home. You are expected in your parishes of assignment by the 04th July and ending on Saturday 16th July. You are assigned as follows: Makibi to Vrede, Lucky and Danny to Phuthas, Mohapi to Reitz, Pablo to Harrismith, Ntefane to Frankfort and Thabiso to Ficksburg. Depending on the response of the Priests and congregations (bans are to be read out from the first Sunday of June onwards) Dc. Lerato Mokoena will be ordained Priest on Saturday 09th July at Phuthas but more information will follow.

During this month we celebrate some important feasts of the liturgical year (as indicated on the list sent out to you in the beginning of the year). On Sunday 05th June we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on the following Sunday 12th June the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The latter is the feast of our Diocese’s Patron when we are invited to pray that, together with our parishioners, we may join our hearts with hers.

June 16th surely remains a special day for the youth of South Africa. In our diocese it will be celebrated on local level. I shall be present at the celebrations in Vrede parish. We should not forget that our youth come, in the first place, from families. The Family Life theme for this month takes up not only family and youth but also mercy: ‘Youth for Mercy’. It is the duty of families to provide and educate their young ones while also teaching them responsibility. It is a time of formation for mercy – it does not come automatically – as youth learn the deep meaning of special theme for World Youth Day ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy’. I want to remind you that Fr. Leuta is now responsible for Family Life ministry in the diocese (Sekwele will take up a number of activities supporting family life ministry) and Fr. Lucky remains the diocesan coordinator for the youth.

I would like to encourage all Priests and PPCs to make sure that you have parish linkpersons for Social Awareness. Sekwele together with CCS are organizing a workshop on Saturday 18th June at J.P. II (from 8h30 till 14h00) to help those persons – we very much advocate that you send two persons per parish – to understand their task and how to execute it.

I want to share the good news that the last diocese (vicariate) in SACBC still lacking a Bishop, Ingwavuma, will get one on Saturday 25th June in the person of Fr. Mandla Jwara, CMM. I shall be attending his episcopal ordination at Riverview (Mtubatuba). Let us keep him in our prayers.

The last week of June I shall participate, together with Frs. Dikotsi and Cyprian, in the Canon Law Convention at Lumko centre dealing with the Motu Proprio of Pope Francis concerning marriage annulments.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of June are: the universal one ‘Human Solidarity’ that the aged, marginalized, and those who have no one may find – even in the huge cities of the world – opportunities for encounter and solidarity and the one dealing with Evangelization ‘Seminarians and Novices’ that seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.

Feast of the Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:

  • 03rd June, Uganda Martyrs, at Matebeleng (Phuthaditjhaba parish) and at Moemaneng (Clocolan parish)
  • 03rd June, St. Kizito, at Bohlokong (Bethlehem parish)
  • 05th June, St. Boniface, at Boditho (Clocolan parish)
  • 09th June, Sacred Heart, at Leratswana (Lindley parish)
  • 24th June, St. John the Baptist, at Tshiame A (Harrismith parish)
  • 29th June, St. Paul, at Thembalihle (vrede parish) and at Frankfort
  • 29th June, St. Peter, at Harrismith

Engagements of the bishop during the month of June:

  • 02nd June, meeting of Free State CBE (Catholic Board of Education) at Kroonstad
  • 03rd June, visit to Mariadal school
  • 06th June, meeting with rector of St. John Vianney Major Seminary and meeting with seminarians at Pretoria.
  • 07th June, meeting of Department of Laity at Khanya house, Pretoria
  • 08th June meeting with Dioc. Liturgical Committee together with sub-committee for Year of Mercy at Bishop’s house
  • 08th June, J.P. II Board meeting
  • 09th June, meeting with Department of Education in Bloemfontein
  • 10th June, meeting of Sekwele Board
  • 11th June, meeting of Focolare Council in Joburg
  • 12th June, help with Masses in Makeneng parish
  • 15th June, meeting with Permanent Deacons at Bishop’s house
  • 16th June, participation in Youth day in Vrede
  • 18th June, workshop linkpersons Social Awareness at J.P. II
  • 19th June, help with Masses in Makeneng parish
  • 23rd June, meeting with Fidesco volunteers at CCS
  • 25th June, Episcopal ordination of Fr. Mandla Jwara at Riverview, Mtubatuba
  • 27th till 30th June, participation in Canon Law Covention at Lumko centre, Joburg
  • 01st July, Metropolitan meeting at Lumko centre, Joburg

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Episcopal Ordination of Bp. Teddy Kumalo on 07th June
  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Adrien Hebert, CSSp, on 04th June; of Bp. Emeritus Hubert Bucher on 29th
  • Birthdays of Sr. M. Lidwina Mosikili, CSP, on 02nd June; of Fr. Jean-Pierre Kapumet, CSSp, on 08th June; of Bp. Emeritus Hubert Bucher on 21st June; of Sr. M. Bernadette Ramakatane, CSP, on 29th

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

In this winter time may we warm ourselves at the fire, emanating from the presence of Christ among us, revealed in love and mercy.



+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem