2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 4/16

The bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crises.

This is true from Adam and Eve …… to the wedding feast of the Bride and the Lamb.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love, post Synod Exhortation on Family Life)

In difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned

to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love, post Synod Exhortation on Family Life)

God’s love heals and transforms hardened hearts,

leading them back to the beginning through the way of the cross.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love, post Synod Exhortation on Family Life)

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

I would like to start this circular letter with a vote of thanks to all those involved in organizing the unveiling and blessing of the tombstones of Diocesan Priests buried in the J.P. II graveyard and of the remembrance stone for those who died and/or were buried outside the diocese. The families of the deceased Priests were well represented. The whole ceremony was conducted in a dignified manner expressing our faith in the Risen Christ, filled with hope bringing consolation and peace to the bereaved. A special thanks to Deacon Lerato in his first engagement as the MC for diocesan liturgical events.

We continue to pray for Fr. Menyatso who had to spend a few weeks in hospital, first in Qwaqwa and then in Bethlehem. His health condition has been seriously effected which has consequences for his future pastoral involvement. He will not be able to go back to the Marian shrine at Tsheseng. For the time being he is staying at Bishop’s house. For the time being I advise the Priests to accompany any parish group who wants to make a pilgrimage to the shrine so that they can benefit from the pastoral care expected.

I want to remind the Priests, and the PFCs through them, to send in the moneys of the Lenten and Good Friday special collection as well as the special collection taken on Vocation (Good Shepherd) Sunday. May I remind you as well of sending in the March head count figures. Only few parishes did so.

Though Bethlehem is a bit off the motorway a few confreres, Missionaries of Africa passed through. One of them was Jean Michel on his way to Merrivale formation house. Jean Michel and I were together for a few months during our stage in Tanzania and I was present at his ordination in Belgium having been ordained a few months before. Another confrere, Serge Boroto, whom I ordained in Bukavu, DRC, in December last year, also passed at Bishop’s house accompanied by some members of his extended family. It was a joy to be able to receive them. To all confreres, Missionaries of Africa, feel welcome. Bethlehem is also your home.

In the month of April we also received another Fazenda volunteer from Brazil, Fernando Silva. May the Lord bless his stay with us. Fr. Dekson went to his native country of the Philippines to renew his visa and driving license. I hope and pray that he will succeed within the period of his home leave and be with us again by the end of this month.

A joyful experience was my visit to St. Joseph’s school in Ficksburg. After Mass there was a whole programme where the learners of different grades presented one or other item showing how they put into practice the Catholic ethos of the school like for instance the importance of prayer and meditation. I must say that I was very impressed. Afterwards there was a short meeting with the teachers and members of the SGB. I am looking forward to visiting the other schools in the diocese. This month of May we shall have the first meeting of the newly established Board of Governors for the schools of Ekwaluseni, Vrede, and St. Joseph’s, Ficksburg, together.

Brother Tumelo will conclude his seminary training at the beginning of this month of May. After a short but well-deserved holiday he is expected for pastoral engagement in Bethlehem parish, Bohlokong. I hope that another pastoral insertion will help him on his way to the Diaconate and Priestly ordination. To the other Seminarians I would say as encouragement: look at your brothers, Lerato and Tumelo, how they reached the end of their seminary training and are now eager to get pastorally involved in the diocese. Though the training may seem long grow in your motivation and your response to the Lord who will complete what He has begun in you at his right time.

The past week I had a meeting with the sub-committee for the Year of Mercy and we came up with some proposals for activities during the remaining months and especially for the diocesan closing of the Year of Mercy. They will be discussed at our next Presbyteral Council meeting. We realized that quite a number of activities are taking place in parishes but unfortunately we did not get any reports nor photos about those events. Please send some report – even if only a few lines – and photos to Fr. Dikotsi, our linkperson with Rome for the Year of Mercy, and to Fr. Khahliso, our diocesan webmaster.

I appreciate very much the recent involvement of Sodalities to uplift and support life in the diocese: the Women of St. Anne contributed greatly to the tombstones for our deceased Diocesan Priests and the Men of St. Joseph together with their chaplain Fr. Leuta organized a men’s pilgrimage – for all men, not just for them – at the Marian shrine in order to celebrate together St. Joseph the Worker. I very much want to encourage all Sodalities to go on in this spirit.

From Ascension on Thursday 05th May (but in South Africa we celebrate this Solemnity on the following Sunday 08th May) till Pentecost we are invited to pray together with Christians of other Denominations for unity among Christians. I already sent to all Priests (via internet) and also distributed hard copies (also to Religious houses) of the prayer leaflet. Let us make use of it.

I sent already an SMS to all Priests working in parishes that we will skip this year the Pentecost sending ceremony at the cathedral for those baptized or received and confirmed during the Easter vigil. This does not mean however that you cannot organize that in your own parish in order to highlight the mission of all baptized Christians to be evangelizers and celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church.

May is traditionally the month of Mary. Let us honour our heavenly mother asking for her intercession for our Diocese as we call her ‘Our Lady of Bethlehem’.

On the 31st May we shall have the second Presbyteral Council meeting of this year. We want to start in time at 09h30 so that we can finish in time. The previous day on the 30th May I shall meet with the consulters starting with lunch at 13h00.

This Bishops’ Conference, since a few years already, has dedicated the month of May for family and life and for this year we also see it in the light of the Year of Mercy. The theme chosen for this month is ‘Merciful Parenting and Family Care’. Parenting is a unique relationship, a pilgrim journey from birth to death. Pope Francis reminds us of what the Lord said: “do not judge and do not condemn” and he goes on saying: “accept the good in the child, forgive and give generously and freely.” Parents are called to practise and teach the Spiritual Works of Mercy also within the family as part of their parental obligation. In the month of May we celebrate two dates linked with family life: on Sunday 08th of May (Ascension) ‘Mothers’ Day’ and on the 15th May (Pentecost) ‘International Family Day’. Let us make use of such days – whether propagated by the Church or society at large – to highlight the importance of family life.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of May are: the universal one ‘Women’ that in every country of the world, women may be honoured and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed and the one dealing with Evangelization ‘Holy Rosary for Evangelization and Peace’ that families, communities and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace.

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

  • 01st May, St. Joseph the Worker, Riverside at Phuthas Parish
  • 03rd May, St. Philip the Apostle, Sehlajaneng at Makeneng Parish

Engagements of the bishop during the month of May

  • 03rd May till 06th May SACBC Board meeting in Pretoria
  • 07th May participation in St. Anne’s Central Deanery Prayer Day at St. Kizito, Bohlokong
  • 08th May assisting in Makeneng Parish with Masses
  • 09th May opening Mass chapter of Spiritans at J.P. II
  • 10th May participation in Diocesan Priests’ meeting in Harrismith
  • 10th May meeting of Board of Governors schools at Bishop’s house
  • 11th May Diocesan Liturgical Committee meeting at Bishop’s house
  • 11th May BBTP Board meeting at Bishop’s house
  • 12th May meeting of Social Awareness Committee at Sekwele followed by meeting of Diocesan Justice & Peace Committee at Bishop’s house
  • 13th May evening visit to Seminarians at Jt. John Vianney Major Seminary
  • 14th May meeting with Laity Council Executive at Lumko
  • 16th May input in SACBC Orientation Programme at Lumko
  • 18th May John Paul II centre Board meeting
  • 20th May CCS Board meeting at CCS
  • 22nd May assisting in Makeneng Parish with Masses
  • 25th May meeting with Deans at Bishop’s house
  • 25th May meeting of Executive of DPC at Bishop’s house
  • 27th May meeting with SMTs of schools at Bishop’s house
  • 28th May meeting with candidates confirmation Lindley Parish
  • 29th May confirmations Lindley Parish
  • 30th May meeting with consulters at Bishop’s house
  • 31st May Presbyteral Council meeting at J.P. II at 09h30

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Bernard, CSSp, on 01st May; of Frs. Cyprian, Leuta and Sakhi on 13th
  • Birthday of Srs. M Paula and M Veronica, CSP, on 02nd May; of Sr. M Cassia, CSP, on 04th May; of Fr. Emmanuel, MSP, on 07th May; of Fr. William on 17th May; of Sr. M Gabriela, CSP, on 25th May; of Fr. Dikotsi on 27th

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

As we celebrate the birthday of the Church on Pentecost may the Holy Spirit continue to guide the Church and fill us all with His gifts,


 +Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


Sibonakaliso (Fatima) school Community Clean up campaign

Today 26th April  as a school (Sibonakaliso Secondary Scool),we took 65 learners with all Staff to Clean the warden town as part of our Community Work for the Warden Community..

We cleaned up the whole Main street and had a wonderful time.The Mayor and Speaker of Phumelela had organized Lunch takeaways for the learners also..

We are so proud of our Team that we were able to make Warden Town look neat and Clean today…

Article by
Rekha Matthews (Principal)



2016  Building  Healthy  Christian  Families

Cir. 3/16

Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person

who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters.

(Pope Francis – Daily messages by Jesuit Institute)

Dialogue, rational and respectful, is necessary

so that we open ourselves to receive God’s healing.

(From ‘A Call to overcome Racism’ SACBC pastoral letter)

Furthermore, we encourage this open dialogue at the level of our parishes,

availing parishioners of the opportunity to look at how people can grow

in positive appreciation of cultural diversity and how this is expressed

in the liturgy and other activities of the parish.

(From ‘A Call to overcome Racism’ SACBC pastoral letter)

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

We just celebrated Holy Week culminating in the Easter vigil and Easter Sunday. Perhaps it leaves us rather exhausted but full of a deep joy and peace in our hearts. Sunday 03rd April we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday, which I celebrated with the youth gathered in our Marian shrine of Tsheseng, reminding us that our God is a Father of Mercy from whom Jesus Christ presents us the living face. Though I could not stay until the morning I was touched by the lively enthusiasm of the youth present, coming from most of our parishes. This year’s pilgrimage was particularly blessed with a young couple receiving the sacrament of marriage and another couple renewing their marriage vows in front of all the youth. What a shining example!

I remember gratefully our celebration of the Chrism Mass in the Marian shrine. How right it was to celebrate it there in this Year of Mercy. Thanks to all who gave so generously to the special Chrism Mass collection as a contribution to the expenses for the training of our Seminarians.

Recently the SACBC issued a pastoral letter with as heading ‘A Call to overcome Racism’. Just a couple of days ago I emailed a Sotho version of this letter (thanks to the efforts of Dc. Lerato). I suggest that you pin it up at the notice board in your various churches so that parishioners can take notice of it. The same was proposed for the DPC resolutions – I must say that I am somewhat disappointed not to see it yet on your notice boards. I feel that we are still a long way from that ‘mutual appreciation of our differences’ being eager to learn from one another and show interest in each other’s activities. If we do not take the opportunity to meet with each other we become foreigners to one another and prejudices and judgments easily crop up.

We have concluded the Lenten collection and I hope that the Good Friday collection for the Holy Land was also held. Please do not wait to send in the proceeds. It would be nice that this still happens before the Priests’ transfers of the10th April. Please send also the Mass head count figures of March to the diocesan office.

The AWR organized a few days of workshop/reflections at J.P. II this past week looking at various subjects like liturgy, consecrated life and Year of Mercy. Thank you Sisters for your attendance and thanks to all who gave inputs. I was happy to be with you for one Holy Mass celebration followed by supper.

Dear Seminarians, I hope that you too had a nice Holy Week and Easter celebration and feel rejuvenated to continue your seminary training. Know that you are not only in my thoughts and prayers but also of your Priests and Sisters and of the many members of the vocation prayer groups (I noticed in this year’s statistics that heir number has increased), especially now that Good Shepherd Sunday approaches. You can gage the concern of many parishioners from the generous Chrism Mass collection and the ongoing prayer for vocations at each Sunday Mass.

On the 17th April, the fourth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. We want to pray together with the Church worldwide for vocations, especially for the Priesthood and Consecrated Life. I thank and encourage the Vocation Prayer groups to continue with their ongoing prayer for vocations and spiritual support for our Seminarians, Novices and young people aspiring for Consecrated Life. On that Sunday there will be a special collection as another contribution to the expenses for seminary training. On Saturday 16th April there will be a Vocations Prayer groups’ workshop at Kelleter hall in Bethlehem. Please remind the members of your Vocation Prayer groups.

A few visits are announced. Bishop Emeritus Hubert Bucher, who recovered well after a serous clinical operation, will be at the Bishop’s house for a few days and Philippe and Anne, responsible for the Fidesco volunteers in Africa, will also stay for a couple of days. They want to see how the two volunteers, Foucaud and Aymar, working in our diocese are doing and discuss with us about their possible replacement when they conclude their stay with us in September this year.

As I announced already at the end of the Chrism Mass there will be a number of transfers of Priests on Sunday 10th April. I thank all Priests for their service in the diocese, and to those being transferred in particular I wish you much courage and dedication as you start anew in a new parish. May you experience joy and peace in your service building a climate of collaboration and trust. May the transfer run efficient and smooth. I have sent out electronically a new address list (a hard copy is in your pigeon holes at Bishop’s office) where the recent transfers are included.

Next to the transfers there are also a number of new appointments to various responsibilities. Fr. Tsolo will become the diocesan chaplain of Bongwana; Fr. Bangizwe has been asked to become a member of the Diocesan Finance Committee; Dc. Lerato was asked to become the new MC for all diocesan liturgical events and Fr. Leuta will take over from Fr. Lucky to animate the marriage and family ministry in the diocese. All these appointments come into effect on10th April.

I would like to encourage the men under your parishioners, in support of his invitation at the Chrism Mass, to take part in the Men’s Pilgrimage to Tsheseng on 30th April.

I would like to thank you for sending in the annual statistics which I already forward to Rome through the Nuncio. What transpires from it is a remarkable drop in the number of confirmations and also less marriages while there is a big increase in first communions and a slight increase in baptisms while there is also an increase in the total number or registered Catholics. A very positive sign of growth is the number of Catholics belonging to various Sodalities and other parish groups: the biggest increase was again Bongwana but also Bana ba Maria and youth association. The Kemolo Sodality increased considerably in numbers but also the St. Anne, St. Joseph and Sacred Heart Sodality.

As most of you will have heard – an invitation has already gone out – we shall have the blessing/unveiling of tombstones of Diocesan Priests buried in the J.P. II graveyard but also of a remembrance stone for the Diocesan Priests who died and/or were buried outside the diocese. The ceremony will take place at the J.P. II on Wednesday 27th April starting with Mass at 10h00. Still a heartfelt thanks to the St. Anne Sodality for funding the tombstones.

The weekend afterwards, on Saturday 30th April, one new Bishop will be ordained as the Auxiliary Bishop of Johannesburg Archdiocese. Quite a number of you know him, Bishop Elect Duncan Tsoke, who was until now the Vicar General. Let us pray that the Lord may bless him and strengthen him to take up this great responsibility. Unfortunately I will not be able to be present at his Episcopal Ordination. I asked Fr. Mosebetsi to represent me. I had already agreed before to ordain a Deacon, member of M.Afr., in Merrivale that same day.

The theme for Family Life for this month is ‘God’s Mercy is Divine Mercy’, chosen in light of Divine Mercy Sunday which we just celebrated. Sr. Faustina experienced Jesus as a fount of mercy and this led to the popular Divine Mercy devotion. Of course it also enters very well in the Year of Mercy Jubilee with as theme ‘Be merciful like the Father’ which challenges all of us to reflect on God’s divine mercy and imitate him first of all in family life but also reaching out to others in various need engaging ourselves in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Last month I received an extract from an article which appeared in the Johannesburg Archdiocesan News pointing out that the ‘Pill’ used to avoid unwanted pregnancies is not only contraceptive but also abortive. The Catholic Church keeps up her total prohibition of all forms of artificial birth control but encourages couples to use the method of natural family regulation which has many advantages, graces and blessings that strengthen couples, who use this method, in their personal relationships.

I am happy to be able to inform you that we came finally to the conclusion – though the Deed of Agreement is still only in draft form – of the conversion process of St. Benedict school in Ladybrand becoming a Public School on Private Property.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of April are: the universal one ‘Small Farmers’ that small farmers may receive a just reward for their precious labor and the one dealing with Evangelization ‘African Christians’ that Christians in Africa may give witness to love and faith in Jesus Christ amid political-religious conflicts.

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:

02nd to 03rd April, participation in Youth Pilgrimage at Tsheseng

04th April, meeting with new SGB of St. Benedict school at Ladybrand

09th April, AGM of CCS at Kelleter hall

11th to 14th April visit of Fidesco leadership

15th to 17th April, visitation Ficksburg Parish

18th April, meeting with Missionary group at chancery Johannesburg and meeting with Fr. Mokesh and Mark Potterton at Bosco Youth Centre

23rd April, meeting with confirmation candidates at Harrismith

24th April, confirmations Harrismith Parish

26th April, meeting of Year of Mercy committee at Bishop’s house

27th April, Unveiling of tomb stones and remembrance stone deceased Diocesan Priests at J.P. II

30th April, Diaconate ordination at Merrivale, Natal

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 April.

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 April; of Fr. Adrian Hebert, CSSp, on 29th April.

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

Wishing you all a blessed time of Easter,

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


Epic Church, Epic Life

10 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass

Maybe it’s because we’ve just adopted these habits, maybe we’re just lazy…let’s take a bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at some common practices that may need correction during the Holy Mass. Here are 10 things you might be doing wrong at mass.

1. Changing posture early
Seriously, what’s the deal? Why can’t we just wait ’til we actually finish the Sanctus before kneeling? Do you love kneeling that much? Do you think being the first person to sit will get you a prize? “Hey Bill, what’s that medal for?”  “Well, I sat the fastest after the collect at a mass back in ’85”  Yeah, not gonna happen.  Let’s make a point to do things together next time. Cool? Cool.

2. Leaving before the Mass is over
AKA the “Judas Shuffle”.  I’m sorry, did you think Mass was over as soon as you received the Eucharist? It’s as though some people think the proper response when receiving Holy Communion isn’t “Amen”, but “Goodbye”. We should observe proper decorum for Mass: depart after the celebrant.

3. Genuflecting toward the altar
I see this constantly! Genuflecting is the most pronounced gesture we employ at Mass, so it is reserved for the highest good — the Eucharist Himself. Where’s the Eucharist? In the Tabernacle. Some might be in this habit because the tabernacle is often directly behind the altar.  Before getting in your pew, if and only IF the Tabernacle is visible, genuflect toward it. If it’s not in view, bow toward the altar. Now you know. And this applies outside of Mass too.

Speaking of bowing…
4. Nodding your head instead of a proper bow
Wherever bowing is called for in the Mass (when the congregation is incensed by the thurifer, in the middle of the Creed, etc.) it is always a “profound bow”, which just means that you bow from the waist. The only time that we are told to bow our head only is “when the three Divine Persons are named together, and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated”.

5. Standing in the Orans position during the Our Father
No. Just no. You’ll see priests assume the Orans position (hands extended to the side) a few times; it is a posture that indicates that he is praying on our behalf, but not in the way that I pray for you. He’s praying on our behalf in persona Christi capitas. This is why the rubrics don’t allow for deacons to adopt the Orans posture, and it’s the main reason we shouldn’t either.

6. Walking around at the Sign of Peace
What is this, social hour? Not only is this obnoxious (my opinion), but it’s illicit. The rubrics tell us that it is “appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner”.  We all love you, but stay where you are.

7. Not saying “Amen” before receiving Communion
I can hardly believe this needs to be said, but it does. When the priest, deacon, or EMHC elevates the host or chalice and says, “The Body/Blood of Christ”, you had better not be silent. It is imperative that those who receive can affirm belief in the Real Presence, so do what the Church asks. Say “Amen”. Amen? Amen!

8. Not singing
Admittedly, this might not be crucial, but neither the congregation nor the choir is singing for your amusement. Hymns, which are representative of the antiphons, are a response of the faithful as part of the Mass; making them a part of the prescribed “full, conscious, and active” participation in the Mass. Don’t fall prey to individualistic tendencies. We worship together, and that means singing together. Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council says,

“Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out…” (118)

RING. OUT. Skill is not a prerequisite. Just, please, sing to the Lord.

9. Not saying the responses
Now, this one is more important than carrying a tune. How does somebody think that active participation in the liturgy is going to be accomplished without actively participating in the liturgy. Yes, it is primarily about interior disposition, but habitually refraining from the responses is a pretty solid sign of a poor disposition. Again, we worship together.

10. Arriving late
I know what the problem is, somebody told you that if you arrived by X and left after X, then you “officially” went to Mass and fulfilled your obligation. Sed contra, my friend! There are no such limits. Our obligation is to attend a Sunday Mass, and that Mass begins and ends with the introductory rites and the concluding rites. If you happen to be late because of circumstances beyond your control, if you made an honest effort to be there on time, but you walked in at the Psalm, so be it; you’re fine. But if you had to catch the last 7 minutes of a game, and that’s why you’re late, then stop reading this and re-prioritize. (Confession might even be required.)

We’ll be looking at more of these liturgical no-no’s in future posts. (Round 2: 10 More Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass) The rubrics for the mass can be found in the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM).  Check it out.

Article shared by
Thabo “Dakalo” Moloi
(Harrismith Parish: Mpumalanga deanery)

We are all called to be true witnesses of Christ by our lives.


Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.36.24 PMWhat would Christianity be without true witnessing to the Person of Christ? This was a question which struck me on the 26th -27th of February 2016 while I was attending a workshop on religious and concentrated life held in Ladyband Parish by the Newcastle Dominican sisters from the Diocese of Dundee. I realised that witnessing is what makes us the Church “The body of Christ” visible in the world. By being visible we further become more that what we are “The Body of Christ”. In other words in becoming more than what we are, we embody Christ, his love, his compassion, forgiveness and his life, not only during this Year of Mercy but throughout our lives. And how do we manifest this? By sharing what we have received with our brothers and sisters as St Paul says, “For I handed over to you as of first importance what I in return have received” (1Cor 15:3) and by being united in love and in faith.  It is in sharing our faith experiences that we grow towards Christ in our different communities. Thus, in sharing our faith experiences we do not only grow towards him who calls us but we make he who calls us present and indeed the WORD becomes flesh and it tabernacles in us. This is a most vital form of witnessing because it fulfils the promise of Christ to his disciples “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

The workshop was organised by the Parish Priest Rev Fr Mosebetsi Mokoena. It was made clear and emphasised by the Parish Priest that the workshop was for all young women in our parish not only for those who feel God is calling them. The reason behind such a wide invitation was that, we are all called to witness to Christ by our lives thus it is of great importance to attend such workshop to deepen our faith by listening to others who have encountered the Lord in a special way. The workshop was facilitated by four Dominican sisters, two of them were finally professed and the other two were novices. The number of the young people who showed up was 54 and they were assisted by the vocation prayer group members. The workshop started on Friday the 26th in the evening and it ended on Saturday the 27th afternoon . It was a good faith sharing experience. We thank the Lord for all this and we like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the parents for allowing their children to come to the workshop and we also thank the young people for showing up . We hope and pray that what God has initiated through the sisters may he bring it to the fulfilment. Mary Mother of vocations Pray for us!


2016  Building  Healthy  Christian  Families

Cir. 2/16

May this Jubilee year eliminate every form of close-mindedness and disrespect

and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.

(Pope Francis – Daily messages by Jesuit Institute)

Justice and mercy are two dimensions of a single reality

That unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love.

(Pope Francis –Daily messages by Jesuit Institute)

God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness.

If God limited himself to justice, he would cease to be God.

(Pope Francis – Daily messages by Jesuit Institute)

You cannot come into God’s presence unreconciled with your brother;

reconciliation is the prerequisite for true worship of God.

(Pope Benedict XVI – Daily messages by Jesuit Institute)

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

The whole of February we were invited to remember Blessed Benedict Daswa, our first South African martyr. He can inspire us in many ways whatever our way of life as Priests, Deacons, Religious or Lay: his faithful commitment and zeal, a true witness of God’s love and mercy.

During the first Presbyteral Council this year on 01st March we shall get a reminder to start implementing the DPC resolutions (a hard copy shall be distributed) especially those for the first year (2016); many among them refer to the Year of Mercy. In order that our various communities do not forget about those resolutions one could pin them up on the notice board and refer to them from time to time and examine in how far they are being implemented. Prayer cards (unfortunately not yet in Zulu) and reflection booklets of the Year of Mercy, in different languages, are now also available: prayer cards at R1.00 each and booklets at R5.00 each. Let us encourage our people to use them personally but especially in various groups like in the family, in the blocks, at meetings of Sodalities and other parish groups. Our resolutions mention also social economic uplifting of our people. BBTP is one of the Bethlehem projects which offers skill training to young people. Unfortunately there are more from outside our diocese who presently make use of it. I distributed invitation letters at the Presbyteral Council meeting. Let us encourage young people from our own parish communities to use this opportunity and register.

The time of Lent which we started with Ash Wednesday should be even more precious to each one of us during this Year of Mercy. I would like to emphasize reception of the Sacrament of God’s Mercy: the sacrament of Confession or of Reconciliation, not just for others but also for ourselves. Priests should make sure that special times for confession are planned and announced. Pope Francis, in his bull of indiction of the extra-ordinary jubilee of mercy proposes another initiative of ’24 hours for the Lord’ to be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday preceding the 4th week of Lent. I am aware that we must take account of our own situation but perhaps there is a way of adapting it to suit our situation. I am also thinking of Women Religious in their respective convents. Part of this 24 hours could be a service of reconciliation including receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. Pope Francis in his message for Lent puts an emphasis on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It would be good to explain to our people what is meant by this and encourage them to engage themselves in such works. I alluded to this in my pastoral letter for Lent. Perhaps you could refresh people’s minds and your own re-reading this letter. One suggestion I made in the parishes where I went for visitation is to organise a pilgrimage to our Marian shrine in Tsheseng with the local parish community, Sodality or parish group and have a day of prayer receiving the special blessing when passing through the Holy Door. I am very happy to hear that a special pilgrimage is being organised for all men on 30th April this year. Let us encourage all men, whether they are members of Sodalities or not, to take part in this pilgrimage. Fr. Leuta distributed posters at out Presbyteral Council meeting.

I heard that the special closing celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life in Bethlehem parish on Sunday 07th February was really a great event. It was still planned with Fr. Mpho, who unfortunately died in a car accident on the first day of the year, but now was taken up by Fr. Tsolo in collaboration with Msgr. George and the AWR committee. Unfortunately I could not be present myself. I think that it also gave a boost to the Association of Women Religious (AWR) who have planned a number of activities this year like to be a few days together at J.P. II centre for renewal and formation for all Religious Sisters present in this diocese.

All Seminarians returned to their respective seminaries. Let us go on praying for them and, of course, you Seminarians to pray for the diocese, the family to which you belong. In my previous letter I announced that there would be two candidates starting a preparatory year at St. Ambrose Formation House near Durban. Unfortunately it is only one who finally made it: Lesetla Gabriel Lengoabala. Let us support him with our prayers.

The Diocesan Priests had their first meeting and recollection at J.P. II centre this past month. The preacher should have been Fr. Mpho but now was replaced by Fr. Bangizwe. A big thanks to him who, at a short notice, prepared a deep and inspired presentation which challenged us in many ways in our Priestly vocation. I am very grateful that I could participate in it. I discovered that tombstones for our deceased Priests were nicely installed at our J.P. II Priests’ grave yard. Thanks to all who contributed, specially the Sodality of St. Anne. We are looking forward to the celebration of the ‘Unveiling’.

As I wrote in my previous circular I could participate in the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines. All together we were 10 persons from South Africa. Among them was Fr. Buang. He told me that he was very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this congress. It was for us an eye opener to see such a vibrant expression of religiosity declaring openly there catholicity. Of course Catholics form the overall majority of the population of the Philippines (80%) though there are also a number of sects and on some islands quite a number of moslims. They see themselves as the backbone of the Church in Asia and are aware of their missionary calling entering in dialogue with the different religions present in that continent. I could stay one week longer visiting a Missionary of Africa community in Cebu. But I also visited a ‘Farm of Hope’ (Fazenda) on another island Masbate, which gave me some ideas how to support the farm of hope which has been started in our own diocese.

Finally all parishes contributed to the PMS special collection and again there was an increase this year. A final report will be emailed to all Priests. I encourage you to forward the moneys of the Provident Fund collection held on the first Sunday of Advent to the diocesan office. I am aware that the Lenten special collection is being held all over the diocese as one of the ways to live this time of Lent. Please do not forget to hold the Good Friday collection supporting our Catholic presence in the Holy Land reaching out to the needy witnessing of Christ’s love and mercy.

I would like to mention to you that our two schools which go up until matric, Sibonakaliso (Fatima) and the farm school at Breda, did very well. I appreciate the commitment of the staff and of others supporting those schools and hope they will go on doing well.

I would like to remind you that March is a head count month. Please do the head count wherever you celebrate Mass on the four Sundays of March and to forward the figures to the diocesan office speedily. I would also like to remind you that I am waiting for your statistics so as to be able to do my annual report for Rome.

We are all gearing up for Holy Week starting with Palm Sunday on 20th March. This year we shall celebrate the Chrism Mass at the Diocesan Marian shrine at Tsheseng where we installed the Holy Door, blessed and ceremoniously opened during the diocesan opening of the Year of Mercy. We start at 10h00 (expecting people to arrive before 10h00). Let us also invite our town communities.

The theme for Family Life for this month is ‘Mercy is Justice tempered with Love’. Pope Francis sees justice and mercy as two dimensions of a single reality reaching its highest level in the fullness of love. Use this time for the sacrament of Reconciliation. A simple reconciliation and family prayer meal can heal and commemorate the Eucharist at home (Ficksburg parish composed a nice reflection and prayer which I already emailed to the Priests) and prepare for the joy of experiencing the risen Lord.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of March are: the universal one ‘Families in difficulty’ that families in need may receive the necessary support and that the children may grow up in healthy and peaceful environments and the one dealing with Evangelization ‘Persecuted Christians’ that those Christians who, on account of their faith, are discriminated against or are being persecuted, may remain strong and faithful to the Gospel, thanks to the incessant prayer of the Church.

Feast 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 Presbyteral Council meeting at J.P. II

02nd March BBTP Board meeting at Bishop’s house

06th March assisting for Masses at Bethlehem Parish (Bohlokong)

13th March assisting for Masses at Bethlehem Parish (Bohlokong)

14th March meeting with SMTs Independent Schools at Bishop’s house

16th March meeting with Permanent Deacons at Bishop’s house

16th March Diocesan Financial Committee meeting at Bishop’s house

17th March meeting with Fidesco volunteers at CCS

20th March Palm Sunday celebration at Bakenpark

23rd March Chrism Mass at Tsheseng

24th March Holy Thursday assisting in Lindley Parish

25th March Good Friday assisting in Lindley Parish

26th March Easter Vigil at Tsoalong

27th March Easter Mass with confirmations at cathedral

Special Feast days

Anniversary of Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Emeritus Hubert Bucher on 27th March and of Bishop Jan De Groef on 28th March.

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 March.

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

I wish you all a fruitful time of Lent, Holy Week and Easter,

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem

Diocesan regulation concerning the Kemolo Sodality

Bethlehem, 22/02/2015

To all Priests, Religious and Laity, especially members of the Kemolo Sodality and those aspiring to become members,

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I first of all want to refer back to the regulation I wrote on the 20th December 2014 explaining the reasons why I asked to stall any plans for accepting candidates or installing members outside the Parish of Ficksburg. Meanwhile there was an inquiry by Priests who were asked to have a look at the Kemolo constitution (Canon Law requirement, see Canon 314 and Canon 304#1) and their performance in Ficksburg Parish and they reported to the Presbyteral Council meeting held on 17th February 2015. Their report was positive and they recommended to allow this Sodality to operate throughout the Diocese. After some discussion most of the Priests and Deacons expressed their approval.

In the light of this I, as Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem officially agree that from now on the Kemolo Sodality may be propagated throughout the Diocese (see Canon nr. 312#2) after due dialogue with the Parish Priests who, together with the Parish Pastoral Council, will look at the viability of a new Sodality in their Parish. It is understood that for any visit or animation in a particular Parish one must follow the proper procedures.

I would like however to voice a few precautions. The first one is a waming against over-zealousness in wanting to establish the Sodality in all Parishes all at once. This would be a step towards disaster. Everything must be properly planned taking into account the viability of such a group in a particular Parish. Hand in hand with starting a group there must be proper formation and follow-up. The second precaution is conceming leadership. A movement or a Sodality without proper leadership will easily go astray. I approached Fr. Menyatso to guide the Sodality in this respect (see Canon 317#1). Until now there are no diocesan or deanery structures and these can only be gradually formed. This is one more reason to ask the Parish Priests, who would liaise with Fr. Menyatso, to guide the growth of the Sodality in our Diocese of Bethlehem. Fr. Menyatso is also in charge of the Diocesan Marian shrine and I felt that the Sodality of Kemolo, as part of their Marian focus, could get more involved in the propagation of the shrine (see Canon 301112). The third precaution is to look to it that the Kemolo Sodality in our Diocese follows the constitution recognized by the Bishops of South Africa (I hereby refer to the one produced in Klerksdorp Diocese) and not any other constitution.

I do not want to quench the fire which the present members of the Kemolo Sodality want to see buming in many places but I would like to ensure that it is firmly rooted in our Diocese right from the start and that it may contribute to the life of the diocesan family.

Wishing you all a fmitful time of Lent,

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr,

Bishop of Bethlehem


Sekwele Centre for Social Reflection

The Sekwele Centre for Social Reflection endeavours to contribute, with others, to the development of a strong, rights-based, compassionate, and flourishing civil society.

Sekwele Centre for Social Reflection, hereafter referred to as Sekwele,  in its initial stages known as the Bethlehem Social Academy was established in 1997 by Bishop Hubert Bucher (now retired), to be part of the reconstruction efforts of the post apartheid society with others.

 The centre is located in Bethlehem in the Free State Province. It is situated at John Paul II Centre, 3km on the outskirts of Bethlehem just off the N5 highway westwards towards Bloemfontein, the metropolitan city of the Free State. The centre has a tranquil environment for religious and political leaders to reflect on the reconstruction of South Africa. Sekwele has experienced and balanced staff that reflects the history and dynamics of the region, intended to reach to both rural and urban populations of South Africa and beyond

20140120_114608 20140120_105613

Article by
Mr Enock Tapudzi


Sodality Of The Immaculate Conception Of Maria (Kopano ya kemolo ya Maria)

Kopano ya kemolo ya Maria ya Senang Sekodi e qadile ka 2014 mona PHUTHADITJHABA PARISH.Ho ne hose Bonolo,ho bile boima,ra batla re nyahama.Ba bang ba wa tseleng ena.Ra amohelwa jwalo ka bakokoti ka October 2014,ke father Stanley Khoza a re etseditse boikhutso phuthehong ya st Martin.
Selemo sa 2015 kaofela ha sona, re la ba le boitukisetso ba kapeso tsa rona, kgwedi le kgwedi, ho utlwisisa ka kopano ya rona. Ka kgwedi ya August,  phuthehong ya Nyollelo ya Maria Lehodimong, ra ba le boikgutso ba letsatsi ho lokisetsa reterete ya December bakeng la kapeso ya rona. Tsena tsoohle di etswa ke ntata rona semoyeng (Fr Khahliso Mofokeng)a kwala selemo ka boikgutso, phuthehong ya Martin de Porres ya halalelang, ho tloha 18 – 20-12-2015 a re apesa hoba ditho tse felletseng.
Re le ditho tsa Kemolo re entse boitlamo ba hore ka di 20-12-2015 ene ele qaleho yaho itshupa dikerekeng kaho fapana. Selemo sena sa Mohau, re nkile diketso tsa mohau, e le seo re tla itshupa ka sona setjhabeng sa mona Qwaqwa.
Moqebelo o mong le o mong wa pele, ho hlahlama Labohlano la pele, re kopana le Mmopi wa rona Sehlabelong sa Mmissa ho rapella merero ya rona le ya kopano.
-Re ikemiseditse ho thusa Parish ya rona jwalo kaha molaotheo wa kopano o re laela ho etsa jwalo, ka pelo tse tletseng lerato le boinehelo bo phethahetseng.
-Parish ya rona e tla bonahala le ho tsebahala hore kemolo e teng eya phela.Re leboha bo Fr ba latelang FR. Dikotsi Mofokeng,FR Sfiso Thusi le FR Khahliso Mofokeng e leng Ntata Matsibolo ana.
Maria ya Senang Sekodi a tsejwe-a ratwe a hlonephehe Malapeng,Metseng le setjhabeng
Pele ya Pele Makemolo a Kgabane

DSC_0093 (2)  DSC_0092 (2) DSC_0036DSC_0090

Report by
Mme Puleng Maroale le Mme Matshediso Mapota
(Phuthaditjhaba parish: Qwaqwa deanery)


Justice and Pease Ministry, Safety and Security Campaign.

The campaign was held on the 31st January 2016, at Makeneng Parish (Qwaqwa deanery) and Bohlokong parish (central deanery) in Bethlehem.
Mass started 8:30 with a procession, police took active role during the celebration in the following parts: readings, intercession,receiving the Sunday collection,bringing gifts to the altar(bread n wine), blessed them before final blessings.
In Makeneng, One of the officers spoke to us mainly: concern, communities are reluctant to be witnesses of the cases, therefore, they don’t report cases which are happening in their vicinity, this is due to fear of the consequence of being intimidated by the captive of the family members. They encourage the community to assist them to identify de criminals in order to reduce crime.

IMG-20160226-WA0002 IMG-20160226-WA0003 IMG-20160226-WA0007

Report by
Fr William Kaupa
(Makeneng Parish Priest)