Opening of the Year of Mercy

The opening of the Year of Mercy, on Diocesan level will be on the 12th December at our Marian shrine in Tsheseng (at10h00) In preparation of the Year of Mercy, we integrate the prayer, rite of reconciliation and anointing of the sick into the celebration, and conclude with the Eucharistic celebration for His unconditional love and mercy

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Diaconate Ordination of brother Lerato Mokoena.

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Brother Lerato Mokoena.


When there is a new baby born into a family there is great joy. In this time of Advent, as we are preparing for Christmas, when we remember the birth of another baby, the Son of God and the son of Mary, I am very happy to announce another birth. One of our Seminarians, brother Lerato Mokoena, who completed his theological studies at St. John Vianney Major seminary already in May this year, will be ordained by me to the Diaconate on Saturday 21st December at the Holy Ghost cathedral in Bethlehem. It has been a long time of advent for him but his waiting has not been in vain. It has been a fruitful time for him gaining pastoral experience and getting acquainted with life in a presbytery with another Priest whom he came to know not just as a supervisor but as a brother and father. I want to thank Fr. Mokhesi for this great service. Dear Lerato, next Monday you will start your retreat in preparation of your Diaconate Ordination, may it prepare you spiritually to receive this great gift of the Lord and fill your heart with joy.

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.


2015 Building Healthy Christian Families

The Church was encouraged to open her doors,

to go forth with the Lord towards His sons and daughters who walk together,

at times uncertain, at times lost, in these difficult times.

Christian families in particular,

have been encouraged to open the door to the Lord Who waits to enter, bringing His blessing.

But the Lord never forces the door,

He asks permission to enter through ours, although His doors are always open.

(From a talk of Pope Francis at the general audience, 18th November 2015)

We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.

(Daily Messages sent by Jesuit Institute – Pope Francis)

Mercy is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.

(Daily Messages sent by Jesuit Institute – Pope Francis)

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

This is my last circular this year introducing the special time of Advent and also the special Jubilee Year of Mercy.

On the 25th November we had the last Presbyteral Council meeting with a few special items as an explanation about the ‘Farms of Hope’ which have a special rehabilitation program for people with addiction (included a DVD presentation) conducted by Fr. Dekson, manager of our emerging farm of hope in Bethlehem Diocese, and a short prayer service at the Priests’ graveyard at John Paul II. Another item on the agenda was the ratification of the September DPC recommendations. I shall forward them to you as resolutions in the beginning of next year. We concluded the meeting with a traditional braai.

The big event during this month of December will be the opening of the Year of Mercy first on Diocesan level on the 12th December at our Marian shrine in Tsheseng (from 08h00 onwards) and then the day afterwards on Sunday 13th December at Parish level. In preparation of this day and of the Year of Mercy I wrote a pastoral letter which should be read (or commented on) before the opening. The February Day of the Sick will only take place on Parish level. On Diocesan level we integrate the prayer and anointing of the sick into the 12th December celebration. I hope that the preparations for this day have started in all Parishes so that people of all Parish communities, of all races, will gather in great numbers at our Marian shrine. Other suggestions were proposed for Parish activities to take up the Year of Mercy in their year plans. Just be creative.

I heard from Tebello that there are still 7 Parishes which did not forward their PMS collections. As it is now more than one month after the conclusion of that special collection please forward the moneys urgently. We receive so much help from PMS. It is only right and just that we send in the little we gather and do that in due time. I hope that you did not forget to hold the Advent Provident Fund collection on the first Sunday of Advent (this meant on the 29th November).

All our Seminarians have by now returned home enjoying some restful days at home. All will get their assignments to one or other Parish (we tried to involve Parishes in all 4 Deaneries) through Fr. Mosebetsi indicating place and time. I heard that three of you will also be helping at the mini WYD. I already planned to meet with you all at J.P. II from Sunday evening 03rd January till Tuesday morning 05th January (departure after breakfast). It is with great joy that I can announce that brother Lerato Mokoena has been proposed for the Diaconate. His Diaconate Ordination is planned for Monday 21st December at the cathedral. Let us keep him in our prayers.

Though the pastoral year is slowly rounding up looking forward to some deserved rest, youth from all over the country (over 40 from our own Diocese) will be gathering for a mini World Youth Day at Bosco Youth centre near Johannesburg from Thursday 03rd December till Sunday 06th December. Let us hope and pray that those participating in this event will return to their Parishes full of evangelizing zeal sharing whatever they gained with other youth.

This month’s Family Life theme ‘Committed Families lead to a Healthy Society’ challenges all family members: parents and children. If all family members worked at their communication, kept their promises and especially loved each other even if they did not feel loving we surely would be on the way to build a healthy society and we will be able to conclude the year in a spirit of thankfulness.

The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for the month of December are: the universal one ‘Experiencing God’s mercy’ that all may experience the mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving and the one dealing with Evangelization ‘Families’ that families, especially those who suffer, may find in the birth of Jesus a sign of certain hope.

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

  • 02nd December meeting and recollection Diocesan Liturgical Committee at Ficksburg
  • 03rd December participation in study day organized by the Johannesburg marriage tribunal
  • 03rd till 06th December participation in mini WYD at Bosco Youth centre
  • 12th December opening of the Year of Mercy at the Marian shrine, Tsheseng
  • 13th till 15th December participation in Mariapolis organized by Focolare at Assisi (Bloemfontein Archdiocese)
  • 20th December participation in thanksgiving Mass of Fr. Dikotsi at Kgotsong, Bethlehem
  • 21st December Diaconate Ordination of Lerato Mokoena at the cathedral
  • 23rd till 28th December preparation and Priestly Ordination of Serge Boroto in Bukavu

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Mpho Mona on 09th December; 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

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

A fruitful time of Advent and a blessed Christmas and New Year to all of you.


 +Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


A Letter From Our Bishop

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

When we speak about mercy what does it really mean? It should mean much more than some almsgiving, some act of charity to a beggar, although all of this can be part of it. First of all we have to look at the source of true and everlasting mercy: God, the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Pope Francis writes in his letter (‘bull’) of proclamation (‘indiction’) of the extraordinary jubilee of mercy: ‘Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy’. It is this mercy which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis writes: ‘Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved for ever despite our sinfulness’. Gazing, contemplating Jesus Christ as the face of God’s mercy (in prayer) we can become – writes Pope Francis – ‘a more effective sign of the Father’s merciful action in our lives’. Just as God is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other. The motto of this Jubilee Year of Mercy ‘Merciful like the Father’ very well points at this.

How can we live this jubilee? A number of events have been planned in Rome but Pope Francis challenges us to extend this to our own diocese and parishes. The Holy Year of Mercy is to start on the 08th December 2015 when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Pope will open a special door, called the Holy Door (which has been closed for several years), at St. Peter’s so that it may become a ‘Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope’. But the following Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, he will open such a door in his own cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and moreover he encourages all Bishops to open such a Holy Door somewhere in their diocese, be it at the cathedral or at a shrine frequented by large numbers of pilgrims. This is why we decided to have such a Door at our Marian shrine at Tsheseng which we will open on Saturday 12thDecember during our diocesan pilgrimage.

This should then spill over throughout the whole diocese in the various parishes and Christian communities. I very much encourage all Priests together with their liturgical committees and parish and local councils to be creative and organize activities which highlight God’s Mercy all throughout the year which will close with the Solemnity of Christ the King on 20th November 2016. I challenge also Sodalities, other groups of young and old and diocesan projects to take this up in their year programs.

What could be of particular help in your personal prayer and in your bible sharing at home in your family, or when meeting as blocks or in your Sodality meetings, is to choose one or other parable which speaks about God’s Mercy like in the gospel of Luke 15,1-32. The Southern African Bishops Conference is preparing a reflection booklet in various languages which could also be of a help for sharing and prayer.

Being filled with the love and mercy of God we shall be stimulated to reach out to others in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Pope Francis invites us to ‘rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead’. He urges us ‘not to forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead’.

Central to our celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy should be the Sacrament of Mercy, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I very much encourage you to celebrate – I say celebrate and not undergo confession – the sacrament as a joyful encounter with the Lord, full of mercy and compassion, regularly throughout the year.

Other activities will be planned on diocesan level with the help of a committee chosen for this purpose, which will also come up with a number of suggestions for parishes.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Jubilee Year of Mercy be a time of renewal for all of us, members of the one family of God, the Church, so that we, through our outreach especially to those brothers and sisters of ours who have fallen away, may become missionaries of God’s mercy in today’s world.

May Mary, our mother in the faith, intercede for us,

Bethlehem, 08th December 2015 on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem