2021 The Joy of Love and Reconciliation in our Families Cir. 1/21

In my fraternal meeting in 2019, which I gladly recall, with the Great Imam Ahmad

Al-Tayyeb “we resolutely declared that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood.

God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone

and does not want his name to be used to terrorize people.”

(From Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ no. 285)

For this reason I would like to reiterate here the appeal for peace, justice and fraternity that we made together:

“In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal; in the name of this fraternity torn apart by hateful ideological tendencies that manipulate the actions and the future of men and women,

in the name of God and of everything in this statement,

we declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path;

mutual cooperation as the code of conduct;

reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”

(From Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ no. 285)

The year 2020 was marked by the massive covid19 health crisis, which became a global phenomenon cutting across boundaries, aggravating deeply interrelated crisis like those of the climate, food, the economy and migration, and causing great suffering and hardship.

In paying tribute to physicians and nurses, pharmacists, researchers, volunteers, chaplains and the personnel of hospitals and healthcare centres, I renew my appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to covid19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick, the poor and those who are most vulnerable.

(From Pope Francis’ message for 54th World Day of Peace no. 1)

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

What shall I start with? With the dark clouds or the light which already shines at dawn? The first reading from the Feast of Epiphany, taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, speaks about darkness covering the whole earth. This darkness could well be the present covid19 pandemic which lingers on, now already the second wave and, perhaps, another wave is coming. It keeps disrupting our year planning. But next to this darkness there are others, often linked with it. Pope Francis enumerates a number of them in his message for the World Day of Peace, which I emailed to those whose email addresses I have: climate disasters, food shortage in many developing countries, economical crisis and ongoing wars causing mass migration. But there is also light sa the prophet Isaiah proclaims: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” What is this light? What is the star guiding us? We see all kinds of local and worldwide expressions of solidarity reaching out to the poor and vulnerable, even more struck by the pandemic. We ourselves as diocese benefitted from a gift of PMS (for the diocese’s needs) and on deanery a gift through the SACBC meant for the poor (we could help a number of families in different parishes of the diocese). As an expression of this light I would also count – also Pope Francis mentions this in his message – the physicians, nurses, pharmacists, researchers, volunteers, chaplains and the personnel of hospitals and healthcare centres who have made, and are continuing to make, great sacrifices to be present to the sick, to alleviate their sufferings and save their lives. Many of them have died in the process. They put their lives at risk in order to save others. Are they too not that star that leads us to Christ, who gave his life to save us?

We could have our final Presbyteral Council meeting as planned on the 09th of December. What came to the fore was the ravage covid19 made concerning the pastoral planning of 2020 as many activities had to be cancelled or postponed in the areas of training for Child Safeguarding on deanery and parish level, choir competitions, special collections, both parish and diocesan fundraisings, establishment of the SACOP structure on Metropolitan Province level, ongoing formation, training and launching of the new Pastoral Plan. But there was also light and hope for 2021. Hopefully covid19 will not dash those hopes as we are experiencing now a second wave causing the churches to be closed for at least two weeks.

Fr. Khahliso presented his proposal for the setting-up of a media office using social media like Face book and Whatsapp and reviving the diocesan website. A number of reactions came as: the need of guidelines for such an office, having link-persons (especially young people) in the various deaneries and forming a media team. Since then Fr. Khahliso has been contacting young persons (always in collaboration with the Parish Priests) who could be link-persons and members of such a media team. He also put in a proposal for an annual budget. As soon as he will be back from a of the month’s sabbatical at Inkamana abbey he hopes to start full steam.

Fr. Tsolo presented a new catechetical program ‘Echoes’ geared towards the ongoing formation of catechists. Sister Catherine is asking for a study day for the Priests to look at it together more in depth.

Concerning liturgical matters, Fr. Buang hopes to complete the revision of the Guidelines for Choirs and to plan for the music competitions during 2021. As focus for 2021, two proposals were presented, one coming from SACBC asking for a focus on the H. Eucharist all throughout the year and the other one coming from Pope Francis asking for a focus on St. Joseph. Some discussion took place about the feasibility of pursuing both. I suggested to take both but without doing many extra activities: for instance emphasizing the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker on the 01st of May and encouraging the St. Joseph Sodality (and Men’s Forums) to challenge the men in their responsibility within the family. What the H. Eucharist concerns, practical suggestions were made like for instance concerning homilies (one Sunday every month) focusing on the Eucharist.

Fr. Tumelo gave a financial report which made it very clear that our expenses are much higher than our income (two thirds was from PMS); we survived thanks to a substantial once-off donation of the Bishop. The income we generated ourselves this past year was very little. The Diocesan Finance Committee and the DPC Executive have already looked at proposals which were made by lay representatives, members of Parish Finance Committees, who met together a few months ago to look at our diocesan financial situation. Shortly a letter will be sent to all Parish Finance Committees asking the parishes to implement what has been proposed in order to become more self-reliant as a diocese. We also talked about the diocesan fundraising which had to be dropped this past year because of covid19. We decided to use the same format for 2021. I already contacted the Deans asking them to discuss it in their Deanery Pastoral Committees and let me know which date we are welcome somewhere in their deanery to address the people. Positive news is that the Priests’ house at J.P. II centre has been completed outside and inside apart from some small finishing-off work which has been taken care of by BBTP. We need of course still to furnish it including the electrical wiring. Some more security measurements had to be taken for the Bishop’s house as some burglaries happened these past months; some have been installed already like a fence all around the property is being constructed at the moment (partly financed by the cathedral community). Special collections for 2019 were quite good but in 2020 a number of parishes failed to forward the monies (even before the covid19 lockdown). When lockdown struck, little money was still forwarded to the diocese.

SACOP matters will always be part of the agenda of any Presbyteral Council meeting. During a meeting of the SACBC SACOP Executive a decision was made that SACOP should take root at diocesan level. A meeting had been planned on Metropolitan Province level but it had to be cancelled because of covid19 but they recently had a virtual meeting. Fr. Sifiso is keeping in touch with diocesan SACOP delegates within our Metropolitan Province. Hand-over from the previous SACOP structure has not been done yet. A proposal was made that in order to run SACOP each Priest contribute R200.00 annually.

The diocesan ongoing formation committee has still to work out a program for 2021. They were asked to integrate the following: a catechetical study day and a workshop on the Professional Conduct booklets. From the Diocesan Priests’ side there is a proposal to spend a few days together for reflection and sharing.

2021 is the year for elections of members for new PPCs and PFCs. We decided to go ahead with these elections in the course of 2021. The Bishop is to send out a letter officially announcing these elections. Because of this one can only have the diocesan launching and workshop of the new Pastoral Plan once new committees have been installed. It could take place at the occasion of the 2021 DPC meeting in the second half of the year. Meanwhile parish communities should be reminded about implementing last DPC’s resolutions.

Fr. Dikotsi presented a request to organize and launch the Southern African Union of Catholic Women’s Organisation (SAUCWO) in all dioceses of SACBC. This is a request coming jointly from the St. Anne Sodality and the Catholic Women’s League. The request has already been presented to and has been accepted by Archbishop Zolile Mpambani, who is heading the SACBC Department for Laity. It is now up to each and every diocese to grant permission for such a launching in 2022. The aim is to unite all Catholic women, whatever Sodality they belong to and even those who are not members of a Sodality, to work together.

Fr. Sakhi Mofokeng has accepted to take over from Fr. Lucky Khumalo as coordinator of deanery Youth Chaplains.

I want to express condolences to the Sisters of the Fraternity of the Daughters of St. Francis (F.S.F.) for the great loss they experienced recently having to bury eleven of their Port Shepstone community due to covid19. Others are still in hospital or sick at the convent. Let’s pray that they may recover. Fr. Bangizwe Khoza’a mother also passed away. Condolences to him and the Khoza family. May their souls rest in peace.

Though the whole celebration of the jubilee of 25 years of religious life of Sr. Imelda, CSP, and of the final vows of Srs. Maria Pio, Bridget and Immaculate, CSP, in Reitz was limited to only some family members and Sisters and Priests, it was a nice, more intimate, celebration in their own chapel. The Sisters themselves formed the choir and sang very well.

I was present at the celebration of Deacon Vincent Mohlaping’s 40 year jubilee of faith ful service as a Deacon in Bethlehem diocese: a moment to say thanks to Deacon Vincent and may the Lord continue to bless him in his service.

Fr. Sifiso Thusi finally could celebrate his jubilee of 10 years of Priesthood in this diocese in the presence of a number of his fellow Priests and friends at Rosendal. Fr. Sifiso, thank you and may the Lord give you many more years of Priestly service.

We still could celebrate the Feast of Christmas and of the Holy Family but after that we had to abide to the level 3 lockdown measures and close the churches for public worship. Let’s hope that President Ramaphosa can announce good news on the 14th of January, allowed by a drop of covid19 infections and deaths, and that we can re-open our churches.

What is already sure is that the SACBC Plenary session will be held virtually. Sr. Catherine also told me that the ‘Echoes’ sessions with the catechists, organised for this month will not be able to take place.

To the Seminarians who, after the completion of their seminary studies, were appointed to various parishes, I hope that you enjoyed your pastoral experience so far and I wish you much growth as you are looking forward to your diaconate and priestly ordination. I am looking forward to meet with those who will soon return to the seminary: our meeting is planned for 10-11 January. You are invited for supper at Bishop’s house on the 10th (arrival at 17h00) and will then proceed to J.P. II centre for the meeting which will finish with a meeting with some of the members of Vocation Prayer groups on the 11th of January.

The Bethlehem Farm of Hope got another missionary (volunteer) from Kenya by the name of Lincoln. Another volunteer is still expected in the near future. Fr. Fabiano is surely delighted with this support. He himself has planned a month’s homeleave in Brazil.. I hope that he can travel safely, notwithstanding all the covid19 travel measures, and also will be able to return in a month’s time. The number of persons seeking therapy at Fazenda has now risen to five. The last-added building – a hall attached to the present chapel which, if needed, can also be used as a chapel – is now being completed (putting tiles and ceiling, plastering the walls and installing windows). They had a very nice end-of-year celebration with a braai, lots of singing and dancing and all without a single drop of alcohol (unheard of but possible in Fazenda).

I am making a start, with the help of Frs. Khahliso and Tumelo in getting involved in social media communication like sending out a video message and a streamlined Mass. It’s not yet perfect but we are getting there.

Each year a special Family Year Planner or Calendar is produced. This year’s 2021 calendar has as theme ‘Our World – A Family of Families’. The theme for the year allows family life and creation to be foundational topics as they are used month by month on the Year Planner and it opens possibilities for formation and catechesis, reflection and sharing. For January the theme is ‘Family Beginnings’. ‘In the beginning ….’ Are the first words of the bible. In the beginning there was only God but God had a passion to create, to share, to love and so everything came into being. Humankind was given the task of being stewards of creation. That includes responsibility for our own families.

The Holy Father’s monthly intention for the month of January is ‘Human Fraternity’. May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other religions, praying for one another, open to all.

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:

  • 01st January, Mofumahadi wa Kgotso, at Bohlokong (Bethlehem parish)
  • 21st January, St. Agnes, at Mamafubedu (Lindley parish)
  • 31st January, St. John Bosco, at Bluegumbush (Phuthas parish)

Engagements of the bishop during the month of January:

  • 10 to 11 January meeting with Seminarians at J.P. II centre
  • 13th January, Sekwele Board meeting at Sekwele
  • 14th January, meeting of Diocesan Finance Committee at Bishop’s house
  • 20 to 23 January, virtual SACBC Plenary meeting
  • 28th January, meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Committee at Bishop’s house
  • 30th January, reflection day with Sisters of St. Paul at Reitz

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Mokesh Morar on 07th January
  • Birthday of Bp. Jan De Groef on 07th January and of Dc. Vincent Mohlaping on 29th January

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

I wish you all a blessed New Year,

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


Pastoral letter: World Day of the Sick 2021

You have but one teacher and you are all brothers” (Mt 23: 8).
A trust-based relationship to guide care for the sick.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Every year on the Saturday following the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, we used to gather at our Marian Shrine at Tsheseng to pray for the sick and for the care-givers. A number of sick people would be anointed with the Sacrament of the Sick. This year that would have been on the 13th of February. Unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic has made this impossible. But this does not mean that we forget about our sick people and the ones who care for them. No! More than ever we should pray for them, especially in these trying times of corona, seeking the intercession of Mary to put an end to the spread of this silent killer.

Pope Francis, as every year, has a special message for us. For the theme of the day he took a gospel passage in which Jesus criticizes the hypocrisy of those who fail to practice what they preach (cf. Mt 23: 1-12). We cannot remain indifferent towards so many people who are sick and suffering from the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and towards the care-givers – healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men and women religious – who are ov er-burdened by the great influx of corona-infected patients. Nice words will not do. Jesus himself, as the Good Samaritan, shows us the example: he asks us to stop and listen, to establish a direct and personal relationship with others, to feel empathy and compassion, and to let their suffering, outcry, frustration and at times despair become our own as we seek to serve them (Lk 10: 30-37). The coronavirus has made us aware how vulnerable we are; even the most advanced techniques were not able to stop the virus. It made us aware how much we need each other to prevent further spread. It also makes feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God. Every day we get statistics of those infected and of those who succumbed under the virus. But behind those numbers there are human faces. The current pandemic has shown clearly inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick (not just in Africa but even in Western European and American countries). Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick must be a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good. Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbor. It is not just the issue of giving out some medicine but of closeness that provides support and consolation to the sick in their suffering.

How do we in Bethlehem diocese envisage to celebrate this World Day of the Sick and Care-givers? Some Priests, Seminarians and members of the Shrine committee together with the Bishop, in the name of the whole diocese, could gather at the Marian Shrine on Saturday the 13th of February, praying the rosary and celebrating Mass seeking the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Bethlehem. Even if we cannot gather in large numbers in prayer at the Marian Shrine we can still pray even at home. Depending on the development of the pandemic and lockdown level we could gather in our parishes and local communities on Sunday 14th of February and celebrate Mass or have a Sunday service in the absence of a Priest with this intention using the Sunday readings of the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (year B) which surprisingly link up very well with the theme of the World Day of the Sick. In the week following this Sunday Priests could administer the Sacrament of the Sick at the homes of the sick people. In case the lockdown does not allow to gather in churches other means could be used to life-stream Mass or encourage families to gather at home to pray before the statue of Mary and share on the Sunday readings. These are just a few suggestions.

Let us entrust the sick, the healthcare workers and all those who generously assist our suffering brothers and sisters to Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Infirm. May she sustain our faith and hope, and help us to care for one another with fraternal love.

+Jan De Groef

Bishop of Bethlehem diocese


2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

For those who believe in you, Lord, life is not ended but changed.

Our loved ones are not lost in the shades of nothingness;

He assures us that they are in the good strong hands of God.

(From Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ nr. 256)

Blessed are the open hands that bring hope,

that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality

and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity.

Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange;

they are hands that call down God’s blessing.

(From Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Poor)

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

The November month is the month we commemorate our beloved who passed on. Let us remember our brother Priests and Permanent Deacons who died these past years. Dear Women and Men Religious, I surely also remember in my prayers all deceased members of your Congregations who worked in our diocese. It is good to visit the grave yards where they are buried and take some time there entrusting their souls into the good strong hands of God.

We just ended the October Mission month. I hope that we, together with our congregations, took this occasion to deepen our mission awareness as members and leaders in the Church which is missionary by nature and to encourage our people to engage in the missionary outreach of the Church in word and deed. The PMS calendar can be a practical tool in this light. Not that many calendars are sold yet. The coming Presbyteral Council meeting could be an occasion to acquire them for your parish (cash and carry). I shall ask David to be present at the meeting as he is the one looking after the sale. Of course, you can always get them at the Bishop’s office especially on Mondays and Tuesdays. Please do not wait too long to forward the moneys of the PMS collection to the diocesan office. These moneys do not belong to the parish but are destined for the Church’s worldwide missionary action (moreover we ourselves benefitted very much from this help).

I already sent out the results of the diocesan fundraising which took place at Tsheseng during the October pilgrimage. We are just a bit below the diocesan target. I want to thank all who contributed, Sodalities included, to the fundraising.

The Pilgrimage itself, though presence was a bit less than the previous year, went very well. It was well organized and the participation of the people made up for the fewer numbers. I personally was very happy with the input of Fr. Simosakhe linking up this year’s theme ‘Mary, the Comforter of the Afflicted’ with our worry concerning the ‘Cry of the Earth’ and the ‘Cry of the Poor’, a campaign in the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Si’. Fr. Simosakhe also gave us some insight in the origin of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. His introduction linked up with Mr. Ralebenya’s witness concerning our involvement as Church in the drive for the safeguarding of creation (the poster depicting this drive is a creation of the SACBC Laity Council of whom Mr. Ralebenya is a member of the executive committee). After his address we rewarded three lay persons for their contribution to the life of the Church and society presenting them with the Star of Bethlehem.

The Missionaries of Africa, who had this year’s last quarterly meeting at J.P. II centre, enjoyed our hospitality very much and concluded with a short excursion to our Farm of Hope rehab centre and to the little town of Clarence. They have already planned to come back next year. As it is Fr. Fons’ last month in our diocese I want once more to thank him for all he contributed over the past years and wish him a safe trip and happy home-coming in his own country of Belgium. I also want to share with you the sad news of the death of Fr. Guido in his own country of Canada on Monday 23rd October surrounded by family members. He was known to many of you – please share this with your congregations – as he worked tirelessly for several years in our diocese. May his soul rest in peace.

I was present at a graduation ceremony at Ekwaluseni school in Vrede where many parents were present. My appreciation for the way the programme was animated with a great variety of performances of the children showing their many talents. The Good Shepherd Sisters, owner of the Breda school, signed an important agreement with the Department of Education about the building of a children’s hostel on their grounds. Let us hope that it will strengthen the future of this school which is showing very good academic results (100% matric pass rate).

A special Joint Witness meeting between the Religious Superiors and the Bishops of the Bloemfontein Metropolitan Province was held on the 26th October. Fr, Stan Muyebe, OP, gave an input on ‘Racism’ involving all the participants in a very challenging dialogue about this scourge which is still very much affects the life of our South African society. We should take a lead as Catholic Church in combatting this evil. All present were encouraged to take part in the 2018 Lenten campaign of Justice and Peace which will be focussing on racism.

I was invited to be present at the rally of the Sacred Heart Sodality at Tsheseng which took place from the 13th till the 16th October. Unfortunately I could only join them for the celebration of the Eucharist on Saturday morning 14th October. It is good to encourage our various Sodalities to meet at our Marian shrine as Mary is the patron of our diocese and we want to honour her and seek her intercession at this special place. I was also invited to be present at the St. Anne’s Sodality’s rally at Tsheseng on Saturday 28th October. What I found very meaningful was the thanksgiving to all past diocesan leaders of the Sodality including Fr. Menyatso.

I also was present at Tweeling where the local community celebrated 45 years of the church dedicated to St. Henry in the presence of the Parish Priest Fr. William Kaupa, Fr. Menyatso and Fr. Henry Gibis, Spiritan, who served this community for a number of years.

Dear Seminarians at St. John Vianney Major Seminary, I heard from Fr. Mosebetsi that you had a lively and charming graduation ceremony. May it encourage in your way forward as you are now concluding another year in your seminary formation. I could visit your brother Danny Mofokeng at St. Augustine Major Seminary at Roma, Lesotho. Though the only one left from Bethlehem diocese, he is happy and doing well. He is looking forward to see you all during the December holiday. We do not forget the brothers at St. Francis Orientation Seminary in Cape Town who are looking forward to join you next year at St. John Vianney’s.

On Tuesday 14th November we shall have the last Presbyteral Council meeting of the year (braai included). As we have quite a number of important issues to discuss, please be in time (we start at 09h30 sharp). Not to overload this meeting I propose to have the reports of the various chaplains and coordinators at the first meeting of 2018. I would be happy however to present your year programs taking account of diocesan events (the diocesan calendar shall be emailed to you before the meeting). I shall also present a list of possible dates for parish visitations (preference will be given to those places which did not get a pastoral visit this year or the previous year) and a list to fill in your foreseen holidays for next year according to deaneries. We shall also include a prayer for our deceased Priests at our Diocesan Priests’ cemetery.

We shall celebrate the Feast of All Saints on Sunday 05th November in order to give more parishioners the opportunity to be there while we celebrate the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed ‘All Souls’ like usual on the 02nd November. On Sunday 03rd December we start the very precious time of Advent, preparing for the Feast of Christmas. May it be a time of spiritual growth and awareness of the Lord’s presence in our life. During the time of Advent we conduct the Diocesan Advent Appeal meant for the Priests Provident Fund.

I received a message of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization inviting us all to celebrate Sunday 19th November as the World Day of the Poor, not just praying for the poor and not just doing something for them but meeting them being able to time with them and listen to their experience.

Bishop Emmanuel Kerketta of Jasjpur diocese in India, who was present last year at our closing of the Year of Mercy at the Marian shrine in Tsheseng, invited me to visit his diocese during the second half of this month to participate in some diocesan events. I shall also take the occasion to visit three families of Missionaries of Africa from India who originate from the Jasjpur diocese. This is also the reason why I include the month of December in this circular as I shall only be back in Bethlehem during the first week of December.

I shall be present at the Durban Mini World Youth Day having been asked to lead a catechetical session and to give one other input. I hope that the youth from Bethlehem diocese together with their chaplains may have a fruitful encounter with the host dioceses and with youth coming from all over the SACBC and neighbouring countries. They not only go in their own name but in the name of the youth of the whole diocese.

Bethlehem diocese will again be the host of the Mariapolis – a family gathering organised by the Marian Focolare movement – from 09th till 13th December at John Paul II centre. If you need more information, please contact Fr. Dikotsi, me or David. Even if you cannot stay the whole time, there is a possibility to join for one or two days.

The Justice and Peace office of the SACBC invites us to say a special prayer for our country of South Africa on each Friday until the December elective conference of the ANC (one can also pray it at other times). You will find the prayer at the end of this circular. Let us heed this invitation.

The Family Life theme for November is ‘Loss’ which is of course inevitable in our human condition. It can be experienced in many ways, from simply loosing one’s keys or diary to loosing a relative through death. Learning to cope with loss is a whole process in which others who are near to the bereaved and lovingly care for them can play an important role. The December Family Life theme is ‘Building Families’ which joins us to our diocesan focus of these past years. Families have to be built, brick by brick with tender loving care, with mercy and teaching right values every day. With Christmas we are used to receive and give gifts. What are the greatest gifts we can give one another, gifts that come from God, through us to each other? It may be dialogue and prayer as we prepare for and welcome the Christ-child back into Christmas and so into our families and homes and beyond.

The Holy Father’s monthly intention for the month of November is ‘Christians in Asia’ that Christians in Asia, bearing witness to the Gospel in word and deed, may promote dialogue, peace and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions. The one for the month of December is ‘The Elderly’ that the elderly sustained by families and Christian communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations.

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:

  • 03rd November, St. Martin de Porres, at Phuthaditjhaba
  • 03rd November, St. Martin de Porres, at Qalabotjha (Frankfort Parish)
  • 10th November, St. Leo the Great, at Clocolan
  • 15th November, St. Albert, at Lindley
  • 17th November, St. Elizabeth, at Mashaeng (Fouriesburg Parish)
  • 17th November, St. Elizabeth, at Fateng tse Ntsho (Senekal Parish)
  • 24th November, Christ the King, at Senekal
  • 26th November, St. Konrad, at Namahadi (Frankfort Parish)
  • 08th December, Immaculate Conception, at Tsheseng, (Makeneng Parish)
  • 08th December, St. Mary Immaculate, at Ntabazwe, (Harrismith Parish)
  • 25th December, Tswalo ya Morena, at Bohlokong, (Bethlehem Parish)
  • 29th December, Holy Family, at Monontsha, (Makeneng Parish)


Engagements of the bishop during the months of November and December:

  • 01st November meeting with Social Awareness committee at Sekwele followed by a meeting with diocesan Justice & Peace committee at Bishop’s house.
  • 03rd November meeting with BBTP Board at BBTP
  • 05th November Masses in Makeneng parish
  • 06th November meeting with Missionary group at Santa Sophia followed by other meetings of SACBC sub-committees
  • 07th till 10th November meeting of the SACBC Board at Lumko, Benoni
  • 12th November blessing of St. Elizabeth church at Fouriesburg
  • 13th November meeting with Consultors starting with lunch at Bishop’s house
  • 14th November Presbyteral Council meeting at J.P. II (starting at 09h30)
  • 14th November meeting with J.P. II Board
  • 15th November meeting with Permanent Deacons at Bishop’s house
  • 15th November meeting with Diocesan Finance committee at Bishop’s house
  • 16th November till 01st December visit to the diocese of Jasjpur in India
  • 05th December meeting with Diocesan Liturgical committee at Bishop’s house
  • 07th till 10th December participation in MWYD in Durban
  • 11th till 13th December participation in Mariapolis at J.P. II centre
  • 16th till 17th December participation in Diaconate celebration of Missionaries of Africa in Merrivale, Natal

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Mahlomola Lucky Khumalo on 13th November; of Fr. Menyatso Menyatso on 15th
  • Birthday of Sr. Paulina Tjamela, SCIM, on 01st November; of Sr. M. Luciana Mnyandu, CSP, on 04th November; of Sr. Scholastica Ntsoebea, SNJM, on 20th November; of Fr. Mokesh Morar on 22nd November; of Fr. Cyprian Agene on 05th December; of Sr. M Emmanuela Mokoena, CSP, on 08th December; of Fr. Menyatso Menyatso on 12th December; of Sr. M Imelda Nkatlo, CSP, and Sr. Lydia Tlali, SNJM, on 13th December; of Sr. M Charles Mofokeng, CSP, on 21st December; of Sr. M Clara Motsoari, CSP, on 22nd December; of Msgr. George Wagner on 23rd December; of Sr. Catherine Owens, OP, on 24th December.


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


Lord, we present our country South Africa before you.

We exalt and bless your name for all the blessings, the graces, and love

that you have given to us as a nation.

Our country is now weighed down by various social, political and economic problems.

We ask you to join us in our boat to calm the storms in our nation.

May your grace challenge our nation and its leadership to repent

and turn away from the sin of greed and corruption,

which is a result of the worship of money (Matthew 6:24).

Protect all those who are speaking out against greed, patronage and corruption.

Renew our nation and its leadership by the light of the gospel.

Bless us with the values and the graces of your kingdom.

In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.


May we all grow in unity, the living and the dead, as members of the one Body of Christ, who wants to be all in all. Wishing you already a fruitful time of Advent and a blessed Christmas to all of you,


+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem



2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

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

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

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

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

Many things have to change course,

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

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

and of a future to be shared with everyone.

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

and forms of life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:

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

Engagements of the bishop during the month of October:

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

Special Feast days

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

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

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


+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


Invitation and Motivation Feast of the Holy Rosary

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 3.44.53 PM

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

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


+Jan De Groef



2017 Building Healthy Christian Families


While practically invisible to the rich man,

we see and know Lazarus as someone familiar.

He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being

whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast.

(From Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2017)

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf Lk16:19-31) first invites us to open

the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift,

whether it be our neighbour or an anonymous pauper.

(From Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2017)

At the root of all the rich man’s ills was the failure to heed God’s Word.

When we close our heart to the gift of God’s Word, we end up closing our heart to God.

When we close our heart to the gift of God’s Word,

we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.

(From Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2017)

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

In a couple of weeks time we shall end the season of Lent with Holy Week leading us into Easter, the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord, which is for all of us the source of new life remembering our baptism. It really is the culmination of the whole liturgical year.

Finally I received the statistics from all parishes which allows me now to make my final report. I shall comment on it during our next Presbyteral meeting.

During this past month we received the visit of Philippe and Anne, responsible for the Fidesco volunteers in Africa, among whom we have in Bethlehem David and Paul. They were very pleased with the engagement of David and Paul and are ready to recommend a replacement when Paul comes to the end of his engagement this year. During their stay here Anne got the news that her ageing mother in France got very sick. Let us keep her in our prayers.

I enjoyed a nice walk in the Central Drakensbergen with two confreres M.Afr., Real – with whom I worked together in Merrivale, Natal, before my episcopal ordination – and Jean Michel – with whom I lived together during some years of my formation. It was a bit long for me. It reminded me that I am no longer that young.

I checked with Msgr. George concerning the Priests’ Provident Fund collection which was held throughout Advent last year. After three months only the Cathedral, Bohlokong, Lindley and Senekal parish communities transferred the money to the diocese. Many thanks to those communities. I challenge the other parishes to send in their contributions without further delay.

Together with the three Fazenda inhabitants, Paul Fotoh and one lady from the cathedral community I participated in a day organized by the Focolare movement in Johannesburg to commemorate the founder, Chiara Lubich. It was both a joyful and a spiritual event with a very varied program like a Mariapolis gathering in one day. It surely encouraged the participants to take part in the Mariapolis which will take place at our John Paul II centre in December (09 till 13 December).

Bishop Emeritus Hubert Bucher, who was staying in Mariannhill having a well-deserved rest after so many years being at the helm of the ship of Bethlehem diocese, has now decided to return definitely to his home country in Germany. We still want to thank him wholeheartedly for all he has done for this diocese and wish him still many years in his own country.

Every year we celebrate the Chrism Mass in one of the parishes of the diocese. This year we shall celebrate it on Wednesday 12th April in Harrismith parish, in St. Mary Immaculate, Ntabazwe. Please arrive before 10h00. It is a very important day for all of us as we will bless the oils of catechumens and of the sick and consecrate the Chrism oil. All Priests will renew their Priestly promises. Invite all your communities (also the town communities) to be present. It is our diocesan custom that all parishes bring a contribution towards our seminary expenses at that occasion.

Dear Seminarians, I heard from Fr. Mosebetsi that, as Easter holidays are quite short, you would stay at the seminary. Know that we are united with you in prayer specially when we celebrate Holy Week and in particular the Chrism Mass.

Though we concluded the Year of Mercy last year, we are still very much aware how much we need God’s mercy in our lives. Saint Pope John Paul II has given us Divine Mercy Sunday, celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter. To prepare properly for it we have the Divine Mercy novena (I shall bring some material to the Chrism Mass) starting on Good Friday. On the weekend of Divine Mercy Sunday the youth have their yearly pilgrimage at our diocesan Marian shrine at Tsheseng starting on Saturday morning and continuing until Sunday morning. I hope that many youth will participate in it.

During this precious time of Lent let us make use of the sacrament of reconciliation as a special way to be reconciled with God and with one another.

I already passed on to you the sad news of the death of the death of Sr. Antonia, of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Paul. She passed away rather suddenly. I also got the news of the death of Sr. Blandina, of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen (house in Assisi) from Fouriesburg parish. Both funerals will be celebrated on Saturday 01st April the one at Reitz at 10h00 at the hall near the convent and the other one at Assisi.

Fr. Emmanuel, MSP, has been appointed elsewhere. We thank him for his contribution towards our diocese these past years and wish him all the best in his new field of work. We welcome Fr. Macjoe Akpan, MSP, as the new Priest in Charge of Ficksburg parish. He will be assisted by Fr. Valentine Iheanacho, MSP, who is still learning Sotho in Qwaqwa. Fr. Valentine, I wish you much courage and progress in your language study. To know the local language is an asset in order to be able to do one’s pastoral work and build a strong relationship with the parishioners.

The theme for family life for this month ‘Walk humbly with your God’ links up very well with this Lenten season leading into Holy Week and Easter. Holy Week can be an accompaniment of Jesus from Palm Sunday right through to Easter Sunday and resurrection joy. Pope Francis in ‘Amoris Laetitia’ point out that the spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. In that variety of gifts and encounters God has his dwelling place (A.L. 315).

The Holy Father’s monthly prayer intention for the month of April is ‘Young People’ that young people may respond generously to their vocations and seriously consider offering themselves to God in the priesthood or consecrated life.

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

  • 29th April, St. Catherine, Tambo at Senekal parish

Engagements of the bishop during the month of April:

  • 01st April, funeral of Sr. Antonia in Reitz
  • 03rd April, meeting with Missionary Group at archdiocesan chancery in Joburg
  • 04th April, farewell of Bp. Emeritus Hubert Bucher at John Paul II centre
  • 05th April, accompanying Bp. Bucher to the airport
  • 09th April, Palm Sunday celebration at Bohlokong
  • 10th April, farewell of Fr. Jean Pierre, M.Afr., at Edenglen
  • 12th April, Chrism Mass at Ntabazwe, Harrismith
  • 13th April, Holy Thursday celebration at Bohlokong
  • 14th April, Good Friday service at Bohlokong
  • 15th April, Easter Vigil at Ntabazwe, Harrismith
  • 16th April, Easter Mass at Bethlehem cathedral
  • 17th April, Family Day at Harrismith
  • 21st April, Mass at Annual Council meeting of St. Anne Sodality in Joburg
  • 22nd April, participation at CCS AGM
  • 22nd till 23rd April, participation in youth pilgrimage
  • 25th April, meeting of Deans at Bishop’s house
  • 25th April, meeting of DPC Executive at Bishop’s house
  • 26th April, meeting of Social Awareness Committee at Sekwele in the morning followed by meeting of Justice and Peace committee at Bishop’s house in the afternoon
  • 27th April, meeting with Council of Sisters of St. Paul in Reitz
  • 29th April, Lay Leaders Conference at Santa Sophia, Pretoria

Special Feast days:

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Mokhesi Mokhesi on 12th April; of Fr. Sifiso Thusi on 17th April; of Fr. Dikotsi Mofokeng on 28th
  • Birthdays of Dc. Daniel Mofokeng on 01st April; of Fr. Mokhesi Mokhesi on 08th April; of Fr. Buang Mofokeng on 12th April; of Sr. Pio Eyo, CSP, on 26th April; of Fr. Sakhi Mofokeng on 27th

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

Wishing you all a blessed time of Lent and Easter,

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem



2017 Building Healthy Christian Families


If a family is centred on Christ, He will unify and illumine its entire life.

(From Amoris Laetitia nr. 317)

We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance.

That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel.

(From Amoris Laetitia)

In the darkest hours of a family’s life,

Union with Jesus in his abandonment can help avoid a breakup.

(Amoris Laetitia nr. 317)

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

We just started the season of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday which highlights how we can live this very important season of the liturgical year. Pope Francis in his Lenten message – which I already emailed to a number of you – reminds us that Lent is a favourable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered to us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the Word of God, which, during this season, we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. He then adds an inspiring exegesis of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).

Looking at the events which happened on diocesan level, the World Day of the Sick celebrated at our diocesan Marian shrine at Tsheseng, was surely a highlight. I want to thank all who contributed to the organisation of this event, in particular the shrine committee together with Deacon Vincent Mohlaping, Fathers Lerato, Tsolo and Buang together with Deacon Tumelo as well as Msgr. Gregory who gave us an inspiring homily. Though the total attendance was perhaps a bit less than last year, many sick people were brought to the shrine for the anointment of the sick.

I was invited to the 25th Jubilee of missionary work in South Africa by the Missionary Society of St. Paul which took place at Ficksburg being the main celebrant at the thanksgiving Mass which took place on Sunday 12th February. I must say that it was a lovely celebration, very well prepared by the local parish community and attended by many visitors from all over the country from the parishes where the MSP are engaged. Two Nigerian MSP Bishops, a few South African Bishops and a number of MSP missionaries from outside South Africa also attended.

This last weekend I was at Bertoni centre in Pretoria North for the annual meeting of the SACBC Laity Council. It was a very lively animated meeting with a lot of sharing among the members and valuable inputs of Bishop Duncan and Archbishop William Slattery, supporting and challenging the Laity Council members to live out their mission in the Church highlighting the important role Laity can play in the Church’s mission in today’s world. Another valuable and down-to-earth input was made by Fr. Molewe about Canon Law and the Laity. The major part of the meeting however was focused on the Laudato Si encyclical of Pope Francis and its practical implementation in our SACBC area.

We had the visit of the new president of Fazenda, Fr. Luiz Mineres, accompanied by Fr. Emerson Anizi coming from Brazil who stayed at our Bethlehem Fazenda for a couple of days. They were impressed with the progress made so far. We had quite a discussion about the way forward. Let us hope and pray that we may see the fruits in the coming months.

At the end of last month the mother of Msgr. Gregory passed away. May her soul rest in peace and may the Lord give consolation and peace to Msgr. Gregory and the whole family.

The total amount finally transferred to PMS came to R51,583.10 which is a remarkable increase compared with last year. Thanks for the diocese’s contribution to the world mission. What the Provident Fund collection concerns, up till now only 3 parishes contributed. I want to ask you, Priests of Bethlehem diocese, to encourage your communities to contribute generously to the Lenten collection, making use of the new Lenten material, especially the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal newsletter where you find the 2017 message for Lent of Pope Francis and also some examples indicating for what the money is being used. Please do not forget to hold the Good Friday collection for the Holy Land mission of the Church.

I am sorry to have to remind you again about the parish statistics. Most of the parishes are still outstanding. Without sending in your statistics I cannot proceed in making my annual report for Rome.

Though we only are in the beginning of Lent, I already want to remind you that the Chrism Mass this year will be celebrated in Ntabazwe, Harrismith, starting at 10h00.

The March Family Life theme ‘Act justly to and in Families’ reminds us that families have rights that need to be recognized like the right to life, security, housing and the right to marry and have a family. The Catholic Church’s Charter of Rights of the Family outlines these in detail. Abuse is a violation of these rights. Pope Francis in his Bull introducing the Year of Mercy stated that “Justice and mercy are two dimensions of a single reality that enfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love”.

The Holy Father’s monthly prayer intention for the month of March is ‘Support for the Persecuted Christians’ that persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.

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

  • 19th March, St. Joseph, Zamini at Vrede Parish

Engagements of the bishop during the month of March

  • 01st March Ash Wednesday celebration at St. Kizito, Bohlokong
  • 04th March presence at Memorial Mass of mother of Msgr. Gregory in Fouriesburg
  • 05th March Masses at Modisa ya Molemo, Matwabeng, and St. Elizabeth, Paul Roux, in Senekal parish.
  • 06th and 07th March visit of those responsible for Africa of Fidesco
  • 08th March meeting with youth chaplains at Bishop’s house
  • 12th and 13th March days of rest, visit to Merrivale, Natal
  • 18th March participation in Chiara commemoration day in Joburg
  • 22nd March meeting with Permanent Deacons at Bishop’s house
  • 22nd March meeting with Diocesan Finance Committee at Bishop’s house

Special Feast days

  • Anniversary of Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Emeritus Hubert Bucher on 27th March and of Bishop Jan De Groef on 28th
  • Birthday of Sr. Agatha Lepolesa, SNJM, on 05th March; of Fr. Lucky Mahlomola Khumalo on 09th March; of Fr. Ngondo on 12th March; of Fr. Leuta Lengoabala on 19th March; of Sr. M Avellina Kori, CSP, on 22nd March; of Sr. M Martina Mofokeng, CSP, on 23rd March; of Fr. Stanley Bangizwe Khoza on 28th

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

I wish you all a fruitful time of Lent,



+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


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