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


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 10/16

Each crisis has a lesson to teach us;

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

(Amoris Laetitia nr. 232)

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

instead, it can mature the wine of their union.

(Amoris Laetitia nr. 232)

Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that

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

(Amoris Laetitia nr. 222)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the Diocese:

  • 08th December, Immaculate Conception, at Tsheseng, (Makeneng Parish)
  • 08th December, St. Mary Immaculate, at Ntabazwe, (Harrismith Parish)
  • 25th December, Tswalo ya Morena, at Bohlokong, (Bethlehem Parish)
  • 29th December, Holy Family, at Monontsha, (Makeneng Parish)

Engagements of the bishop during the month of December:

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

Special Feast days:

  • Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Menyatso Menyatso on 15th December
  • Birthday of Fr. Cyprian Agene on 05th December; of Sr. M Emmanuela Mokoena, CSP, on 08th December; of Sr. M Antonia Mokhethi, CSP, on 10th December; of Fr. Menyatso Menyatso on 12th December; of Sr. M Imelda Nkatlo, CSP, and Sr. Lydia Tlali, SNJM, on 13th December; of Sr. M Charles Mofokeng, CSP, on 21st December; of Sr. M Clara Motsoari, CSP, on 22nd December; of Msgr. George Wagner on 23rd December; of Sr. Catherine Owens, OP, on 24th December; of Sr. M Stephania Molofi, CSP, on 26th December.

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

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



+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem



2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Love makes each wait for the other with the patience of a craftsman,
a patience which comes from God.
(From the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ nr. 221)
Fostering growth means helping a person to shape his or her own identity.
Love is thus a kind of craftsmanship.
(From the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ nr. 221)
Both short-term and long-term marriage preparation should ensure that
the couple do not view the wedding ceremony as the end of the road.
(From the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ nr. 221)
Dear Fathers and Deacons, dear Sisters, dear Seminarians, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We just ended the October Mission month. I hope that it helped to make our parishioners aware that all the baptized are called to participate in the mission activity of the Church, of making Christ and his message known to others and of showing His love and mercy involving themselves in works of mercy. Please do not wait too long to forward the moneys of the PMS collection to the diocesan office. The PMS calendar is available at the diocesan office – few parishes bought so far. David, a Fidesco volunteer, is looking after the sale (he is at the diocesan office on Monday and Tuesday). You could also make an order and we could then prepare and supply you with the calendars at the coming Presbyteral Council meeting (cash and carry).
The diocesan closing of the Year of Mercy at the Marian shrine in Tsheseng on the 08th October was well-attended and animated. Thanks for the contributions to the diocesan fundraising which also took place at that occasion. You will find the results attached to this circular. Though we closed the Year of Mercy on diocesan level it only comes to an end worldwide with the Solemnity of Christ the King on Sunday 20th November. I encourage to celebrate it in your respective parishes.
November is traditionally the month we commemorate our beloved who passed on. Let us remember our brother Priests who died these past years: Frs. Mareka, Makalane, Chris, Tshepo and in the beginning of this year Mpho Mona. Let us also remember the Permanent Deacons who passed on, especially Dc. Michael Mohalali. Dear Women and Men Religious, I surely also remember in my prayers all deceased members of your Congregations who worked in our diocese.
During this month of November two Spiritan Fathers will leave our diocese after many years of presence, Frs. Adrian and Bernard. I want to thank you both for your work in our diocese in parishes and as chaplains to the Sisters of St. Paul in Reitz and Petrus Steyn. May the Lord give you a safe trip to you home country and assure of His presence as you start a new episode in your life. Let us remain united in prayer.
Dear Seminarians, you are living a challenging time of writing your final exams. I hope that your hard work throughout the year will be rewarded. By the end of the month you will all be home. I wish you a good rest and happy reunion with your families. Fr. Mosebetsi will let you know in time about your pastoral engagements. Ntefane will start his pastoral internship in Vrede parish in January. Ntefane, this is a very important part of your formation. Commit yourself to it wholeheartedly. A special thanks to Fr. Anselm and to the Vrede parish being ready to receive Ntefane. I asked the Priests to announce in their parishes my intention to ordain brother Tumelo to the Diaconate. Let us pray for him that he may be able to take this important step on the way to the Priesthood. Going to Lesotho this month for the IMBISA meeting of Bishops I shall take the opportunity to visit Cliff and Daniel at St. Augustine Major Seminary at Roma on 20th-21st November. Lesetla will be completing the preparatory year near Durban and most probably start the Orientation Year together with Petrus Letipa Khala (from Fouriesburg) at Francis Xavier Seminary near Cape Town next year. Together with the Vocation Prayer groups let us go on praying for our Seminarians and that the Lord may call many others into his vineyard.
Fr. Dekson, director of the Farm of Hope together with a number of volunteers and our Fidesco volunteer, David Remond, started visiting parishes to talk about this important project. I hope that, very soon, there will be some young people in need of rehabilitation who will make use of this offer, helping them to be freed from their addiction.
There will be some transfers of Priests, caused partly by the departure of Fr. Bangizwe who is expected to return to St. John Vianney Major Seminary as lecturer and formator in January 2017. I hope that these past years of pastoral engagement in Bethlehem diocese will be beneficial in his new commitment. His place in Bohlokong parish will be taken by Fr. Dikotsi. Lindley parish will be served by Priest from Mariannhill diocese, Fr. Gumede Simosakhe. I hereby wish Fr. Gumede a good start in our diocese. These transfers will take place in the beginning of January. The other transfers involve Fr. Leuta and Msgr. Gregory. Fr. Leuta will move to Fouriesburg parish and Msgr. Gregory to Frankfort parish. These transfers will take place on the first Sunday of Advent 27th November.
On Sunday 27th November we start with the season of Advent entering into a new liturgical year. Let us help our people to enter this special time of preparation for Christmas so that they may be able to discover the many ways in which the Lord becomes present among us. Please remind the parishioners of the diocesan Advent appeal, a special collection throughout the Advent time for the Priests’ Provident fund providing for diocesan clergy in their old age or when infirm. I shall email to you the diocesan list of liturgical feasts and of special collections for 2017 very soon.
On Thursday 27th October I was invited at the price-giving celebration at Ekwaluseni school in Vrede. It was kept simple but very well organized giving a chance to children of the various grades (even grade R) to showcase their talents. Many parents also attended the event congratulating their children – even a father came forward. On Saturday 29th October there was a meeting of the Board of Governors (BOG) of the two remaining independent schools of Ekwaluseni and St. Joseph (Ficksburg) where the main body of the constitution was finalized.
I would like to remind the Priests and Deacons of the whole-day workshop on 23rd November at John Paul II centre starting at 09h30 until 16h00 divided into two sections: one catechetical on the new confirmation journey and one liturgical on the Sunday service in the absence of a Priest. Sisters Patricia and Phuthunywa from the Department for Christian Formation, Liturgy and Culture will animate this workshop. Please make sure to attend.
On Wednesday 30th November there will be the Joint Witness conference where the Bishops and Vicar Generals of the Bloemfontein Metropolitan Province will meet with Regional Superiors of the different Men and Women Religious Congregations around the theme of ‘Finding new paths to evangelization through sharing the joy of the Gospel (Evang. Gaudium 33)’. We shall start with Mass at 09h00 at the Archbishop’s chancery.
I would like to announce already a universal Church initiative propagated by Pope Francis and adapted and worked out by our own SACBC through the Commission for Liturgy concerning victims of sexual abuse by members of the Church. It will take the form of a tridium from Friday 02nd December till Sunday 04th December including prayer, reflection and fasting. There will also be a pastoral letter accompanying it. Of course one will have to adapt it to the local parish situation but we should all show our solidarity with the victims of such hideous crimes. We chose this time so that it links up with the international initiative of 16 days of activism ‘No violence against women and children’ which takes place every year from 25th November till 10th December. I shall email you the text as soon as it has been finalized (I hope also the Sotho and Zulu translation).
The Family Life theme for November is ‘Mercy leads from Suffering to Celebration’. November is traditionally a time to commemorate those who have died but at the same time we remember with mercy those left behind and all others experiencing loss and loneliness in different ways. We can ask ourselves: “Do we witness to others and experience the joy of seeing the face of Jesus reflected everywhere?”
The Holy Father’s monthly intentions for November are: the universal one ‘Countries receiving Refugees’ that the countries which take in a great number of displaced persons and refugees may find support for their efforts which show solidarity and the one dealing with evangelization ‘Collaboration of Priests and Laity’ that within parishes, priests and lay people may collaborate in service to the community without giving in to the temptation of discouragement.
Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:
• 03rd November, St. Martin de Porres, at Phuthaditjhaba
• 03rd November, St. Martin de Porres, at Qalabotjha (Frankfort Parish)
• 10th November, St. Leo the Great, at Clocolan
• 15th November, St. Albert, at Lindley
• 17th November, St. Elizabeth, at Mashaeng (Fouriesburg Parish)
• 17th November, St. Elizabeth, at Fateng tse Ntsho (Senekal Parish)
• 24th November, Christ the King, at Senekal
• 26th November, St. Konrad, at Namahadi (Frankfort Parish)
Engagements of the bishop during the month of November
• 07th November meeting with SGB of St. Benedict school at Ladybrand
• 08th November meeting with Deans at Bishop’s house
• 08th November meeting with Exec. DPC together with members of Year of Mercy and Diocesan Liturgical Committees at Bishop’s house
• 09th November meeting with Provincial team of Sisters of Holy Names at their house in Phuthas
• 10th November meeting with Sekwele Board
• 10th November meeting of Diocesan Finance Committee at Bishop’s house
• 11th November meeting with SMTs of Independent schools at Bishop’s house
• 12th November DCC meeting at Kelleter hall
• 13th November participation in a meeting of the Focolare council in Joburg
• 14th November participation in meeting with Misereor leadership at Sekwele
• 15th November participation in meeting of Diocesan Priests at Phuthas
• 16th November meeting with Fidesco volunteers at CCS
• 16th November meeting with Deacons at Bishop’s house
• 16th November meeting of J.P. II Board at J.P. II
• 17th November meeting of Social Awareness Committee at Sekwele
• 17th November meeting of Diocesan Justice & Peace Committee at Bishop’s house
• 18th November meeting of CCS Board at CCS
• 19th November presence at elections Sodality of St. Anne at J.P. II
• 19th November meeting with confirmandi at Ficksburg parish
• 20th November confirmations Ficksburg parish
• 20th – 21st November visit Seminarians at St. Augustine Major Seminary, Roma, Lesotho
• 22nd till 26th November participation in IMBISA meeting in Lesotho
• 26th November participation in AGM J.P. II
• 28th till 30th November meeting of Metropolitan Province concluding with Joint Witness meeting at Bloemfontein
Special Feast days
• Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Mahlomola Lucky Khumalo on 13th November
• Birthday of Sr. Paulina Tjamela, SCIM, on 01st November; of Sr. M. Luciana Mnyandu, CSP, on 04th November; of Sr. Scholastica Ntsoebea, SNJM, on 20th November; of Fr. Mokesh Morar on 22nd November
May the Lord bless them and fill them with His Joy and Peace.
May we all grow in unity, the living and the dead, as members of the one Body of Christ, who wants to be all in all.

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


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

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

casts a distinct light on World Mission Sunday 2016:

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

both spiritual and material.

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

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

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

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

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

Together with the evangelizing and sacramental work of missionaries,

women and families often more adequately understand people’s problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:

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

Engagements of the bishop during the month of October

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

Special Feast days

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

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

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


+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 7/16

Tenderness makes us approach a person with immense respect

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

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

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

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

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

Children are loved even before they arrive.

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

who always takes the initiative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the Diocese:

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

Engagements of the bishop during the month of September:

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

Special Feast days:

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

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

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

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 6/16

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

a love that constantly opens doors, promotes and encourages.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

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

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

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

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

through a great spirit of sacrifice.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engagements of the bishop during the month of July and August

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

Special Feast days

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

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

Prayer for the Women of Southern Africa

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

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

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

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

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

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem



2016 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cir. 5/16

True love frees us from the sour taste of envy.

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

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

What really makes us important is a love that understands,

shows concern, and embraces the weak.

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

Love lets us experience the grandeur of spending ourselves unstintingly,

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

(Pope Francis – The Joy of Love)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engagements of the bishop during the month of June:

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

Special Feast days

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

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

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



+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem


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