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2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

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

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

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

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

Blessed are the open hands that bring hope,

that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality

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

Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange;

they are hands that call down God’s blessing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:

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

 

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

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

Special Feast days

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

 

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

PRAYER FOR SOUTH AFRICA

Lord, we present our country South Africa before you.

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

that you have given to us as a nation.

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

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

May your grace challenge our nation and its leadership to repent

and turn away from the sin of greed and corruption,

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

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

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

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

In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

 

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

 

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem

 

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2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

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

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

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

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

Many things have to change course,

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

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

and of a future to be shared with everyone.

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

and forms of life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Feasts of Patron Saints of various churches in the diocese:

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

Engagements of the bishop during the month of October:

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

Special Feast days

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

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

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

 

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem

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Invitation and Motivation Feast of the Holy Rosary

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

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

 

+Jan De Groef

 

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2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cr.4/17

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

 

beth

2017 Building Healthy Christian Families

Cr.3/17

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

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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

222222

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

 

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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

beth

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

bishop

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