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