Catechists: Help us to know, love and follow Jesus

By Bishop Jose Luis
It was at the beginning of 2016 when, for the very first time, we gathered at our Cathedral all the catechists of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland) for a day of reflection, prayer and commissioning. The gathering was a success and we committed ourselves to continue doing it every year.
We also saw it would be important to “improve it” and that is why this year we were able to offer  some food to all of them after Mass. Fr Ncamiso Vilakati solemnly announced that: “the Bishop has cooked for you”, while I asked for patience as “it is my first time to do it”.
The names of about 300 catechists were read during Mass. Each parish priest or parish catechetical coordinator presented them to the bishop for commissioning. They lit their candles and renewed their baptismal promises and commitment to serve in their communities.

This followed by the handing over of the material to be used in the parishes.

Click below to browse photos from Flickr

2017SZ_Diocese_CatechistsDuring the homily I reminded the catechists once again of something I believe we always need to keep in mind.

We usually talk about “teaching” catechism. There is, indeed, a dimension of “teaching” in our journey of faith.
Still, I told them, I would prefer to use three other images. Catechism is about helping children, young people and adults to:
  • know Jesus
  • love Jesus
  • follow Jesus
Knowing Him should particularly include Jesus’ mercy towards sinners. As John 4:18 says: “In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear implies punishment and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love.”
 
We all need to treasure Jesus’ calling of Levi to be an apostle, his eating with sinners, his decision to go to Zacchaeus’ home, his parables of the lost sheep and the merciful father…
Their service as catechists should help us build a church where God’s mercy is constantly experienced, where love drives away fear and where everyone is invited to follow Jesus’ wholeheartedly.

 

“Coming to the help of orphans and widows in their hardships” (James 1:27)

By Bishop José Luis IMC

As soon as the Christmas and new year’s holidays are over and people are back at work at “Caritas Swaziland” and the offices of the “Diocese of Manzini”, long queues are also seen outside our premises. The reason is always the same: they are looking for help to pay the school fees.

At the beginning of the year there is a day when myself, as the bishop of the diocese, welcome those asking for help. For the last three years, I do this in partnership with Caritas Swaziland. People have to come twice. The first time they are interviewed by the Caritas Swaziland team. The second time, only those to whom help has been granted, come again to collect it.

While this happens every year, what keeps on changing is the number of requests. While around 200 people came in January 2015, 600 came in 2016. Three times’ more!

Still, nothing prepared us for the more than one thousand that came this year. The total amount requested was E 1.400.000 (more than US$ 100.000 !!!).

Unfortunately our resources are limited and only 360 were selected by the Caritas Swaziland team to receive some help. We are never able to pay the full amount of their fees but we want to make sure these families are able to send their children to school at the beginning of the year.

I was able to allocate three days to welcome each one of them. Had I known the number I would have allocated the whole week…

For me it is always an opportunity to listen to their situation…

  • most of them are orphans of one or both parents
  • the parent or the relative who provided for them
    •  died
    • is now unemployed
    • is sick and lost his / her job
  • one of the parents or both are handicapped
  • many children and unable to provide for all of them
  • they live on the selling of vegetables which does not provide enough for school fees
  • last year’s drought affected them badly
  • they are supported by the grant the government gives the elderly which is about US$20 per month and is given every three months…

In some cases the request is presented by “caregivers”, people who feel compassion and look after these orphans in every possible way: their health, food and education.

In some others by their neighbors who feels for the family when they see both parents are unemployed and the family is struggling seriously.

Two situations touched me in a particular way:

  • the cases of fathers who left the family and never went back…
  • the orphans who try to work here and there to pay for their own school fees

Though the amount we helped them with was much smaller than last year because of the number of requests, they were all very grateful as in many cases they really did not have anything at all and children would have had to stay at home.
We are always grateful to all those who make this help possible. Part of the money is collected in our diocese but another part comes from friends and organizations who want to be part of this project towards our teenage brothers and sisters.

“Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father, is this:
coming to the help of orphans and widows in their hardships,
and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.”
(James 1: 27)

SACBC – Pastoral Letter on Family Life

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
We thank Pope Francis for the message on the family addressed to all of us in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of Love” (Amoris Laetitia).We look forward to exploring and deepening our appreciation of the joy of love at the heart of marriage and family life.
In introducing the presentation, Pope Francis himself wrote:

“It is likely … that married couples will be more concerned with Chapters Four and Five, and pastoral ministers with Chapter Six, while everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight.  It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for “families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity”. (The Joy of Love 7)

The Pope also gives attention to the need to assist the young in preparing for marriage and it is his desire that young couples be accompanied in their first years of marriage by dedicated and wise married people.
Chapter 8 gives indications of how those whose marriages are in difficulties and those who are divorced and remarried can be assisted.
The spiritual life and ways in which families can pray and worship together is given attention in Chapter 9.
Our acknowledgement
This apostolic exhortation arises out of the two Synods of Bishops that were held in Rome in 2014 and 2015. We in Southern Africa also made our contribution to the deliberations of the Synods by the input which was timeously supplied by many who responded to the questionnaires in the preparatory stages leading up to the Synods and by the married couples and bishops who were chosen to represent us at the Synods and to present our input.
We thank all who made use of the opportunity to respond to the questionnaires by electronic means or through the parish structures.
Way Forward
With the guidance of this Synodal document we are asked to give attention to our situation, viz.
  • More intense preparation for marriage
  • Accompaniment of newly married couples by family life ministry teams
  • Improved parenting skills
  • Situations where couples live together without any intention of marrying
  • Traditional marriages
  • Polygamy
  • The difficult situations in which number of the faithful live.

Where married people have divorced, and may have civilly remarried, and indeed in other special cases too, people “need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal” (The Joy of Love 299).  The Pope provides guidelines on how to go about discerning the work of the Holy Spirit in accompanying the divorced and remarried. (The Joy of Love 300ff.).

The Synod Fathers stated that, although the Church realizes that any breach of the marriage bond “is against the will of God”, she is also “conscious of the frailty of many of her children”. (The Joy of Love 291)

As regards the youth, Pope Francis proposes a more intense personal and pastoral discernment which will help the young prepare themselves for the marital commitment. (The Joy of Love 298) Some need help with understanding and accepting the demands of a permanent commitment. Others put the stress on an extravagant wedding overlooking that marriage is for life whereas the wedding is for a day.
We encourage everyone to reflect upon the exhortation of the Pope, whether in its full version, or with the use of the booklet “The Joy of Love Made Simple.”  The knowledge of what the Holy Father has said will help us find joy in family life.
We are also preparing resources to equip and help our priests, deacons and pastoral workers to assist the faithful in heart breaking and difficult situations that arise in many marriages.

“All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse.  Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together.  What we have been promised is greater than we can imagine.  May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us”. (Conclusion of The Joy of Love 391)

+Stephen Brislin
Archbishop of Cape Town
President of the SACBC
31st January 2017
For more information contact Archbishop Slattery: 0834685473