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Catechists reflected on Church and Scripture and how they are inseparable in the fifth session of Echoing the Word. Held at St Pius X, Mofolo in September, it was facilitated by Fr Joseph Vadakkan SVD who was assisted by Rev Deacon Erroll Scott. Fr Joseph opened the session with John’s prologue. He said the whole of scripture is about Jesus Christ. “If you want to know who Jesus is, you need to read the Word of God which talks about God’s relationship with human beings, how He works in our lives and gives us direction on how to lead our lives,” he said. He described the Bible as a library of books wherein you find a number of very different works, collected together in two large groupings, the Old Testament and New Testament. These books tell us about the Covenant, the agreement God made with Israel through Moses (the Old Covenant) which He fulfilled in Jesus (the New Covenant). It is important that we buy a Catholic Bible which contains seven extra books in the Old Testament, Fr Vadakkan said. These books give light on biblical history and enrich our understanding of Jewish piety in the years prior to Jesus, he elaborated. “Most Bibles are arranged in four parts: the Pentateuch, the historical books, the prophetic books and the Wisdom books,” explained Fr Vadakkan. Membership in the church involves baptism and a clear acceptance of Jesus as the Lord and Saviour who suffered, died and rose from the dead. The Church has a hierarchical structure with bishops, presbyters (priests) and deacons with each member mandated to play a role in continuing the mission of Christ. Citing various imagery of the Church as found in Scripture, he included St Paul’s description of the Church being the body of Christ and how she is the Bride of Christ.
Fr Vadakkan went on to say we recognise that the books of the Bible are unlike any other literature, because they have God or the Holy Spirit as their principal author. As far as the New Testament is concerned it was part of His creative work in establishing the Church. He concluded by saying both the scriptures and the Eucharistic body of Christ are the bread of life which give us the nourishment that leads to eternal life.
As we approach the end of 2018-2019 pastoral year, the department of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees through its Head of Department, Reverend Sister Marizete Garbin, Scalabrinian thought it is good for us to share a synopsis of our activities and work done this year as we touched the many lives of migrants, refugees and locals who came to our door seeking for various kinds of help. This report is shared with the spirit of awareness and exposing our pastoral work for parishes to be more involved in the pastoral care of the most vulnerable of our community. We are a department which is more in the ground, doing practical work touching lives than administration. However what we do needs to be documented for accountability purpose and archive. Here bellow dear brothers and sisters in Christ, a synopsis of what we achieved this year by the grace of God, the support of all our donors, the hard work of all our volunteers and parish representatives and the encouragement from our Archdiocesan Curia.
From January 2019 until October 2019, the Department of Pastoral Care attended 3501 persons from 8 nationalities: Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Burundi and Swaziland). The department provided assistance to all attended peoples with food, shoes, blankets, and toys for children, stationery, uniforms, school bags, school shoes for pupils and to assess legal documentation (orientation and transport to home affairs).
From January until October this year, 150 students graduated from Pastoral Care English Class taught at the Cathedral of Christ the King Hall.
In September 11, 2019, the Department of Pastoral Care started a new English Class at Vanderbijlpark- St Francis of Assisi. The class is composed now of 25 students.
English Class Graduation
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) introduced in its calendar to be celebrated every year, a National Day of Prayer for migrants and refugees. In the archdiocese of Johannesburg, this event was celebrated for the first time this year in June 30th with the initiative of Sister Marizete who now is the head of department, it involved all department stakeholders, donors and sponsors, parishes, other religious denominations and sister organisations in the field of migrants and refugees such as Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Consortium for Migrants in South Africa (CormSa), Bienvenu shelter, Migrants Help Desk and 3 to 6 organisation.
The first national day of prayer for migrants and refugees was celebrated in June 30th at the cathedral of Christ the King hall. The day started with mass and was followed with the performance of different cultural and musical groups of refugees and migrants. 572 peoples attended our social cultural programme in the big hall.
The department of Pastoral Care sent materials to celebrate the first national day of prayer to all parishes in the Archdiocese and had 5 interviews (French, English and Portuguese) at Radio Veritas to explain the pastoral care’s mission and to promote the first national day of prayer for migrants and refugees. 12 parishes confirmed that they celebrated on the 30th of June the first national day of prayer for migrants and refugees in their respective parishes. The department therefore takes this opportunity to thank parish priests of these 12 parishes for their support.
VISITS, WORKSHOPS AND CONFERENCES
Pastoral care visited the most known parishes where there are many migrants’ communities. This year, Pastoral Care visited St Francis of Assisi in Yeoville, St Patrick –La Rochelle in Rosettenville, St Maria Goretti-Riverlea in Langlaagte, St Joseph-Mayfair in Crown Mines, Holy Angels-Bez Valley, Cathedral of Christ the King, Holy Family in Turffontein, Good Shepherd in Soweto (Protea North) and Blessed Joseph Gerard in Orange Farm. The objective of those visits was to revive pastoral care in the parishes. Besides those visits to the parishes, the department of Pastoral Care visited migrants and refugees at hospitals and in their homes. The department also paid a visit to the families affected by xenophobic attacks in Jeppestown. At Good Shepherd parish in Soweto, the department of pastoral Care discovered an old man living alone in a toilet and the department arranged for him a descent place at Mother Theresa sisters centre in Bellevue.
On 16th of April, the department of Pastoral Care organized and directed a retreat at Saint Patrick La Rochelle parish, entitled: Healing and Reconciliation in the community. On the 5th of May, Pastoral Care’s team had meeting after the mass with the representatives of all communities at Saint Joseph-Mayfair parish with the aim to reconcile the local community, refugees and migrants.
On 25th of May, the department had a workshop at the Cathedral’s boardroom with Parish pastoral care’s agents or representatives. The department welcomed 43 pastoral Care’s agents from 41 parishes. The topic of the workshop was: How to deal with xenophobia in our parishes. We had two speakers: Mrs Sheila Pires a journalist from Radio Veritas and Mr Jean-Pierre Misago, an academic from the University of the Witwatersrand and Fr. Jean-Marie Kuzituka Did’ho, Chancellor of the archdiocese was the moderator of the workshop.
On 28th of September, the department of Pastoral Care had its second workshop with its Parish Pastoral Care Agents on the theme of: The Rights of Migrants and Refugees in South Africa. The day started with a prayer led by Sr. Marizete Garbin, Head of Department of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees. She reflected with us on the symbol of heart. Then Bienvenu Boleko introduced Lusungu Phiri from Lawyer of Human Rights as our main speaker. She explained to the attendees the rights of migrants and refugees in the host country. The workshop started at 09:30am and ended at 01:00pm. 30 parish pastoral care agents attended the workshop.
On the 3rd of October, the department of Pastoral Care’s team had a retreat with women refugees at Mother Assunta training and skills Centre in Bez Valley.
Every Friday morning, the department of Pastoral Care leads the Morning Prayer at Bienvenu Shelter with residents and staff and every last Friday of the month, the department of Pastoral Care’s team organises a formation workshop for the staff of Bienvenu Shelter in Bertrams.
The department would like to thank all those spiritually and materially involved in making its work reachable to our brothers and sisters in need. The department is looking forward to working with you in future to advance the work of evangelisation. Thank You!
Compiled by Sister Marizete Garbin, Mscs
A Prayer for our Archdiocese
O Lord our God, send forth your Holy Spirit, and renew the face of our Archdiocese!
Grant to our Archbishop and his auxiliary, the gift of wisdom;
To our clergy and religious, understanding,
To our laity and families, counsel;
To our youth and all students, knowledge;
To seminarians and novices, fortitude and perseverance;
To our pastoral councils, piety;
To our political leaders, fear of the Lord;
And to our archdiocese and the entire universal church, unity and love.
O Lord, renew your Holy Spirit within us, and we shall work to renew the face of the earth.
The 1997 Instruction on Diocesan Synods, paragraph 3, gives a fairly simple definition of the purpose of a synod: it is to promote communion and mission in the living out of a diocesan community’s identity. Furthermore, the instruction proclaims boldly that “The work of the Synod is to promote acceptance of the Church’s salvific doctrine and to encourage the faithful in their following of Christ, since the Church is “sent into the world to proclaim and bear witness to that communion by which it is constituted, as well as to actualize it and to spread it.”
It was for this purpose that I convoked the second Archdiocesan Synod, 10 years after the Synod of 2008, that I might promote the building up of this community that we call Church, and strengthen my brothers and sisters as they live out their missionary vocation.
Pope Paul VI, of happy memory, in his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi [para. 14] reminded the Church of her fundamental identity as proclaimer of good news. “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of his death and glorious resurrection.”
The process was entrusted by me to the Synod Preparatory Committee, that they might evaluate the impact of the 2008 Synod on the life of our Archdiocese and parishes, and to survey the people of the Archdiocese on the areas that we needed to focus on now. This survey revealed four key themes which stood out as important, if we were to truly become the kind of Church we aspire to be. The themes were Renewal, Marriage and Family Life; Youth and Missionary Discipleship. Following this step, the Synod Preparatory Committee established subcommittees of experts to prepare reflection and study material on each of the themes. They also summarized the responses of each parish and formulated 5 discussion questions that were to be used in the small group sessions of the Synod.
Four delegates from each parish of the Archdiocese was invited to attend: the priest in charge, the Chairpersons of the Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Youth Forum, and the Synod Champion. This led to a great variety of people being present and participating in the Synod. Their many voices and perspectives were enriching to all of the delegates. The Synod met on the 20th and 21st of September, at the Cathedral of the Archdiocese.
What follows is a summary of each theme prepared by the Synod Preparatory Committee, and the recommendations given to me which I hereby make my own. To give effect to these resolutions I conclude with certain policy decisions which are to be implemented by the various offices of the ordinary administration of the Archdiocese, as well as in our parishes.
Renewal is not about doing what we have always done, just better. Renewal is not simply about putting new and better programs in place, though of course good programs have their place. Renewal is fundamentally about a change of culture, a new vision, an appropriation of the values of the gospel and a living out of them so that we are transformed, our families are transformed and our parish communities are transformed. Ezekiel 36 says “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Pope Francis proposes a model of church which is not content with ‘things as we have always done them’, but which is ‘bold and creative …in rethinking goals, structures, styles and methods of evangelisation’ (Evangeli Gaudium 33), a church which is ‘out on the streets…rather than clinging to its own security’ (EG 49), unafraid of change and renewal, responsible and accountable.
The parishes of our Archdiocese are thirsting for the Spirit that brings about new life, that will transform us, that will give us new hearts. They have identified four areas in particular that need renewal: Spiritual growth, faith formation, liturgical celebration and community life.
The spiritual resources of our tradition are many, both for the individual and the community in their spiritual quest. Fostering the spiritual life of the community is a prime responsibility of the parish leadership. Without prayer and the deepening of the relationship of ‘the vine and the branches’, neither ‘shoots nor fruits’ can be expected.
Without a personal knowledge of and relationship with Jesus, members of the community remain lukewarm in their participation and practice. Engagement with the scriptures, the living word of God, can bring people into such a relationship, which is the basis of our teaching, liturgical practice and ministry. We need a commitment to a life-long and ongoing formation program which will help us to deepen our knowledge of the faith of our Church and help us to mature in our relationship with God.
The manner in which our liturgies are enacted has the potential to engage- or not- the life, faith and imagination of the faithful. Well planned and executed liturgical celebrations can deepen our understanding of faith and draw us more deeply into its mysteries. It’s weekly and seasonal rhythms, its initiatory rites, even its funeral services can deepen our love of Christ and form us as more attentive and compassionate members of his Body. Those who serve the liturgy as its ministers must be well prepared to render this service to the entire community. The activities of the Church, pre-eminently the liturgy, should create moments of greater connection with God, so that spiritual renewal and conversion can occur.
There is a great need for parish communities that are open and welcoming to all, irrespective of gender, language, race, national origin or socio-economic class. An important concern which has been raised is the need to resolve racial, economic and social divisions in the Church.
At the heart of the theme on Renewal is the question of how we can achieve culture change in our parish, in the four aspects mentioned, not simply as ends in themselves, but to help us live out our baptismal identity as missionary disciples of Christ.
In the original survey of parishes, approximately 75% of parish respondents highlighted the importance of ministry to youth, concerned that the Church is having great difficulty in retaining youth members post confirmation. There seems to be a lack of engagement between authorities/structure in parishes and the youth, who find welcome and connection in other denominational churches. The Apostolic Exhortation “Christus vivit “, by Pope Francis, reminds us of what the Word of God says about and to young people. He writes “Let us also keep in mind that Jesus had no use for adults who looked down on the young or lorded it over them. On the contrary, he insisted that “the greatest among you must become like the youngest” (Lk 22:26). For him age did not establish privileges and being young did not imply lesser worth or dignity.”
The conclusion of many youth is that youth do not find our parishes places of welcome, where their own particular giftedness is appreciated, and their voices heard. In other words, our spaces are not youth-friendly. We can have the best youth formation programs in the world, but unless we can actually get the youth from the street into the pew, and from the pew into our youth structures, whatever those may be, those youth formation programs are a waste of time and energy.
The first step is simply getting youth into the Church. The second step is giving them a reason to stay. We do that by including youth, visibly and significantly, in both leadership and all activities of the Church, including liturgical and ministerial. We do that by providing vibrant and life-giving liturgies, with homilies that are focus more on the life of discipleship than on how sinful we are. It is said that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, or put differently, it is impossible to drive people into the arms of Christ with the lash of fear. It is only love and compassion that draws people into his embrace. Does this attitude characterise our relationship with the youth? Is this how we as clergy, catechists and members of the community relate with one another as the lived example of people of faith?
Youth ministry can be said to be a ministry of accompaniment. We stand with and journey with our youth as they face the many challenges that life throws their way. Youth occupy a liminal or in-between space in the world. They are not children, but not yet adult. They have minds of their own but their opinions are often dismissed. They grapple with questions of identity in a world which denies the validity of their feelings and experiences. Their liminality often renders them invisible, and consequently worthless. How can we both “see” our youth, and let them know that they have been “seen”?
Youth leadership in the parish should be structured with roles clearly defined, with mentorship made available to youth leaders. Mentors should be made aware that their role is to journey alongside the youth, without usurping their leadership role. We repeat the resolutions of the 2008 Synod, that each parish should have a Parish Youth Forum, that the Chair of the PYF is an ex-officio member of the PPC, and that a monthly youth mass be instituted.
There is a recognition by all of our parishes of the challenges facing Christian marriage today, and a great desire by the local church to support marriage. What might that mean for us today? Areas that were mentioned in the parish survey are marriage preparation prior to marriage, addressing honestly the clash between the traditional idea of marriage as process and the Christian understanding of marriage as sacrament. There is also the desire for the Church to be more accepting of the diversity and complexity of the modern family.
One cannot address this theme without situating marriage and family life within its broader socio-economic context. The Church is not, in the vision of St Augustine, a city on a hill, separate from the world. Christians are fish that swim in a secular sea, they breathe the same air as their atheist, Jewish and Muslim neighbours. What aspects of our broken society need to be healed in order to provide a nurturing environment for children? What can the Church do in order to adequately form children growing up in fatherless homes? How does institutionalised patriarchy affect how we see and treat women?
In the preparatory document distributed to participants prior to the Synod there is a long list of ways in which the church can be more family centred, and an even longer list of challenges in the areas of relationships, social issues and faith. The heart of our discussion on this theme is how we can make our parishes places of welcome for families, and what we can do to support them in the light of the challenges they face. Our support has to go beyond the conveniences of a family friendly liturgy, no matter how important that is, to challenging and changing our ways of thinking and aspects of our culture which stand as obstacles to each man, woman and child living with the dignity of the sons and daughters of God. What structures and processes will help us do so?
Marriage and Family Life Resolutions
The theme of missionary discipleship poses the question: what is our mission as the Church, what does it mean for us to be missionary disciples in today’s world? Connected to the theme of renewal would be what kind of Church best helps us produce missionary disciples for Christ. The New Evangelisation promoted by St Pope John Paul II is rooted in a welcoming parish, is dependent upon it. Also mentioned is the call by Pope Francis to become a Church that exists to serve and not to be served. There is to some extent an overlap between renewal and missionary discipleship, as the fruits of renewal should be evident in the missionary discipleship of the Christian.
Missionary discipleship, to quote from the resource documents, is being faithful to the ‘great commission’ in Matthew 28:19-20, i.e. evangelising and/or re-evangelising non-Christians and lapsed Catholics, as well as carrying the love of Christ to the needy and marginalised. Missionary disciples need to be evangelised and formed themselves, through reception of the Sacraments of Initiation, and through faithful commitment to, and growth, in relationship with Christ. Ongoing formation, both intellectual and spiritual, is vital to the development of missionary disciples.
A number of parishes mentioned the need for better leadership in the Church, recognising that without well-formed leaders, both clerical and lay, the mission of the Church is unachievable.
Missionary Discipleship Resolutions
The Synod Resolutions and the policy decisions above are to be read together, for together they articulate my will for the renewal of the life of the Archdiocese and each parish therein. The responsibility for the implementation of these resolutions is not the clergy’s alone. It is shared by the leadership of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Deanery Pastoral Councils and Parish Pastoral Councils. The Synod Champions, who are ex-officio members of their PPC’s, bear a particular responsibility for the living out of the spirit of this Synod in each parish. They are the institutional memory of this singular event and in the deliberations of their PPC’s are to remind the members of what has been resolved. They will be particularly supportive of the parish priest and PPC chair in the annual implementation review which I require each parish to do.
I wish to conclude by acknowledging the work of planning, consultation and implementation done by the Synod Planning Committee consisting of Mr. Roy Lailvaux, the chairperson, and the members Sr. Juliana Abioye EHJ, Fr. Bruce Botha SJ, Mr. Odilon Molapo, Mrs. Emily Morely, and Rev. Gerald Rodrigues. I am grateful to them for all they have done over the past eighteen months, and are yet to do for the Archdiocese in their new role on the Synod Monitoring and Implementation Committee.
I hereby promulgate the resolutions of the 2019 Archdiocesan Synod and make them my own. I urge the Clergy and Religious of the diocese, particularly those entrusted with the care the parishes of the Archdiocese to study this document and to implement the resolutions contained therein to the best of their abilities in the local faith communities entrusted to them.
+Buti Tlagale OMI, Archbishop of Johannesburg