ST. THERESA’S OCTOBER FEST – A HUGE SUCCESS

IMG_3925The St. Theresa’s Congregation of Queenstown is well alive and makes also every year a special effort in order to be able to survive financially. This year we came upon the idea to give our annual bazaar a new look and that in the shape of the well-known Bavarian “Oktoberfest”. A lot of time and preparation was invested into the realisation of the famous BBB slogan (Bake-Brew-Braai), and, once the smoke was hanging over the premises and the well-known “smells” came out of the stalls, everybody present came in action and made from our annual event a success we never knew before.

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In Memoriam: Rev. Sister Raphael Regina Nomawethu Ngumba CMDA

Sr RaphaelDeath is a reality. It is real and inevitable. Every earthly being has to go through that mystery: as there is the right time to be born, so there is also the right time to die, but nobody knows when, how and where this will happen. Only God knows this and therefore we must prepare ourselves for that mighty and stupendous confrontation with eternity…

Sr. Raphael Ngumba was born into the family of Mr. Diya Ngumba and Mrs Nomishini of Mount Frere, Cabazi village, on the 3rd February, 1948. They were three girls, Nomawethu, Nobambo and Nosisa. They all have passed away.

She started her Education in Mbodleni Primary School in Mount Frere.

In 1962 the parents moved from Mount Frere to Dutywa where she got sure about her vocation to the sisterhood. In 1964 she went to Keilands to join the Congregation of the Mother of Divine Love (Ntaba Maria Sisters) as a candidate. In 1966 she became a postulant, and started her novitiate in 1967 which she ended in 1969 by making her first profession.

Immediately after her first Profession, Sr. Raphael was sent to Zigudu to start her mission work by becoming the boarder mistress in the local hostel for girls. In 1971 she pronounced her final vows, and, in 1994 she celebrated her silver Jubilee.

Sr. Raphael spent her whole active life at Zigudu mission, giving her best in the apostolic field until her healthy constitution broke down not allowing her an active life anymore. Being back into the mother house ( Ntaba Maria Convent ) in 1996, where her co-sisters could look after her, she did not stop her apostolic work. With a lot of dedication she taught catechism to the young ones in the church and that until in August 2013 when she definitely collapsed. She was admitted twice in Glen grey hospital but nothing could help anymore. She passed away on the 27th of September 2013.

On the 12th of October 2013, “Ma MAYA” as she was nicknamed, found her final resting place at the own cemetery of the Congregation in Ntaba Maria.She loved God and the Church which she honored with the perseverance in her religious vocation embellishing it by staying at the same place, doing the daily routine tasks again and again… After such a life, we hear the Scripture saying:

“Well done my dear servant! Because you were faithful in doing a lot of small things, I will put you now in charge of a lot of much more important things. Come and enter now into the joy of your Lord”

Fr. Edward Tratsaert vSAC

A memorable day for the Sacred Heart Mission in Qoqodala

Father Matthias NsambaOn Sunday, the 15th of September 2013, the parishioners of the Sacred Heart Mission in Qoqodala decided to give their new parish priest, Father Matthias Nsamba, a heartily welcome after he was transferred from Cathcart to them some months ago.

Father Matthias wanted to make from that function a meaningful event and so he prepared over the 60 youngsters for First Holy Communion on that day.

Seeing the reaction in his outstations, the enthusiast priest saw what was coming up and, full of joy he invited his confreres to come to Qoqodala for this for him so happy day.

Being originally from Uganda, he also invited fellow Ugandan citizens living and working in South Africa and even amongst them the Ugandan High Commissioner in Pretoria to take part in his joy.

It did not stop there: an invitation went to the Embassy of Ireland in Pretoria which was positively replied, and, from Uganda came the news that his Uncle, also a diocesan priest and his brother who is the Provincial superior of the Comboni Fathers in Uganda and Zambia would also come to see how their sibling was doing in South Africa…

Procession to the ChurchEverything started very well: what was planned at 10:00 started at 10:00 South African interpretation, i.e. at 11:00!!! Leaded by the processional Cross, an impressive cortege formed by the Altar boys and girls, the First communicants, all vested in white tops and black trousers or skirts, the different choirs and delegations coming from the outstations in their beautiful traditional outfits followed by the concelebrating priests and Father Matthias, The First Communicantsliturgically vested with a white and green chasuble which also portrayed Christ as the Good Shepherd, in between the invited dignitaries.

The church, a master piece of German engineering, Swiss Craftsmanship and South African know how, was filled to full capacity when Holy Mass started and the Congregation of the day made from this Mass a With voices and small instrumentscelebration in the traditional Xhosa style: singing, dancing, making processions and using their voices and some small instruments to give honour and Glory to God the Father Almighty and to Jesus Christ our Saviour, Good Shepherd and Redeemer. One of the readings was done by a young boy in an accent free English and after the readings, two deacons proclaimed the Gospel in isiXhosa and in English as well.

The brother of Father Matthias, Father Edward Kanyike Mayanja MCCJ (Comboni Fathers) gave the Homily and did this in a crystal clear language which could be easily understood by all the parishioners of Qoqodala. He told the congregation what a parish priest really is:

“the Parish Priest is the Mediator between God and mankind. It is the Parish Priest who brings God’s gifts to the people and the people’s gift to God.”

He stressed the point that he understood the people who wanted to welcome their new parish priest quite well and told them that for sure his brother will be very delighted when receiving all the welcoming gifts and words, but he also explained them what kind of presents they should bring to him all the time he will be amongst them. He told the congregation that Father Matthias would be extremely happy when they would shower him with the presents he wants to give further to God and those special presents are their sins, their miseries, their weakness and their wickedness on the one side, but also their hopes, their joys and their happiness on the other side. This are the things Father Matthias wants to see happen, because as a priest he is the other Christ who told With the youth in actionabout Himself that he was the Good Shepherd, doing everything possible to save one lost sheep in order to bring it back to the flock…

After the prayers of the faithful, a new procession started and came to the front side of the church where bread and wine was presented to the celebrant and where also the collection baskets were filled with the personal offerings of the singing and dancing crowd.

Receive the Body of ChristThe First Holy Communion of so many children and growing up was a very moving moment. Once the Our Father was sung, they came forward forming a half circle in front of the altar. An overwhelming happy Father Matthias gave them Holy Communion and after this, their candles were lit and all of them received a blue rosary. And to prove that they were satisfactory prepared for that great day, they recited in front of the Congregation the Apostolic Creed!

Three hours after it started, the Mass was ended and Father Matthias together with his friends, faithful and first communicants posed for the camera in order to have fixed that important event into the archives.

After church, the second part of the event was reserved for the speeches, the welcoming addresses, the well-wishing and the presentation of the gifts coming from inside and outside the Qoqodala Mission. This all happened in a tent erected for that special occasion.

Group after group came forward dressed in their traditional outfits framing the speeches of their leaders with songs and dance followed by a presentation of their gifts towards their new pastor.

And Makhulu had to say a lot!Besides the traditional groups like the Women of St. Ann, the Men of the Sacred Heart, the members of several local organisations, choirs etc… there were also representatives of the various parishes Father Matthias had served in the dioceses of Aliwal North and Queenstown. Some of the ladies pointed fingers telling him the truth or refreshing some old memories. Amongst them was an old Makhulu and she had to say her say!!! She did not want the use of a microphone and… her story was very long… It ended with three strophes of a well-known hymn.

Fr Matthias and the High Commissioner of UgandaQuite remarkable were the speeches of the VIPs invited to this function. The High Commissioner of Uganda residing in Pretoria, Mr Julius Peter Moto, was fascinated by the First Communicants and also by the youngsters. He wanted to see them again in front of him because he wanted to tell them something. They came up and sang something in their style and then came his speech. He congratulated the first communicants and told them to go on and not to stay away from church, and to the growing ups he said that he wanted to see them again in due time. Becoming clearer he said that he wanted to meet them again alive and not on the graveyard. He stressed also the importance of not spoiling a life the way it happens that much, namely by teenage pregnancies and contracting venereal diseases. If you want to have a splendid future, he said, you have to give your all in building up that future and that happens at the schools and the universities. On the question if they will meet him again in due time, he got a loud ‘YES” as an answer.

Together with the representative of the Irish AmbassadorThe biggest surprise came from the Irish Ambassador, Mr Brendan McMahon, represented by Mrs Miriam Nhlapho. As a Catholic herself, she said, she had enjoyed the Mass enormously. She also understood that Mission work is not free from problems and hardships, and, at the Embassy they had thought on how they could give Father Matthias a substantial help for that work.

In front of the new carKnowing that the roads in the districts are not of the best quality they found out that a suitable car for those roads could make the daily routine considerably easier… Upon this a jubilant crowd gave her a standing ovation and everybody left the tent to see the new Toyota Hilux given to the Parish Priest. Before she handed over the keys, she gave the car two things which will remain in it as long it works for the Church. The first thing was an image of Our Lady of Cork and the second thing was a white rosary given by the pope. After having received the keys, an ecstatic Father Matthias was waving exuberantly and finally baptised the new car with a bottle of Champaign, giving it the name “Maria”.

The function ended with a word of thanks of Father Matthias after he was introduced by his brother, Father Edward Kanyike who is the Provincial superior of the Comboni Fathers in Uganda and Zambia and Father John Lutalo coming from the Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese in Uganda. After all what happened on that memorable day with all its surprises, Father Matthias was unable to give the vote of thanks in a rhetoric way. In a simple way, but not without emotion he thanked God in the very first place and then everybody who had come to that event giving him hope, thankfulness and joy.

It was the Parish Chair Person who thanked the people for coming wishing them a safe return home. It was indeed a memorable day for Qoqodala.

Fr Edward Tratsaert SAC

They came to honour their Flag….

IMG_3511 On Saturday, the 24th of August 2013, there was quite some movement in the hall of the Queen of Apostles church in Ikathikati / Cathcart. Reason: the Women of St. Ann came together for a special function on deanery level to which they invited the dean himself…

Phone calls, messages and letters went out to Queenstown, Stutterheim, Balfour, Whittlesea and Lesseyton and in the meantime people became very busy and in the hall and in the kitchen, because that special event had to become a success!

And what kind of event that was! Full of pride, the delegations of Queenstown, Cathcart and the central deanery presented their flags and the ceremony could start.

After an initial prayer by the dean of Queenstown, the deanery president opened the gathering with some warm welcoming words during which the assembly responded singing enthusiastically.

Then the meeting could start in the normal way: filling in the attendance list, mentioning the apologies, making up of the minutes, followed  by the main event of the day.

Every flag was carried around in a kind of procession during which all the members present greeted the flag singing songs in honour Mother Mary and of St. Ann. They opened also their purses, donating money as a kind of respect and appreciation for the branch of the Association represented by the flag in question.

The money was counted constantly and regularly the mistress of ceremonies announced that the amount of given money was insufficient, so the procession could continue till there was “enough” in the plate!

Once the procession stopped, there was a serious collection on the table which could cover easily some necessities needed by the Association.

After this the dean spoke to the assembly about the significance of a flag and about the ideal of the women of St. Ann as well.

IMG_3516“A flag is the symbol of a group of people sharing the same identity, ideals and final goals” he said, “and that symbol is shown to the world with joy and pride making known the characteristics of the association represented by that flag…”

Coming to that point, the dean explained them what a Woman of St. Ann has to be. “We must follow the example of St. Ann,” he said, “but… who is St. Ann? St. Ann is the mother of Mary and also the grandmother of Jesus Christ!!! Therefore, every woman of St. Ann must be an excellent mother and a loving grandmother.

In the Xhosa culture, the grandmother plays a very important role in the family: she is the person who looks around, being gentle with the generation coming after her, giving them good advice based on her own former experiences and spiced with the wisdom of old age.

The relation between grandmother and grandchildren is a chapter on its own. By giving a lot of love to her grandchildren, she creates a strong bond with them and she becomes their source of hope.

Like St. Ann they have to educate their own daughters in a committed way to God and the Church. By being the heart of her own family she has also to give a place to the love of God shared by everybody and as a grandmother she has to guide the grandchildren in an uncomplicated way towards a loveable relationship with God…”

After the concluding prayer done by Father Thulani Gubula, the priest in charge of Cathcart, the real social could start. The kitchen provided everybody with a full plate of enjoyable and solid food, something which is always more than welcome after a dense program.

Last point on the to-do list was reserved for the photographer. A couple of shots were made during which the participants became hilarious and once the camera was back in its poach; it was time to go home. The cars went off and the locals in their purple and black uniforms, walked slowly home. Their attitude expressed clearly that they had enjoyed their day.

Fr. Edward Tratsaert SAC

Balfour 29 years later….

Church of Balfour30 October 1984 is a date I just can’t forget. It was the day that I had to leave the Catholic Mission of Balfour as the last resident priest. The church, together with the little farm on which it stood, was bought up by the government, which, on its turn, gave it to the new homeland Ciskei in the hope that some development would take place in that area.

With a bleeding heart I emptied the presbytery and the sacristy and I went off to Lumko in order to become also there the last resident priest….

The rest is history: Ciskei did not know what to do with it and all possible projects ended in hollow words. People came to live in the old presbytery and left it very soon afterwards. Slowly, the fields which were formerly so intensively cultivated, changed into thorn bush plantations while the only “improvement” on the house was a poster, hanged up in the former living room with the words: “Vote ANC”….

About 5 years after the “take over”, some desperate Catholics approached the bishop begging for a priest.

Bishop Lenhof appointed the priest of Whittlesea to look after that “neglected flock” but very soon Fr. Schöder detected that the Holy Remnant of Balfour was not that fanatically keen to come to church. So he brought the Church registers of Balfour back to the Chancery with the compliments that they had to look for another priest….

For quite some time, Balfour was now administrated from Ntaba Maria where the bishop lived. A newly ordained priest, who stayed also in Ntaba Maria, went now and then to Balfour to look after the local Catholics.

Some of the parishionersWhen this new priest got his first parish in the Queenstown area, a further looking after in Balfour became for him impossible, and finally Balfour came under the pastoral care of the resident priest in Cathcart.

Father Thulani Gubula, who lives in Cathcart, got the opportunity to visit Europe and asked me to go once to Balfour during his absence: an invitation I accepted with both hands!

That Sunday I went to Balfour became a Sunday of peace and joy. Slowly, some old memories came up when I approached the old mission at the foot of the Katberg. I saw some faces, some houses, some situations etc…

When I finally arrived, a small group was waiting, and some of them recognised me immediately. First we had the Mass in church where I found a new altar, tabernacle, ambo and baptismal font.

Although the congregation was small, they did their uppermost best to make something nice from the Liturgy. They sung with heart and soul and on their faces I could see how happy they were.

After mass we stood for some moments together speaking about the past and telling what happened during the last 29 years…..

They told me who had died, who had moved to Queenstown, to Humansdorp, to Kumga, to Friemersheim , to Fort Beaufort and to East London….

BoytjieNames like Bles, Seun, Kanyi, Ciskali, Charlot, Hilary, Nokoperasi and Lorraine were mentioned and amongst the excited people stood “Boytjie”, one of the “pillars of the Church” who is always there, doing what he has to do and that without making big fuss of it.

Also upon his face we could see some joy but it was a kind of matured joy. I am sure that he also was thinking on the Balfour from so many years ago. He was there when the first catholic seed was planted in Balfour and he experienced the ups and the downs of catholic life in that part of the world and it gave him the necessary wisdom which he needed to love that Church in which he was born and in which he wants to die.

Fr. Edward Tratsaert SAC