Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is time again to issue another edition of our Newsletter through which we keep contact with one another and are informed of developments in the life and ministry of our diocese. I am grateful to Fr. Edward Tratsaert SAC who gives of his time and energy to ensure that our diocesan Newsletter stays afloat and improves with every new edition.
My Recent Trip Abroad
The 7th World Meeting of Families
I had the privilege of being part of the official delegation from South Africa to the 7th World Meeting of Families which took place in Milan, Italy, from the 30th of May to the 3rd of June 2012. The event consisted in a three day Theological Congress in which a variety of speakers addressed different themes relating to the family with in-depth plenary presentations and in breakaway groups. The climax of the event was meetings with the Holy Father on Saturday evening and Sunday Mass in which an estimated million people participated.
For the many families which had gathered from different parts of the world the event more than a conference seemed to be a welcome opportunity to interact and to intermingle with other families, to learn from each other and to exchange experiences. On a personal level, it was a wonderful experience to participate in this event and to witness the coming together of Catholic families from all over the world. The catholicity of the Church was indeed given a beautiful expression in this event. Participating in the Eucharist presided over by the Pope was for me the climax of this experience.
I think it would be a valuable exercise to have a “local meeting of families” at different levels in our own local Church. The experience would, in my view, go a long way in reviving marriages and families especially of those who may be feeling alone and isolated in their experience of problems and challenges in their lives.This whole experience has made me more aware of the need for us to get our Diocesan Family Desk established and functioning properly so that families in our Diocese may be duly ministered to.
My Visit to Germany
At the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families in Milan I had an opportunity to visit the Pallottine Community in Limburg, Germany. The main intention in undertaking this visit was to meet with my predecessor Bishop Herbert Lenhof SAC whom I had not yet met since the occasion of my ordination as Bishop of Queenstown last year. It was indeed a wonderful experience to meet him and to enjoy the hopspitality warmly and generously extended to me by the whole Pallottine Community in Germany. Let us continue to pray for Bishop Lenhof that he may be given the grace to live meaningfully with his deteriorating state of health, always trusting in the presence and power of God in his life.
The Pentecost Sunday Celebration
With the special celebration of Pentecost Sunday on the 27th of May and the formal commissioning of our Parish Pastoral Councils we have firmly embarked on a new journey as the diocese. As I explained then, this journey is that of moving from being a dependent mission diocese to becoming a self-reliant and self-supportive local Church. I was greatly encouraged by the unexpected huge attendance at this celebration. If this is anything to go by, it shows me that the Catholics of the Diocese of Queenstown are ready and willing to take up this challenge with enthusiasm and zeal.
I urge all of us to do individually and collectively whatever is within our power and scope to make sure that our diocese does indeed become a vibrant and self-supportive local Church. This begins by us making sure that our parishes and pastoral districts work toward becoming self-reliant and self-supportive especially in what concerns meeting their immediate material needs. As I said in my homily on Pentecost Sunday, “for this to happen we need Catholics who take full responsibility for their faith and for their Church; Catholics who all stand up to be counted. We need people who are committed to build our diocese into a unified whole, where there is unity of purpose and unity of practice. Lastly, we need people who are open to change and growth, people who are pliable and who are ready to be guided and led by the Holy Spirit into new places and new ways of being and doing.”
A Good and Encouraging Start Already Made
It is heartening to note that in many of our parishes a good and encouraging start has already been made regarding becoming self-supportive. Previously in what concerns the support of parish priests almost all the parishes in the diocese had been depending on a monthly subsidy given by the diocesan office. At the beginning of this year I discontinued this practice and asked instead that parishes and pastoral districts take up this responsibility. I am happy to report that most of the parishes have successfully carried out their responsibility in this regard, dispelling whatever doubts might have been there at the beginning regarding the viability of this new system. I encourage all the Faithful to intensify their efforts in this regard and to increasingly take full responsibility for all the material needs of their parish communities despite the difficult economic challenges confronting us at this time.
All our parishes and pastoral districts have now had their Parish Pastoral Councils established. The particular practical conditions obtaining in the different pastoral situations necessitated that there be some flexibility in the application of the procedures to be followed in setting up these structures. I am satisfied that this was done well and with responsibility.
With parish structures set up, we have been able to move to the next level and have Deanery Pastoral Councils set up in the three deaneries into which our diocese is structured. For this I would like to thank the three Deans, Frs. Matthias Nsamba, Anthony Shai and Syrinus Awono SAC, who have successfully facilitated this process. The next and final diocesan structure to be established is the Diocesan Pastoral Council which is a canonical structure presided over by the Diocesan Bishop. To this effect, in the near future I will convene a meeting of the Executive Committees of the three Deanery Pastoral Councils and representatives of other diocesan associations and formations to formally constitute the first ever Diocesan Pastoral Council in our diocese.
Towards Common Diocesan Policies
We continue to work out common policies and practices for the different areas of the pastoral life of the diocese. Previously, having dealt extensively with policies regulating the management of parish finances and material goods, I touched, in the previous edition of our Newsletter, on the matter of communion under both kinds, clarifying the regulation regarding this matter.
A matter which has been found to necessitate urgent attention concerns the conducting of funerals in our parishes and pastoral districts. In this regard, after having given due consideration to this matter in consultation with parish priests, I would like to present the following as the diocesan policy to be followed henceforward:
- Ordinarily funerals are not to be conducted on a Sunday as this is the day for all Catholics to attend the Sunday Eucharist which is the central form of worship for us. Catholic families must therefore take all possible steps to make sure that their funerals do not take place on a Sunday.
- While all those who ask for assitance from the Church with a funeral will and must be assisted, however, as a matter of justice and fairness to the parish community, the manner in which the funeral service is to be conducted must be according to the status of the deacesed regarding the practice of the Catholic faith. It is important to clarify that this has nothing to do with judging the spiritual status of the deceased before God. Only God can make that judgement! As I have said, this is solely in the interest of justice and fairness as far as life in the parish community is concerned.
- Those who were full and active Catholics at the time of their death are to be given a full funeral service conducted by a priest which includes the celebration of Holy Mass in Church.
- Lapsed Catholics who had ceased to be active members of the parish community as well as non-Catholic relatives of practising Catholics who ask for assistance with a funeral will be given a funeral service without the celebration of Holy Mass in a church. In these and other similar situations the service will ordinarily be conducted by a Lay Minister.
- While adhering faithfully to the above guidelines, parish priests have the power and the responsibility to determine the exact procedure to be followed in those peculiar cases which do not fall neatly under the above mentioned categories.
On a more joyous note, on Saturday the 12th of May the Sisters of the Congregation of Mary Mother of Divine love, otherwise known as “Ntaba Maria Sisters,” celebrated their Golden Jubilee which marked the 50th anniversary of the existence of their Congregation. It was indeed a joyous and memorable occasion. We continue to wish the Ntaba Maria Sisters richest blessings as they set out on a new phase in the life of their Congregation!
On Saturday the 25th of August we shall have the joint-celebration of two Jubilees in the parish of St. James, Cofimvaba. The parish of St. James will be celebrating fifty (50) years of its existence. At the same time we shall join with the parish of Cofimvaba and its satellite communities in celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Priestly Ordination of Fr. Karl Frings SAC who completed 50 years of priestly service last year. We wish Fr. Frings and the parish of Cofimvaba richest blessings on this important occasion!
+ Dabula A. Mpako
Bishop of Queenstown