To the clergy, the religious and the faithful of the Diocese of Queenstown
Dear Brothers and Sisters
It is time again to update you on developments in the life and ministry of our diocese through our Diocesan Newsletter which, thanks to the tireless efforts of Fr. Edward Tratsaert SAC, is increasingly becoming something of a masterpiece publication.
My Recent Visit to Rome
From the 2nd to the 16th of September 2012 I had the privilege of attending the course for recently ordained bishops in Rome, Italy. It brought together all the bishops ordained in the last two years from the missionary dioceses that fall under the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples (Propaganda Fide). There were ninety (90) bishops in total from Africa, South America, Asia, Oceania, the Carribean and Eastern Europe. While we had a rather hectic programme of talks and group discussions, the course proved to be a very good and enlightening experience.
Besides it being a wonderful experience of coming together with other bishops from all over the world and having a practical experience of the catholicity of our Church, it provided us with a good introduction to the work of the different offices of the Holy See. I now have a clearer understanding of how the Church operates at that level and of how I as a local Ordinary fit into the system. Of course, the climax for all of the newly ordained bishops gathered in Rome was the meeting with the Holy Father in his summer residence of Castel Gondolfo.
The Upcoming Launching of the Year of Faith
In a circular letter issued recently and also posted on our diocesan website I gave an explanation of the Year of Faith to be officially launched this month. On the diocesan level, a special Mass will be celebrated at the cathedral on Thursday the 11th of October at 11:00 a.m. During this Mass special candles for the Year of Faith will be lighted with each parish having its own candle to take home and use throughout the year. In our parishes, the opening of the Year of Faith will be done on Sunday the 14th of October. Ideally there should be a joint Mass for all the communities making up a parish or pastoral district during which, as in the cathedral, there will be a candle service in which all the sattellite communities light their candles from the parish candle. I call upon all in the diocese to wholeheartedly embrace this opportunity offered to us for the renewal of our faith and to enter fully into this Year of Faith.
On the personal level the Year of Faith must be a time for us to renew ourselves in our faith living. If we had become somewhat lukewarm in our commitment and in our practice of our faith, this is an opportunity for us to rekindle our faith and to renew our commitment to live it out in our daily lives. Included in this renewal is to participate more actively in the life of our parish communities, attending church more regularly and making one’s contribution to the life of the parish. By virtue of our baptism we are all charged with the responsibility of being evangelisers (“light to the world and salt to the earth”). The Year of Faith ought to be an opportunity for us to intensify our efforts to reach out to others and to share our faith with them.
At the parish level this could be done through visiting our lapsed brothers and sisters and encouraging them to revive their faith commitment and their participation in the life of the Church. In this regard the establishment or the rejuvenation of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) would go a long way in assisting in the renewal and deepening of the faith of individuals. We again encourage all to think creatively and imaginatively about other things that could be done at the parish level as part of the process of the renewal and deepening of faith which the Year of Faith calls us to.
Our New Catechesis Programme
For us, an important part of the activities that will mark the Year of Faith is the launching and setting in motion of a new programme of catechesis in our diocese. I have explained this more at length in another circular letter sent out recently and again also posted on our diocesan website. Catechesis is most fundamentally about the strengthening and deepening of faith in those who are being catechised. The establishment of the new catechesis programme for our diocese thus fits in very well with the Year of Faith. I therefore hereby commit all the parishes and pastoral districts in the diocese to make this the number one activity in the list of things to be done as a way of observing the Year of faith.
Practically, the first step to be taken in every parish or pastoral district is to establish a structured group of catechists with a parish coordinator of catechesis who will work closely with the parish priest. In this regard, one way of responding to the call of the Year of Faith is for individual Catholics to offer themselves for the ministry of being catechists. I strongly encourage especially those who are teachers by profession to seriously consider taking up this challenge. For the training of catechists in the new programme of catechesis, a Diocesan Animation Team presently made up mainly of religious Sisters from Ntaba Maria is being set up and prepared for this task.
The Diocesan Pastoral Council
Saturday the 27th of October will be a historic day in the life of our diocese. On that day there will be a meeting of the first ever Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) in our diocese. Invitations have been extended to those who are to constitute this very important diocesan structure. A Diocesan Pastoral Council is a diocesan structure strongly recommended in the law of the Church whose purpose is to assist the diocesan bishop in setting the direction of the diocese in various pastoral matters as well as by surfacing for the attention of the bishop areas of pastoral concern among the faithful entrusted to his care.
The DPC is meant to be a microcosm of the diocese as a whole. For this reason, members will be drawn from the whole range of the Christian faithful in our diocese, namely clergy, members of institutes of consecrated life, and especially laity. The bulk of the membership will be made up of the Executive Committees of the deanery pastoral councils of our three deaneries which are already in office. The rest will be constituted by representatives of the other different bodies and associations that exist in our diocese.
The Laity Council
As a way of promoting the involvement of the laity in the life and work of the diocese my predecessor, Bishop Herbert Lenhof, had established a body known as the Laity Council which played an active role for a while in encouraging the active participation of the laity in the running of the diocese. The understanding, right from the beginning, was that this structure would later on evolve into a Diocesan Pastoral Council. So, in an important way, the foundation for the forthcoming launching of the Diocesan Pastoral Council was laid by the formation of the Laity Council.
Now that this intended goal has been accomplished, the chapter on the Laity Council is hereby being closed. We thank all those who participated in the Laity Council and for the preparatory work they carried out. One important activity carried out by the erstwhile Laity Council was the encouragement of all the faithful to contribute financially to the upkeep of the diocese. To this effect a Laity Council bank account was established into which contributions were paid by those who responded positively to this appeal.
With the dissolution of the Laity Council, this bank account has accordingly been closed. In its place a Bishop’s Fund bank account has been established into which the faithful are now encouraged to make their financial contributions. As the name of the bank account suggests, the aim of such contributions is to directly assist the bishop in meeting the financial needs of the diocese. I strongly encourage all those who are able to seriously consider helping me by contributing regularly to this fund. However, let us all keep in mind that the primary responsibility of every individual Catholic is to contribute to the upkeep of the parish to which he or she belongs. The bank account details of the Bishop’s Fund are:
DIOCESE OF QUEENSTOWN T/A BISHOPS FUND
ACC NO 082641218
QUEENSTOWN BRANCH – 051120
Transfer of Parish Priests
In the past year as Bishop I have been able to carry out pastoral visits to all the parishes and/or pastoral districts in the diocese. This has enabled me to have a clearer picture of the situation and the needs of the different areas that make up our diocese. At the same time, I have come to know the priests in the diocese much more closely. This has enabled me to have an appreciation of the gifts and the strengths as well as the struggles of each priest. In order to ensure a distribution of priests which will better serve the common good of the diocese, I am now in the process of trying to match the strengths of each priest with the needs of the different areas of our diocese. Accordingly, in the near future I will be announcing transfers of some of the priests. I have decided to exempt from this process all parish priests who are at or near the age of retirement. All parish priests have been duly informed of the pending transfers and requested to psychologically prepare themselves for the likelihood of being moved from one parish to another.
Naturally, change of any kind is always an unsettling experience as it marks the coming to an end of what has been and the beginning of something new. Understandably, for both priest and parishioners the envisaged transfers will be to one degree or another something unsettling. However, we should all keep the common good of the diocese in mind in dealing with this experience, for this is what we are all called to be about instead of just being intent on maintaining and/or securing the comfort of the familiar. Accordingly, I hereby appeal to all and sundry to prepare ourselves to openly and willingly embrace the transfers of parish priests when eventually announced in the near future.
As this will most probably be the last edition of our Newsletter for this year, may I take this opportunity to extend a sincere word of thanks to all those who have assisted me in one way or another in the running and the administration of the diocese in the year that is coming to an end. I thank Fr. Siphiwo Vangqa SAC, the vicar general, for his faithful and generous support. I thank the Chancellor, the college of consultors and the coordinators of the different diocesan commisions for their collaboration and support. A special word of thanks goes to the Chancery staff, in the different offices, for their tireless efforts in making sure that the administration of the diocese continues to go smoothly. Last, but by no means least, I thank Fr. Edward Tratsaert SAC for making sure that our diocesan Newsletter and website are kept running and ever improving.
I hereby extend my blessing and best wishes to all for the end of the year holidays and celebrations.
Yours in Christ
+ Dabula A. Mpako
Bishop of Queenstown
5 October 2012