December 20, 2013
I greet you from Pretoria with the lovely invitation of Pope Francis in his new Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium;
“I invite all ….everywhere, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ….No one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that He is already there, waiting for us with open arms” May the Lord you have sought during the Year of Faith find you and enrich you now with his Blessings.
Our loving Lord blessed us in many ways in the Archdiocese of Pretoria this year. What a joy it was for me to go to some 50 parishes and confirm enthusiastic youth prepared by priests and dedicated teachers. Many of these ceremonies went out on South African television, channel 340. Retreats, week-ends away, spiritual courses and work-shops have had a deep impact on young people. With so few Catholic children in Catholic schools such events make a deep impression on the youth and bond them to the community of the Lord.
There was a lot of work due to the fact that I was appointed by the Bishops’ Conference in January to act as Media spokesperson. Events like the resignation of Pope Benedict and the conclave leading up to the election of Pope Francis meant that press, radio and television needed continual comment. Journalists descend like a thief in the night and want immediate reaction to all questions and personal issues.
Though it takes time in preparation I have been privileged to have a program on radio Veritas since April of 2012 and it is heartening to get positive response. This radio is the first Catholic voice to enter homes in South Africa dealing with those questions which our critics constantly make. You can get it www.radioveritas.co.za
Events which brought me particular joy this year were the visit of my family, brothers and sisters; the invitation to lead the Southern Cross pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome-personally meeting with the new Pope; and especially consecrating the new Bishop of Kokstad, Zolile Mpambani. Ordaining 5 new priests and 10 deacons was the Lord’s special gift.
There were sad events, especially the passing away of many dear friends. But one needs to see this in context. Early in the year, in January I attended the commemoration of policemen and women who had been killed the previous year in the line of duty. It was very pathetic to watch the young wives and the little children of 120 men who had died place flowers at the memorial at the Union Building.
A great friend of mine passed away recently, Mother Veronica, responsible for the establishment of the Poor Clare contemplative life in Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Kokstad. I had the joy of spending a few days with her in March in Lusaka and as usual I was deeply impressed once again by her holiness and peace. Saying goodbye to her I asked her shall we meet again. She said “Elsewhere”. Let’s hope I go to the same place she went to!
The last week has seen the final journey of President Mandela. What a gift he has been to South Africa and the world. I was able to attend many of the national ceremonies and hold a Mass in our own Cathedral here in Pretoria in the presence of many Government Ministers and Officials. The Papal representative, Cardinal Turkson, presided and preached.
Pretoria is a demanding archdiocese. The population within the diocese is in the area of 5 Million with 250,000 Catholics. As a great urban centre it attracts floods of people from all over South Africa and enormous numbers from the other countries of Africa. Many of our parishes have congregants and choirs from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo etc
The great emphasis for our Church at the moment is on-going formation of adults, forming all as witnesses and evangelizers of our faith. The Opening and Closing of the Year of Faith with more than 8,000 fervent Catholics praising God in the stadium assures us that our people are very committed, there are proud and confident in their faith, they love their Lord.
This year the Evangelization desk oversaw Ministries in Catechetics, Justice and Peace, Youth, prisons, hospitals, Catholic schools and Family and Marriage. My task is also to oversee the Special Ministries in the country as Military Ordinary; this includes Prisons, police and the armed forces.
It is a great joy to work for God, I praise and thank Him. I thank all who have sent cards and greetings, our funders. Above all I thank my co-workers, all involved in ministry of the Archdiocese in whatever capacity.
Keep in touch at our website; www.archdioceseofpretoria.org.za.
God wishes to communicate with you this Christmas, listen to Him
Archbishop William Slattery ofm