“Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth” (Ps 103:30)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Whenever I visit different parish communities to confer the sacrament of Confirmation I am always inspired by the singing of this beautiful verse of Psalm 103: “Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth”.
The Holy Spirit is certainly always at work in the life of our entire Diocese and in the Catholic Church under the wise guidance of our Holy Father Pope Francis. He gives life to every living creature, sustains our beloved Mother Earth and keeps the whole universe in motion.
In the same breath, the face of the local Church, that is, our Diocese is changing rapidly and experiencing progressive renewal, rejuvenation and transformation. However, we are all called to be part and parcel of this process of change, although it could sometimes be painful and spark some uneasiness and resistance on our part.
In this letter, I wish to commend our priests who have taken new appointments, present new missionaries to you and say farewell to Fr. John Pullokkaran who returned back to India on Monday the 10th of October after many years of ministry and service in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth.
1. “Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy”.
The Catholic French Philosopher Jacques Maritain believes that ‘gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy’. I entirely concur with him, especially after the 28th Sunday of the Year C, when we listened to the cleansing of ten lepers and only one came back, praising God in a loud voice and thanked Jesus – and he was a Samaritan (Lk 17: 15 – 16). Besides physical healing he was also healed spiritually and filled with tremendous joy when Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has saved you” (v19).
A handful of our priests have had to take new appointments, especially our new missionaries. I am very grateful for their spirit of openness, trust, collaboration with the leadership of the Diocese, their commitment to the Faithful for whom they have been called by God and received the gift of ordination and to whom they have been sent to serve after the example of Christ. They have been very generous with themselves, putting the pastoral needs of the Diocese before their own personal tastes, preferences and needs.
I highly commend our parishioners who are extremely welcoming and hospitable to all of them. They have made them feel at home. I thank all the parish communities that have experienced changes in one way or another for their welcome, love and generosity to all our missionaries. They truly represent the faith, vitality, youth, joy and the beautiful face of the Catholic Church: “Family of God in Africa”.
2. “Jesus sent them two by two” (Mk 6: 7).
It is always the Good news of Joy that is forever fresh and reassuring to hear that Jesus “summoned his disciples, appointed twelve apostles to be with him and to be sent ahead of him to preach the Gospel” (Mk 3: 14). He “sent them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits” (Mk 6: 7). I sympathise with many priests who have always lived alone, due to the shortage of priestly vocations, especially the elderly. They have left their natural families, friends, sometimes professions, wealth and many opportunities in order to follow Christ and serve the People of God. May God, according to the promise of Jesus, reward them a hundred fold for everything – and above all with everlasting life.
2.1. The Mission Team of the Redemptorists in Port Elizabeth.
After the Provincial Chapter in 2014, the Leadership of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, otherwise, known as the Redemptorists indicated that they would like to establish a permanent presence in the Diocese. In dialogue with the Bishop, they expressed the desire that they would like to have a team of two priests who shall be committed to full time pastoral ministry in the Diocese and another two who shall be committed to itinerant preaching of missions according to the charism of their Founder St. Alphonsus Liguori.
In collaboration with the leadership of the Diocese we are looking at some logistics in terms of a suitable residence while their mission team is already taking shape. In light of this, I would like to cordially welcome Fr. Sizwe Zungu C.S.s.R who arrived recently to join the Redemptorists Mission Team and Community. May his ministry in our Diocese be meaningful, fulfilling and fruitful.
2.2. The Missionary Team of the Neo-Catechumenal Way in PE
When I took up residence in the Diocese in 2014, I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting the married couple, Dino and Roberta together with the full team of the lay movement of the Neo-Catechumenal Way. It happened at the appropriate time when the whole Church was celebrating the Synod on Family and Married Life. They requested to come to the Diocese and get involved in the mission, new evangelization and life of the local Church.
At the request of the Diocesan Council of Priests’, they presented themselves at the Annual Plenary of the Clergy in January this year, 2016.
It was subsequently decided that those priests and parishes that are interested to know more about the Neo-Catechumenal Way and want to use their services in their endeavour of parish renewal can establish contact and invite them.
I am very pleased to announce that the Missionary Team of the Neo-Catechumenal Way has arrived in the Diocese. It is composed of Fr. Francisco Marco, otherwise known as ‘Kiko’, Br Joseph Malama Chimfwembe, who has successfully finished seminary studies and is on internship regarding pastoral ministry and the married couple Mr. Andrea and Mrs Erica Parato and family. These are people of deep faith and commitment. They serve as a living sign and witness of the Church that is missionary by its very nature. They are very passionate about their relationship with God and want to share that with Catholic families and with all people of goodwill. Fr. Kiko has also generously offered to work as a “supply priest” should the need arise. I wish them a joyful, fulfilling and fruitful ministry in our Diocese.
3. Our heartfelt gratitude to Fr. John Pullokkaran
I extend my sincere gratitude to Fr. John Pullokkaran CMI, a Religious priest and missionary who has been in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth for nearly 20 years. He visited here for the first time in 1999 as Vicar Provincial of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate to see first-hand the pastoral possibilities that existed, in preparation for his Congregation. In all the parishes where he was assigned by the Bishop he worked very hard creating vibrant Church communities that are self-supporting, nourishing our people with the Word of God and the Eucharist, preparing them for Sacraments, visiting them in their homes, taking care of the sick, comforting the bereaved and burying their loved ones who have died. His priestly ministry was characterised by love and compassion.
On Monday the 10th of October 2016 Fr. John Pullokkaran had to leave the Diocese and return to India indefinitely due to ill health that has accompanied his ministry in the last year or so.
I thank the East London Deanery and St Patrick’s parish leadership for preparing a farewell supper for him at such short notice. It was a wonderful tribute to Fr. John to see the scores of parishioners, past and present who came to bid him farewell at the Airport in East London. Some came from as far away as King Williams Town where he was affectionately known as “King John”. I truly wish him a peaceful, fulfilling, meaningful and joyful retirement back home. May God grant him good health so that one day he can come back to us, if that is His will.
In conclusion, we commend to our Merciful God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Fr. Xolisile Kondlo, as well as the Assumption and Dominican Sisters who passed away and most recently, Mrs Kholeka Mana, Fr. Thembalethu’s mother and all our departed relatives, friends and benefactors. May they all rest in peace!
Yours in Christ.