On the 70th Anniversary of St Bernadette’s Parish in Walmer
“My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour!” (Lk 2: 46 - 47)
Very Reverend Fr. Gregory Mitchel C.O. (Provost of the Oratorians of St Philip Neri), Fr. Jonathan Vermaak (Parish Priest of the Parish Community), Members of the Oratory Community, Beloved Parishioners of St Bernadette’s Parish Community, friends, benefactors, regular visitors and all people of Goodwill!
This beautiful prayer and hymn of Our Lady that’s recorded by St Luke expresses in a most profound way my personal and deepest sentiments of great joy in God who is the Divine Family of Three: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - who through his Son Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd cares, watches over and accompanies the Church in the journey of life to its eternal destiny. I hope that my message will find all of you in a good state of health.
On the 25th of June, I concelebrated at the Inaugural Mass of the bicentenary celebrations of the official existence of the Roman Catholic Church here in South Africa. This took place at the Cathedral Church of Our Lady Flight into Egypt in Cape Town. Your own inauguration of the 70th anniversary of St Bernadette’s Parish fits magnificently into that mosaic of the whole Church which is called to become increasingly the Sacrament of Unity for which Christ, our High Priest, continues to pray for before God our Heavenly Father, that “they may all be one, so that the world may believe” (Jn 17: 21). This is a moment of grace which occurs in God’s perfect timing. It is God’s year of favour that challenges all of us to rekindle the wonderful gift of faith that we have received in baptism and through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The 70th Anniversary reminds us that God is the Lord of history. He directs all the events of our life – the Church herself is not just a static or fixed institution; it is rather a dynamic, life-giving community of believers where God’s abiding presence, love, mercy, forgiveness, justice, peace and joy are experienced and celebrated through full, active and conscious participation in the Eucharist, which is the ‘source and summit’ of all our Christian life.
God is calling you individually and as a community of believers with all the structures of the parish of St Bernadette to remember your past with gratitude, to celebrate and live the grace of the present moment with renewed commitment to God and to journey to the future with hope. It is worthwhile for all of you to reflect and answer these questions:
In terms of faith, what legacy do you want to leave behind or pass on to the future generations?
What resources and energy are you prepared to invest in it?
How do you want to be remembered by your grandchildren?
What vision do you have for St Bernadette’s parish in the next 5, 10, 15, and 20 years from now?
What are you prepared to do in order to achieve that vision?
Let us all strive together to become the dream Church of Pope Francis: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (EG, 49).
In my personal capacity and on behalf of the whole Diocese I congratulate all the Faithful of St Bernadette’s Parish Community on this 70th anniversary celebration as I look forward to your centenary. May God who began this wonderful work in all of you many years ago bring it to fruition today and for all eternity!
Your Shepherd in Christ
Bishop Vincent Mduduzi Zungu OFM