100 Days as a Bishop; What has he done?

100 Days after my Ordination to the Episcopal Ordination on the 15 Feb 2020

I have been nicknamed, a free Covid-19 Bishop. Hundred (100) days in the office of any person means a lot. It is the time to sit back and see if what you have planned to do has been accomplished. This was not to be for me, everything changed, just after three weeks of my ordination.

Pastoral Experience:

For every new Bishop in any Diocese for the first few months he would be looking forward to be going around his Diocese to visit priests and faithful in the different parishes. Unfortunately, this was not for me. I was ordained on 15th February 2020, and the ordination was well attended and organized. Immediately after three weeks there was a call for Corona virus lockdown in the world and soon it was also in South Africa. I was just looking forward to my first Easter liturgies. This turned out to be another experience for me that I did not even expect.

Death of Fr Kasali Isaho.

During my preparation for the Episcopal Ordination I was remarkably busy with one of our Priests, Fr Boniface KASALI ISAHO, who was extremely sick. I had planned to accompany him back home to DRC so that he may get a kidney donor. This was not possible due to the Visa processes.  Fr Boniface left by himself and within two weeks after he left, he died on Sunday 26 April 2020 in his home Diocese of Butembu- Beni in DRC. His funeral took place on Monday 27th April 2020 in DRC. Fr Boniface came to South Africa in 2003 till 2020. When he arrived in South Africa in 2003, he had to learn Xhosa, which he loved very much. I, as his Bishop and the Priests, with the people of Aliwal Diocese we shall miss him very much since one could count on him for any issues on pastoral work.  He had a very good working relationship with the children, youth and the adults. He ministered in different parishes like Umhlanga, Aliwal North, Sterkspruit and St. Teresa mission.

Launching of the New PASTORAL PLAN “EVANGELISING COMMUNITY SERVING GOD, HUMANITY & ALL CREATION” in the Diocese of Aliwal. This new Pastoral Plan comes into existence after the old pastoral Plan “Community Serving humanity” of 1986. This launching took place during the 2020 ADPC at Mount Carmel. We were happy that we did this before the lock-down of Covid-19. This pastoral plan is going to take ten years of implementation.  During these years we shall have celebrations, study days by using the different Church documents, Bible, Diocesan policies, Code of Canon Law, Discussions, Workshops, Prayers and Pilgrimages. 

For us to be able to run this Pastoral Plan we shall use the following pastoral structures within the Diocese: – Aliwal Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting (ADPC), Regional Meetings, Senate of Priests, Sodalities, Small Christian Communities (SCCs), Youth Groups, PPCs, PFCs, GGTs and Community weeks. At the end of the 8 focal areas have been dealt with, we shall have an evaluation and have a way forward to may be another Pastoral Plan.

This New pastoral Plan has got 8 focus areas, which are :

  1. Evangelisation, led by Fr Ketso and Mr Fekisi (Year:2022)
  2. Laity Formation and Empowerment, led Fr. Themba and Nicky. (Year:2023)
  3. Life and Ministry of The Priest and Deacons, led by Fr. Makoa and Mr Sandile. (Year:2021)
  4. Marriage and Family, led by Fr. Nku and Mrs Mpambani. (Year:2024)
  5. Youth, led by Fr. Mlulami and Mukwabane (Year:2025)
  6. Justice and Peace and Violence, led by Fr. Nku and Matswanelo (Year:2026)
  7. Healing and Reconciliation, led by Fr. Paul and Mrs Nobhula. (Year:2027)
  8. Care of Creation and Environment, Fr. Peter and Br Vincent. (Year:2028)

This Pastoral Plan, we hope that it will bring a new life, spirit and attitude after the Covid-19 pandemic. We need to respond to the needs of the Church by offering hope and new insights.  

Easter Preparation, from Emptiness to fullness:

In just a period of two months, I had written three pastoral letters to the priests and the faithful. All these pastoral letters were giving them the updates on how to keep the faithful in prayer in their homes. During the first month of my Episcopal Administration there has been a lot of emotional feelings of emptiness and sadness, since one could not feel that joy of Easter. However there have been on the other side also new pastoral insight and experience that we as the church should capitalize on it.

One of my first experiences was the family prayer in the domestic Church. The lockdown of Covid-19, called me to look at the families with new eyes. They are the Church, what we call the domestic Church. This Easter experience reminded me of the pastoral directive of the SACBC of 1994. This pastoral directive was about the co-responsibility of the Church. It came up with the topic “We are the Church”. This is the reality which in our daily pastoral programmes we have overlooked for many years until Covid-19. It is the family Church that has kept us going in the Diocese of Aliwal. We did not go for online Mass and prayers but we asked the families to pray in their homes. Yes, there are a lot of people who went on virtual Mass live stream liturgies, for me and the priests in the diocese we had to turn to the domestic Church and we called it upon to take its rightful place. We offered this domestic Church, guidelines on how to celebrate their own home liturgies. By reinforcing the domestic church, we are able to look at the family theology.

The Priesthood of the baptised was realized, by empowering them to keep the Sunday obligations. This Covid-19 has been an opportunity to minister to the families spiritually. It has opened many ways for the Priests to work and relate with the laity. This is one of the focal areas in the New pastoral Plan of the SACBC 2019. Covid-19 did open up the vocation of the laity, more than before. They were to take up a lot of family initiatives to make the 2020 Easter a reality in their homes.

We as the priests we empowered faithful with the use of WhatsApp messages as a very simple way to be in touch with them. This gave the Priests and the families a sense of identity and spiritual creativity. We became partners with equal responsibility to make this Easter a joyful home celebration by complementing each other. For the families they were able to reflect on the word of God together by sharing different roles and experience. The theme of baptised and sent as a family was also experienced. Every person in the Church has got a role to take the Gospel to others. Looking at our Xhosa Hymn and prayer book one finds out that there is not a well-developed morning prayer that are available in this book. The family must be the first house of prayer formation.

There has been also a call for the families to become more generous with their gifts, and works of both spiritual and material charity. The Baptismal priesthood of the faithful has been exercised at its best. Covid-19 has made it easy for them to see how their family prayers can transform their daily prayers. One of the questions that I got from a single family was, “can a single mother lead the Sunday prayers?”. Most of our people are still thinking that Sunday prayers should be led by the men. Just like what they see in the Church. I had to assure them that family prayers are not based on one’s gender. It’s a role bestowed on both the father and mother by the sacrament of baptism. There was an experience for me to see that there was change of old and outdated attitudes among the families.

The only words that Jesus gave us are “Again I say to you, if two or three are gathered in my name, there am in the midst of them (Mtt .18:19-20). This was also a good moment for the families to raise up their own family petitions. Family participation apart from their Sunday obligations the families were also able to look at other devotions, for example the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Rosary. This is very important that I could support the families to look at the different devotions, for example the praying of the family rosary. I did call upon the priests to pay a special attention to the pastoral care to these families via their social media. This Covid-19 lockdown has taught me that the family is and should be the grass root basis for our evangelization. Witness as a family was said by Pope Paul VI that the Church in the evangelization in the modern world, the family has a role to evangelize itself. The parents must do their part to communicate the gospel to their children. Likewise, the children must also evangelize their parents. Furthermore, Pope Paul VI encourages that families can help other families and their neighbours to know Jesus.  

Areas that we need to focus on post Covid-19 in the domestic church and the challenges.

There were some challenges in the domestic church, which will need our pastoral attention, to name a few.  The reality of South Africa is that most of our families do not pray together as families. This is a call for us now to ask the father and the mother with all the children to have a family prayer which has been something new to them, and to others even uncomfortable. One mother shared with me that when it was prayer time the father would refuse to come out of the bed room, to join the family. Families are used to wake up on Sunday and just go to Church. Not much preparation is needed from their side. It is all about a few leaders on the roster/ timetable and the rest is the work of the Priest and the choir group. 

When it comes to the family prayers it has always been the role of the mother and sometimes the children. Now during the coved-19 lockdown, since the father has been around this role was transferred to him, as the head of the family.  The fathers saw this as getting into their freedom or free space. This should make us worried as the church if men can feel that it’s not their responsibility to lead the family prayers. We need to give support to our men. Women have been very well supported and empowered to the extent that some men have even given up their church activities or withdrew.   Men should not only be reduced to the role of providing material good to the family.  There is a need for the church to dig deep into the cultural aspects of faithful. Men need to feel that they are of value in the family prayer. We are to support them and empower them to see how they can learn to distribute the family roles.

More to that in some families there is no good family relationships, just to sit together and pray and share the Sunday readings has been very difficult. The only choice for the fathers was to keep away into their bedrooms until the prayer sections are over. However, another family shared with me that after some Sundays, the father of one of the houses agreed to share in the family prayers.  This was a very new way for this family. They were all full of joy to see that there is a new way of building and living a new spirit. This was a new way of family evangelization, which was called by Pope Paul VI. (Evangelization in the Modern world, No. 18”. 

Family Faith formation is another challenge that Covid-19 pandemic has exposed to us.  Most of the faith formation in the family has been seen as the task or job of the mothers. This responsibility must be shared by all the family members.  All the families must help and support each other in passing on the faith.

There was a request to have some family devotions especially for those who belong to certain sodalities. However, this came to reality that there is not so much understanding of the spirituality to these devotions, by its members. There is a need to deepen the teaching to the members about their sodalities.

Therefore, in my Coat of Arms in the centre of it is the image of the Small Christian Community (SCC). This is one of the ways that we do apply in our pastoral work in the Diocese of Aliwal to share the word of God.  It should also be the same means to enter the prayer model. The SCC are our number one instruments of teaching the faith in the families.  They are also the way to live and practice the faith in a well lived daily family set up. It is our duty therefore to remember the call of Vatican II to support the domestic Church. The families must feel that role in their wider Church.  

I have been able to live under this new normal reality with a transformed attitude as a new Bishop, that I should not be afraid of letting the laity in their families transform the Church. Reading the second Vatican II Council, that “the laity have got a very special secular character” (Vatican II: The Church NO.31) and the Synod Document the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful No.15). We are to take care of the Church in a co-responsible way. 

Another reality that I had to deal with was the CHRISM MASS, no Bishop would think of having a chrism Mass without the laity participating in it. It has been a tradition in the Diocese of Aliwal that every year we celebrate the Chrism Mass in a different parish. This was not possible and it did not happen due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The initiation Rite of the RCIA did not happen in this 2020 Liturgical calendar. 

The Diocesan Office of Caritas: Pastoral Care

This office has been very busy with the help of different donors from outside South Africa and within the country. Let me take this opportunity to thank a number of those agents. We wish to thank the following donors for their generous contributions. These donors have assisted the Diocese in mitigating the effects of Covid-19, on families, OVC, HBC and migrants and refugees.

  1. Diocese of Hildesheim for the overall support of the Diocese of Aliwal (Bishop (em) Michael home Diocese 
  2. Misereor for funding Mount Carmel youth Centre. (after the damage on our buildings and funding the youth programmers)
  3. Children for Children project, for the food parcels to about 212 children
  4. Philani Project, who offered also food parcels (Nutrition) 494 Children
  5. SCJ in Poland also donated food parcels (Nutrition) to about 500 OVC children.
  6. Caritas South Africa (Food security and Nutrition Food parcels, Sanitation and Hygiene and winter Blankets and winter Clothes 350)
  7. SACBC AIDS office also donated food parcels to 560 the Children and families who are vulnerable.
  8. Margarent price (Aromatech Flavors) also donated to the Stateless Children Soup and winter blackest and Sanitation to all the parishes in the Diocese. Thermometers for all the parishes in the Diocese were donated.
  9. Justice and Peace SACBC for providing us with the PPE for our HBC and Priests. Sanitation and Hygiene (Face masks), for 300.
  10. Department of Public Works, which takes care of our HBC givers bout 200 of them.

We are facing a huge challenge during this period of Covid-19 in trying to care for the needs of so many of the poor and vulnerable people.  Most of the feeding programs in the Diocese have stopped due to lack of funds. However, your generosity and kindness has kept our home going. Thanks to you all for your contributions, this is a sign of our solidarity with you and those in our Diocese who are suffering. I wish to make you aware that we do not care only for the Catholics, we reach out to everyone in need.

There are a number of Challenges in the office of Caritas Aliwal, the four full time staff are

  1. Volunteers without a Permanent salaries.  
  2. The have no Car to be able to move around the Diocese, most of the time they depend on me.
  3. How to keep the staff to adhere to safety precautions not to expose them to Covid-19.
  4. Not to make the Church look like a social welfare organization.

Kind regards and best wishes in this new normal of Covid-19. Thanks for being there with us in good times and in bad times. These are words from a music Artist called Dionne Warwick, in his track called, “That is what friends are for in Good times and in bad times”. The 100 Days have been days of prayer and growth.

+ Joseph Mary Kizito
Bishop of Aliwal Diocese.