Bishop Sipuka on the late Fr. Nolan: “A beacon of hope for the poor and oppressed”

A beacon of hope for the poor and oppressed

In his letter of condolences to the Provincial Superior of the Dominicans, Fr. Myke Mwale, the President of the SACBC, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, said the news of the passing on of Fr. Albert Nolan OP reached them with a mix of joyful and sad feelings.

He said joyful because Fr. Nolan, in his lifetime, with his clarity of thought driven by compassion, was a beacon of hope for the poor and oppressed in a world and a country that is still characterised by gross inequality and injustice. Bishop Sipuka said Fr. Nolan’s example of life made the poor feel at home with him.

In his book Jesus before Christianity Fr. Nolan said “most historical writing, tells us only what the “important” people were doing and saying: the kings and princes, the powerful and the wealthy, the oppressors and their armies. The true history of humankind is the history of suffering — something about which one finds precious little in history books. What about all those who suffered on account of the glorious battles of history? What about the daily sufferings of those who were oppressed when this or that king began his glorious reign?”

Consolation, challenge, and motivation

The President of the SACBC said through his writings, workshops and teachings, Fr. Nolan articulated the meaning of the good news of the Gospel to the poor as clearly expressed by the titles of some of his books, “God in South Africa, Jesus today, Hope in age despair”, to mention a few.  Bishop Sipuka noted that Nolan’s example of life and lucid naming of what is wrong with the prevailing systems of politics and economy and a call for Gospel-inspired alternative ways was a consolation for the poor, a challenge for the leaders and a motivation for the Church to remain steadfast in its preferential option for the poor. 

In February 1990 Fr. Nolan wrote in his article “Taking Sides” that, “It is not possible to ‘balance’ or ‘reconcile’ the needs of the 40 million people who die from starvation each year in the Third World with the needs of arms manufacturers and military strategists or the demands of a few wealthy nations to be able to destroy any potential attacker many times over. Decisions have to be made; one has to ‘take sides.’”

Striving for common humanity and common good

According to Bishop Sipuka, Fr. Albert Nolan stands in the league of Beyers Naude, Joe Slovo, Trevor Huddleston, Helen Joseph and many other white South Africans who transcended social conditioning and racial prejudice, striving for common humanity and common good. He says Nolan “took a position against the apartheid system and the continuing exclusive economic system when it was not popular to do so.” 

“Whether we’re in Europe or South Africa, whether we’re black or white, whether we were brought up in a middle class or working class, we can be on the same side against oppression, well aware of our differences. We can work together and struggle together against our common enemy, the unjust policies and systems, without ever treating one another as inferior or superior, but having a mutual respect for one another”, said Albert Nolan in “Spiritual Growth & the Option for the Poor”

Impoverished without his continued inspiration

Remarking on the loss of Fr. Nolan, Bishop Sipuka said “We are poorer without his continued inspiration to work for a just and equitable world, and so his passing on brings sadness. The Bishop extended condolences to Fr. Nolan’s family, close friends and the family of the Dominicans that he chose as an expression of his Christian vocation. “May you all be consoled.” 

In Spiritual Growth & the Option for the Poor Fr Nolan also said, “We need to understand that we and the church are all going through a process, spiritual development, a growth and a struggle. We’re in it together and we need to help and support one another in it. We in South Africa and the church in general, are going through this process. Let us help it, encourage it, struggle with it in ourselves, because today it is the only way we are going to come closer to God and be saved.”

May we not be complacent

“We remain grateful for the memory of his life and the record of his prophetic thoughts through his books to transform this world into God’s Kingdom. May we not be complacent and may we not give in to blind loyalty at the expense of justice,” remarked Bishop Sipuka. In addition to that he said as Fr. Nolan approaches the gates of heaven, “we are consoled that will not be found wanting because he saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil. Indeed he confronted evil sometimes at his personal cost. May the Grace of God and his humble attempt to stand for justice win him God’s favour to be considered for eternal rest with Him.”

Requiem and Funeral Mass

The Requiem mass and body viewing will be on Wednesday 19 October 2022 at Our Lady of Mercy in Springs at 5 pm. The Funeral mass will be on the Friday 21 October 2022 at Our Lady of Mercy in Springs at 12noon, followed by the interment of his ashes at Marian house in Boksburg.



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