Newly Ordained Bishops in Southern Africa grateful for workshop on psycho-spiritual counselling

The first workshop on psycho-spiritual counselling for newly ordained bishops in Southern Africa has been hailed as a success by participants.

In an interview with the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) communication office, newly ordained bishops said they are “grateful” for the opportunity to meet as young bishops to address issues related to their well-being, to express communion with fellow bishops and for the learning opportunity.

“We need to take care of ourselves as well, to be able to take care of others. We are human beings, like all others, and sometimes we forget that, and we just keep on working and working and we expect the same also from other people that we work with… So, what I’m learning here is that we need to take care of ourselves,” said the Vicar Apostolic of Ingwavuma Bishop Vusumuzi Francis Mazibuko OMI.

Organised by the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA), the five-day workshop under the theme Enhancing psycho-spiritual counselling in the IMBISA region held at Padre Pio Retreat Centre in Pretoria, saw the participation of newly ordained bishops from the six episcopal conferences that constitute the regional body.

Using the conversation in the spirit methodology, the newly ordained bishops reflected on psychosocial care in consecrated life, the importance of mental health among priests, trauma in ministry, as well as spiritual well-being and self-care.

“We began by looking at the self, who we are in terms of our relationship with the kind of the ministry that we do and with particular attention to the negative things that can affect us ministerially, one of the things was to guard against issues like burnout, overwork, stress and exhaustion… to identify fatigue and to find support through structures that are available,” said the Auxiliary Bishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Pretoria Bishop Masilo John Selemela.

Catholic mental health ministry is very important in “building communities”

The mental health ministry is very important in “terms of building communities” and “restoring peace in families” as well as in society at large said Bishop Selemela.

“Mental health is an issue that we’ve got to pay attention to pastorally, not only when it regards to priests, but also even lay people, a lot of people face quite a lot of mental issues which have resulted in family conflicts and violence,” he added.

For Bishop Selemela the racial segregation experienced during the apartheid regime in South Africa is also a contributing factor to mental health.

He said the “wounded historical self or development where one has grown through the process of apartheid and dealing with a lot of many issues that have to do with self-acceptance, that have to do with feeling discriminated against,” has led some “into areas of alcohol abuse… and depression.”

“I feel this ministry is very important in terms of building communities, restoring peace in our own families, but also ensuring that society and also the church produces priests that are balanced, aware of themselves, who do not exert lots and lots of harm and violence and any other form of psychological harm on any other human person,” he added.

In 2022 the Catholic Health Care Association of Southern Africa  (CATHCA) launched the Catholic health care ministry at parish level in Johannesburg Archdiocese followed by Klerksdorp, Witbank, Bethlehem Dioceses and most recently in Pretoria Archdiocese.

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