Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tebogo Modiba,seminarian of Tzaneen Diocese,meets Pope Francis

       The arrow is pointing at Tebogo Modiba from Tzaneen Diocese

The end of June and beginning of July, 2013 was a dream come true for the 10 Seminarians and their Spiritual Father, Fr Jerome R Nyathi who found themselves chosen and joining 6000 young people from across the globe for the International Pilgrimage to the Tomb of St Peter, in Rome under the theme ‘I trust in you’. This pilgrimage was initiated by the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who wished that in the year of Faith the Seminarians and Novices and those considering their vocations would do well sharing their faith experiences and thus strengthen their vocations and call. It could rightly be said that; What Benedict XVI begun, Pope Francis completed.

The Seminarians travelled to Rome on the 30th
of June, 2013, a few days before the beginning of the pilgrimage (4 – 7 July), and were able to spend sometime visiting the historic sites of Rome. This was an eye opener and put to life the history that they have read about in their studies.

The procession from the gardens of St Angelo to St Peter’s Basilica marked the beginning of the pilgrimage. The rainbow that was visible to many was a beautiful sight to view, as if the Lord was reiterating his presence and promise amongst his people; ‘I will be with you always’. Furthermore, the drops of rain and the showers that fell on us, as we continued with our procession, were seen as the blessings from above accompanying us into profession of faith and the veneration of the tomb of St Peter. This experience of a lifetime indeed nourished our spirits.

The second day saw a group of Seminarians, Novices and those considering their vocations with their formators being divided into major language groups for Catechesis in different Churches in Rome on the theme of ‘Vocation in the teaching of Vatican II’. The Archbishop of Jersey in the USA brilliantly shared with us the many times in which the Latin words; vocare – to call and vocatio- a call are used in the Vatican II documents. He further articulated how Moses journeyed with God in his calling, thus to say that we too are called to live a life of witness as we journey with God in our vocations as Priests and Religious.

Taking the seminarians through the streets of Rome where there is living history of the Catholic Church brought forth many emotions and feelings. The opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation was yet another blessing that we received on this pilgrimage. One seminarian was heard continuously singing Simeon’s song; Now let your servant depart in peace for my eyes have seen…

The formators had a chance of meeting with Archbishop Fisichella who spoke on: "The importance of formation in our modern age". He emphasized the need to form new evangelizers for this era of New Evangelization.

The climax of the pilgrimage came when we met with the Pope at Paul VI Hall on Saturday, 6th and at the celebration of Holy Mass on the 7th of July.

Just before his arrival at 5pm, we were entertained and inspired by the performances of the Three Singing Priests from Ireland and the Rector in the USA who shared on his contribution on Evangelization on the U-Tube.

The arrival of the Pope aroused great joy in the Hall with clapping and the chanting of "Francesco! Francesco! Francesco! Viva il Papa!!!" Pope Francis engaged the people with his exhortation for seminarians and novices to be joyful in their vocations, for consistency and authenticity in their lives, about the need for a missionary spirit when the confines of the church building is left, in other words the territory outside a church is missionary territory. He also spoke about the need for a holistic formation involving the four pillars: spiritual, intellectual, apostleship and community (human).

What really got the participants stirred up was his comment about the sadness he experiences when he sees seminarians and novices focused on fancy cars and cell phones (material goods). The audience was followed by a Rosary procession through the picturesque Vatican gardens. Mary is indeed our Mother, Model, Exemplar and Ideal.

The pilgrimage closed off on the 7th of July with a Mass in a packed St Peter’s Basilica presided over by Pope. Looking back at this pilgrimage, the universality of the Church gathered in unity around the Holy Father really stood out and affirmed our vocations in the perspective of love, fraternity and unity with the universal church.

The visits to the churches where many different saints are buried encouraged us to, like the saints; give our lives in a continual witness of Christ. The Pope’s homily and angelus address on the 7th rounded off the pilgrimage most appropriately with his reflection on the mission of the 72 disciples. This was a sending out by the Pope, as it were, of all of us to go into the world and proclaim the gospel in both word and deed.

We flew back to South Africa in the evening of the 7th of July having been refreshed and renewed. The experience of the universality of the Church was moving and affirming to our faith. The need to form ‘new evangelizers for new evangelisation’ still sounds to me as a challenge to formators in Seminaries. It was a special moment of intense prayer feeling very much part of the many ‘giants’ and ‘saints’ in the faith. Listening to a humble and down to earth Pope Francis addressing us was indeed a blessing and a dream come true!

On not so happy a note it was felt that this universal gathering simply annexed Africa and Africans. We hope that in future such gatherings will consider involving Africa and Africans not as mere spectators, but as participators.

We are most grateful to the Southern African Bishops’ Conference (SABC) for paying for two seminarians, SECAM who paid for two other seminarians. Many thanks also go to friends, relatives, benefactors and Parishioners who supported and paid for the rest of the seminarians. We are grateful to the Rector Father Molewe Machingoane for taking this invitation up and we are most grateful to the Students at St John Vianney for sacrificing and contributing some pocket money to their fellow seminarians who went to Rome.

We prayed for you all and we continue to pray that the Lord will always bless you abundantly and perhaps more importantly, that you continue knowing Him better, Loving him intimately and Serving him worthily!

Welcome the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary

The Diocese of Tzaneen is blessed with the recent arrival of the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary from East Africa:Sisters Nancy,Mary and Agripina.May the Spirit of God inspire and lead them in their new mission.

Monday, August 19, 2013

At the margins of South Africa, ‘Musina’

Musina is a town on the South African side of the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is a small town, but flooded with people mostly from neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo Malawi etc. as well as people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and India. Already one can imagine what goes on in this little town. On one side of the coin the mixture enables people to learn about different cultures and those with businesses flourish rapidly. On the other side of the coin shocking and frustrating things are happening. I hear about and see a lot of mercilessness, brutality and inhumanity. We all are aware that today women and children are the most vulnerable group in society; as a result they are the victims of these merciless and brutal and inhuman actions.

As a social worker I work closely with some of these victims and survivors at the Catholic Women and Children Transit Shelter in Musina. One can already imagine what kind of cases I have to deal with almost on a daily basis. I work mostly with migrants from Zimbabwe and refugees from the DRC and also a few Ruanda, Burundi, Malawi, Zambia and other neighboring countries.

The majority of these migrants do not have documents, but they get asylum here at Home Affairs. The main push factor is the shortage of employment and economic problems at home; as a result they cross the border illegally looking for green pastures. Unfortunately, many attempt to cross through the Limpopo River where there suffer all kinds of abuse at the hands of a notorious group of lawless gangsters known as ‘Maguma-guma’.  They face rape which sometimes results in pregnancy, brutal beatings, robbery, being stripped naked, being held in captivity and custardy starved for some days. They are sometimes driven around Musina and then told that their money has finished. Apart from these abuses, some of these women and their children face abuse from their own husbands or boyfriends and the children from their fathers such as being beaten to the point of losing their teeth or an eye. Losing consciousness and waking up in hospital.

Refugees from war torn Congo have especially heartrending experiences: some have lost members of their family, while running away they take different directions thereby missing each other. Some arrive at the shelter with open blisters and wounds on their feet as a result of walking for such a long time;  Their clothes are filthy and ragged and they themselves are dirty and starving, with white dry mouths from hunger. It is indeed pathetic to look at these poor women and their children. Few of them women understand a little bit of English, some know few words of Shona – my mother tongue. Their own languages are French and Kiswahili. I am trying to learn French for their sake. So far I can speak just the basics. Body language mostly with my hands and eyes is a great help.

A listening ear and being there is vital in these cases, not forgetting the other crucial role; linking clients with resources. Besides listening to them and counselling I link them with different resources according to their different cases and needs. Thank God, Musina is really blessed with numerous NGOs which cater for different services. Among them are: Thuthuzela Centre which deals mainly with people who have been raped; Lawyers for Human Rights  assist especially those who give birth here to get some kind of documents; Doctors without Borders normally help with those who need medical attention as well as access to ARVs; The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR both work closely with refugees and migrants; The Musina Legal Advice Office (MLAO) with whom I work closely mostly in burial procedures when women lose their babies. I, myself, conduct the funeral service when no pastor is available.

In addition to these NGOs I work also with people from the Legal Resource Centre based in Johannesburg. This group frequently visits the shelter. They take some cases to court such as cases for women who were locked in a ‘Mukuku’ (Shack) for about 3 days by ‘Malaichas’ without food only water. Whilst all these are a great support to my work, of crucial importance is the support of our Catholic Diocese of Tzaneen channeled through Sr Anita O’Leary and Fr Michael Bennett, representing the Bishop, who not only provide some funding and material needs but patiently listen to my sharing and often give words of encouragement. The Provincial Leader of the Holy Cross Sisters and the Sisters in our Holy Cross Province support me in many ways.

These miseries come to the shelter on a daily basis; most of them appear at the gate with sad faces that portray little hope for the future. Within a few days, these same faces begin to slowly lighten up. This gives me inner joy as I realize that my efforts do not go in vain. As a result I indeed find joy in my work. I mostly share my experiences of the day with my Holy Cross community members and I bring all to the Lord in my prayers where I drew strength from Him for the next day:  he was also the friend of the marginalized.
Sister Rudo