OMI Update

Vol. 2 Issue 1         Feb/March 2005

Special Edition: New Provincial Council

New Provincial Council
From Left to Right: Michael Foley, Vusi Mazibuko, Barry Wood, Stuart Bate (Provincial), Vusi Phenyane, Thomas Zondi and Sylvester David
(Cedara 14 February 2005).

Fr Stuart Bate’s Installation

Speaking at the conclusion of his Installation Mass on February 14, Fr Stuart BATE said:

GRATITUDE

We do not walk alone in this world. Umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu. We are the people of God the body of Christ. It is in our relatedness to God and one another we draw our strength. That is why I would like to thank everyone who has been supportive at this time of difficult transition for me. In fact more than 100 messages have been received either in person, by phone, by email or other forms. I am overwhelmed and affirmed by these messages and by your presence here today.

This has been the most difficult obedience of the four I have received in my 23 years as an Oblate Priest. When I was asked to accept the appointment I asked for a number of days to discern God's will for me and I would like to publicly thank those who helped me during that time. I believe this is a time of great change, discernment is the spiritual gift we most need right now.

DARING AND VISION

In a particular way I thank the outgoing Provincial and his team. They achieved a lot. A few things that come to mind include:

If the new leadership team can achieve half of what the outgoing team has done I think we will have done a good job.

OUR TRADITION

This will be an administration rooted in our tradition as the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. Our roots are here and cutting roots is neither Catholic Tradition nor African Tradition. We will not do that.

At the same time we must continue to grow and seek new fields for mission. We will never lose sight of the fact that the Vicariate of Natal, initially staffed by five brave Oblates, struggled for many years with little to show for their efforts, eventually led to a powerful missionary outpouring of the Spirit in Southern Africa.

The original Vicariate confided to ALLARD and his companions was huge. It now comprises as many as 42 separate dioceses: all four dioceses of Lesotho, 23 of the 29 dioceses of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland and through the ‘mission “Sui Iuris” of Zambese’ erected in 1879 in territory taken from the Vicariate, all eight dioceses of Zimbabwe and all seven dioceses of Zambia. We have handed over almost all of the particular churches we founded. Some were created from our mission outposts and beyond and given to other workers. Only five of these 42 dioceses are now headed by Oblates: 2 in Lesotho, 2 in South Africa, and 1 in Zambia.

GOD’S WILL

We should never be disheartened when our initial efforts seem to produce little. If we are doing God’s work we will meet the cross but also the resurrection. And our own history bears that out. We must never forget it. What is important is to discern God's will for us. Discernment is the Spiritual gift we most need right now.

This is a new time and a new time calls for a change in vision and priority and we must take the task of reading the signs of our times in a serious way. Indeed a major priority indicated in our Immense Hope project was To have a new vision for missionary initiatives.

For this reason our examination of new missionary strategies is a continuation of the work of the previous team and other Oblates who went before them.

For example I am amazed when I look back at what Oblate leaders discerned in the 1970s in the midst of our country's crisis. The documents Oblate Orientations, Oblate Priorities and Oblate Formation coming from those days show this presence when we look back from today's world.

We must strive for the same.

My vision has been outlined in a number of places, like the 150th Anniversary sermon, the Address given to the last Archdiocese of Durban Synod and that given to the Oblate Formation Congress last year. I will not repeat those matters here except to indicate some important signs.

CLEAR SIGNS

One clear sign is that this is an important time of transition from mission church to local church. This means we must build self-sustaining Christian communities who find their resources from within the country. We must also respond to the new poor and abandoned today particularly youth, people with HIV/AIDS and those in informal settlements. But this must be done without abandoning our historical mission presence.

The large number of men who are joining us throughout Southern Africa is a clear sign that God has work for us to do. We must discern that correctly otherwise these gifts will be taken away.

Another sign for me is the importance of a Marian spirituality for our time. We are Oblates of Mary Immaculate and this group with a specific Marian spirituality is being blessed right now. Besides that South Africa has been confided to Our Lady under the title of that most difficult of dogmas for theologians, the Assumption.

Another sign is the continual message from the Popes since Pope John XXIII that this is a new springtime for Christianity. This has become almost an insistent mantra with the current Holy Father. This is clearly a call for new forms of missionary activity. We must respond to this challenge.

CHALLENGES

A few other challenges emerging from the immense Hope Project were:

LAITY

Regarding this latter matter I am pleased to see a good number of lay people present at our celebration today and I hope you will continue your links with us and commit yourselves to be part of our resource pool for the great mission the Lord has given us.

MAJOR PRIORITIES

Indeed resource management will have to be one of our major priorities. The resources we have for the mission are spiritual in the gifts we receive from God and in the prayers we receive for the ongoing success of our work. They are also human in those men who commit themselves for life to this mission, as Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and those others who give of their time and talents to cooperate with us. They are also financial in that people recognise the value of what we do and are prepared to provide material support to enable us to achieve the goals the Lord sets before us.

FINANCE

This financial support must increasingly be found from within our own country and the people who live here. Oblate Mission is clearly a mission to the poor and whilst there are many ways of being poor, there is no doubt we tend to go to places where material resources are almost non-existent. It is our charism to do that but it is often a difficult job. It is also our tradition to hand over parishes, institutions, properties and dioceses once they are self supporting but this means we are always left with those that have nothing or very little. We built up many of the local churches of Southern Africa and many of their resources of people, land and institutions but we have very little to show for it materially. Indeed our financial status remains precarious. We are going to have to spend time working on this problem. The previous team has already decided to appoint a fundraiser for our work. And this is really needed. The situation in Zimbabwe provides a startling example when the mission superior told me yesterday that there is not enough money to buy food for the Fathers right now. Here is a big problem. And it is not the only one. These matters will have to be urgently addressed.

NEW EFFORT

We faced a similar situation of resource shortage in the 1970s during the days of the vocations’ crisis. No one was joining us and our human resources were being seriously depleted. Thanks to the efforts of the leadership of that time this problem was addressed in prayer and spiritual discernment and the result is clear if you look around at the large numbers of men who are joining us. A new effort is required to focus on this new problem of resources in our congregation, and it is our wish to follow the previous team in meeting this challenge head-on.

SUFFERING AND STRUGGLE

Finally I want to say that I have seen the power of God working in those who believe in him and follow his call. My own life has been one of journey through many places like Jesus went to. Like all of you I have been in the desert and met Satan, I have experienced the power of God calling me to service and followed him. I have seen many people transformed by the power of the gospel through my own ministry, to change their lives, to be healed, to commit themselves to him and much more. I have experienced suffering and struggle and at times the cross in my own life. I have been Judas, selling him for 30 pieces of Silver and Peter denying him before people when times were hard. But I firmly believe God has a plan for this world (Eph 3:11), that he calls each of us to commit to that plan and then to do our best as men and women, weak and strong, faithful and fearful. God is working let us join him in the task.


GREETINGS RECEIVED

Here we give a list of the many people and institutions congratulating Stuart on his appointment as Provincial. Those from Oblates in the Natal Province are not acknowledged here as there are too many:


First Missionary Journey

SIYABONGA DUBE

Siyabonga will be ordained a Priest on 27 April after which he will join the Zimbabwe mission. The Province decided to send him to Zimbabwe for the few weeks before his ordination to help in the Prenovitiate programme and get acclimatized to his new mission, his first as an Oblate Priest. He recounts the story of his first missionary journey in the following words.

IMMIGRATION OFFICES

I arrived in Zimbabwe on the 15 February 2005. Everything looked well. Everybody at the airport wished me a good stay. The following day Fr Eugene phoned to say there was a letter for me from the immigration offices. I wondered what was wrong. I thought it was not serious so I didn’t pay any more attention to it. The following day I received another phone call. They said I had to rush to the immigration offices.

PRIESTS AND JOURNALISTS

I finally found my way to the offices. I was very welcome. I was directed to one of the offices and when I went in was told to close the door and take a seat. I was told they knew I was a priest and they were Christians. They told me they had been given a directive not to allow any Catholic Priest or journalist permission to enter the country. They said they wouldn’t allow me to stay long, because of my association with Archbishop Ncube and Archbishop Tutu from South Africa. Then they said they would give me ten days and warned me to leave before 28 February. They said all this because the country was going to have elections. However they said it would be fine if I came back after the elections. I said to them it sounded like the Government was insecure and they replied they were merely following orders from above.

DEPARTURE

I was given a letter called “notification of Visitor” and was told I had to hand it at the airport on my day of departure. I left Zimbabwe on 27 February 2005. I was very sad to leave and I hope to go back after the elections.
(Edited)


Not only in Zimbabwe!

ZABA MBANJWA

A European missionary journey of Zaba and others on the Mazenod Programme in Aix, France. It is a long journey by rail from Aix-en-Provence near the southeastern corner of France to Lourdes in the southwest. Four hours to Toulouse and then change trains to take the local line heading south west to Irun and passing through Tarbes and Lourdes on the way. Irun is on the Spanish border and the line is frequented by migrants, legal and illegal, passing from one country to the other.

PILGRIMAGE

The members of the English language “De Mazenod Experience” were making their pilgrimage, setting out on the morning of February 16 from Marseilles. They arrived punctually in Toulouse and there they changed trains to continue the journey, a further one and a half hours to the shrine of Our Lady. The train was not crowded and so they scattered themselves over the length of a carriage to relax and make up for sleep lost in the early morning.

MIXED GROUP

Nobody noticed the plainclothes policewoman who entered the same carriage and took her window seat close to the rear. What may have crossed her mind we shall probably never know but here she was in the midst of a very mixed group of men obviously from a wide variety of countries and coloured accordingly and speaking with a variety of English accents. They were not dressed as clerics. Could she have thought she had happened on a gang of person traffickers? Could she have thought there was hope for promotion by bringing the leaders to justice?

As the train sped on into the snowy blizzard that filled the Garonne valley on the February afternoon, her mobile phone came to life.

NO COMPROMISE

As if from nowhere, four able bodied plainclothes policemen appeared to check identity documents. Unfortunately, some of the group had left their documents safely locked in their rooms in Aix-en-Provence, but that was now more than three hundred miles to the east and getting farther by the minute. Various solutions were brought forward and suggested, but at each suggestion the policemen made eye contact with their lady colleague in the rear of the carriage. She was obviously the one in charge and was in no mood for compromise. We would all have to get off at Tarbes station and have the situation checked out.

EVIDENCE

Get off we did and were unceremoniously loaded with our luggage into a “paddy wagon” to be transported to the police station on the other side of town. We were escorted to the third floor and there in an attic office a computer printer was inveigled to spew out written evidence that, in fact, visas had been issued in Lesotho, Australia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, South Africa or elsewhere for a ninety day presence in France, giving a date of issue and expiry of each one. One or other name gave some spelling problems but that too was eventually ironed out. “Big Brother”, proved to be extremely efficient and, at least on this occasion, helpful.

HAPPY ENDING

We were now taken in a fleet of unmarked police cars back to the railway station to continue our journey to Lourdes where the warm reception of our Oblate brothers did much more than smooth whatever feathers may have been ruffled by the event.


Special Dates

MARCH
09 Michael KUNENE Birthday
16 Sean CONNALLY Ordination
19 Vaughan FAYLE Ordination
20 Phillip NKUNA Birthday
22 Noel PETERS Birthday
30 Henry NIEMANN Ordination
31 Mxolisi NGCOBO Birthday
APRIL
01 Donovan WHEATLEY Birthday
03 Vaughan FAYLE Birthday
07 Isidore FREOUX Priesthood
10 Ben GUMEDE Priesthood
23 Paddy MCMAHON Priesthood
24 Mhlanganisi DLAMINI Priesthood
28 Eric BOULLE Priesthood
Errors and omissions contact the Provincial


Prayerful Sympathy

DESAI FAMILY

Syd, former manager of the Archdiocesan printers (Unity) died recently. He was a good friend to many of us and always helpful in regard to our printing. May he rest in peace.

Copyright © 2005 Oblate Province of Natal