Vol. 2 Issue 4         September 2005

Sections in this issue of the OMI Update;

Top news

1. New Life: Fr Barry Clancy, OMI RIP

Father Clancy died on 20 July 2005 whilst on holiday in Ireland. He was buried in Northern Ireland after a funeral Mass there. A memorial Mass for him was celebrated at St John's, Estcourt on 28 July.

Fr. Barry arrived in the Natal province on 27 September 1949, three months after his Priestly ordination. He served in this province all his priestly life. After a year spent learning some basic Zulu (and also how to drive), he worked in a number of places as assistant priest, especially Stanger (1950-1955) and Newcastle (1955-1959). His first appointment as parish priest was at Inchanga (1959-1966). This was followed by appointments as Parish Priest at Elandskop (1966-1980), Estcourt (1980-1994), Margate (1994-2000) and finally, Mooi River until his retirement in 2003.

He is remembered as a dedicated missionary to the Zulu people and a caring and loving soul who was much appreciated by the people of all races he served. The principle focus of his missionary spirituality was to be a missionary to the poor and only with reluctance would he accept other ministries. He was responsible for building a number of churches in the rural areas.

In his homily at the memorial Mass, the provincial remembered an incident which occurred whilst he was parish Priest at Inchanga in the 1980s some twenty years after Fr Barry served there. 'I remember one day going to an outstation and visiting a family there. When I went into their lounge I saw a big black and white photo of a very young, but already bald, Fr Barry on one wall. I asked them why they kept it there and they said he had been such an important man in their lives that they always liked to be reminded of him.Such was his influence on the people he served.

He occupied a number of leadership positions in the church including being a diocesan councillor for number of years and Oblate Provincial councillor for six years. He was also Superior of the Pietermaritzburg District of the Oblates from 1977-1986. He served as bursar of the Oblate Scholasticate at Cedara and the students of that time talk about his kindness and listening ear! He was even acting Novice master for six weeks!

All this is evidence of the great contribution made in many different areas by someone who was seen as a man of faith, a spiritual leader and a happy, friendly and balanced person.

He found the inactivity and frailty of his latter months to have been a great trial, but he was fortunate to have such a loving and caring family to provide him with many things we in the Province could not. The Natal Oblates thank his family for that.

Father Clancy passes on to the hope of new life at a time when we in the Natal province are beginning a new ministry for young people, the most abandoned in our society today. Fr Barry had been very good with young people throughout his life. As we in the Natal Province say farewell to him, we ask him to continue praying for us and we ask a special intention from him who will suddenly be close to our saviour, for the success of this new endeavour. In this way the work of Jesus goes on in the world until all are called in a great harvest of something beautiful for God.

2. New Beginnings:

Priestly Ordination, Fr Donovan Wheatley OMI
On Saturday 30 July, Donovan Wheatley was ordained priest at St Anne's Sydenham, his home parish. He is the 10th vocation from that Parish. The celebration was lively and vibrant while maintaining the reverence and solemnity of the occasion.

During his homily, His Eminence Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, reminded us that a priest is called by God though the Church for the service of the people of God. His primary concern is the spiritual needs of the people of God. (See the Natal Webpage at www.omi.org for pictures and story.)

Fr. Donovan has been assigned to the Zimbabwe Mission of the Province of Natal. He has been appointed to the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Bulawayo to assist the Parish priest Fr Claude Lukuba, OMI.

3. New Beginnings:

Priestly Ordination, Fr Mxolisi Ngcobo OMI
On Saturday 13 August Mxolisi Ngcobo was ordained priest by Cardinal Napier at Umndeni Oyingcwele, Mpumalanga, Hammarsdale, his home parish. He is the first priest to be ordained from this parish, developed by Fr. Sean Connally from an outstation of Inchanga Mission. The celebration was filled with life and good singing - a tribute to Father Ngcobo's father, who for many years was the choir master of a very successful parish choir. There was also some interesting inculturation, including a wonderful oral history of the development of the Catholic Church in the ancestral home of Fr Ngcobo. (See the Natal Webpage at www.omi.org for pictures and story).

Fr. Mxolisi has been assigned to the Province of Natal and is currently awaiting assignment.

4. New Beginnings:

First Vows, Bro Shane Layden, OMI
Bro Shane Layden made his first vows in the USA. He writes as follows:
Well, the novitiate experience has come to an end! On the 1 August, 2005, six of us novices professed our first vows during a Mass celebrated at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, USA. It was a beautiful day and many of the people we had journeyed with through the year-long novitiate were there to celebrate our profession. We professed the vows of Chastity, Poverty, Obedience and the extra vow of Perseverance which we, as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, profess to help keep us going.

After the Mass, we all enjoyed a lunch and then I could tell that the novitiate was truly over as we started saying our goodbyes. Fr Syl Lewans, one of our three awesome novitiate formators, headed off back to Canada. Then David Munoz, one of us six novices, left with his family for a short break in their home state of Florida. By lunch time the next day, all of us novices had left the novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois. Emmanuel, Ricky, Jerome and Sydney will continue their formation in San Antonio, Texas. I am back in England with my family for a month's vacation, and then I will be heading to South Africa where I will be continuing my formation at St Joseph's Scholasticate, Cedara, KwaZulu-Natal.

5. New Beginnings:
Oblate Youth Ministry
On July 13, 26 Oblates attended a very successful preliminary gathering to discuss the establishment of an Oblate Youth Ministry in the Province. All were involved in youth ministry in their parishes or institutions, and the morning was given over to a presentation of the various initiatives both, successful and struggling, already underway. The Provincial affirmed that 'Youth are the signs of the most poor and abandoned in the society. Working with the youth is an area where Oblates are called to give particular attention in the light of the Oblate charism.

A number of suggestions were made regarding where our youth ministry could focus. They included:

It was also decided that a study be conducted on "the needs of youth today". The situations of various particular contexts will have differing needs and thus the relevance of the programme has to extend across the various contexts. Other suggestions included developing one or more specific centres for Oblate youth ministry and some suggestions for places were made.

The group was clearly aware that this initiative would need time, resources, planning and strategising in order to do it well. Three recommendations to the provincial Council were made in this regard.

  1. That a Youth Committee for the province be established to drive this initiative.
    A consultation of those present surfaced strong support for seven Oblates to make up this committee.

  2. That steps be taken to release two Oblates for this ministry as soon as possible.
    A consultation of those present surfaced strong support for three Oblates.

  3. That steps be taken to look for finances for this important ministry.
    The consultation results will be discussed at the Provincial Council. We pray that these beginnings will be mustard seeds that grow into something great to evangelise our young people.

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Provincial's Notes

1. The Last French Oblate in South Africa

Isidore Freoux was the last French Oblate to work in Natal. His death was the end of an era which began in 1852 when the founder sent five Oblates to establish a mission here. These words from the Provincial's sermon at his funeral mark this historic event:
In many ways Isidore is our ancestor. He has gone before us marked with the sign of faith and we are called to learn from his witness. His was the witness of an ordinary man the Lord called, who did his best to respond to that call and who remained faithful to the end. He persevered. And in that way he becomes an ancestor of faith for those of us who remain. But he is a special ancestor in a particular way because he belongs to a very special group of men who built the Church in this part of God's vineyard.

Indeed he is the last of a group of our Oblate ancestors who brought the life of Christ to this part of the world.

He was the last French Oblate missionary in Natal and indeed, as far as I know, in Southern Africa.

He was the last of a long line that began in 1852 when Bishop Allard arrived with four Oblates to begin the work of evangelisation and establish the vicariate of Natal. Among them was Father Sabon, founder of the Church in Durban. They were followed in 1854 by the second group, which included Father Justin Barret, founder of the Church in Pietermaritzburg and Father Joseph Gerard, who became Blessed Gerard, apostle to the Basotho. In the third party, which arrived in 1856, was Father Bompart who laboured most of his life in establishing the Church in the Free State.

Through 150 years, these French Oblates laboured so that today the vicariate they established comprises some 42 dioceses throughout Southern Africa.

So today, as the French connection ends, history is created in the life of the Natal province.

And as we thank Fr Isidore for his life, work and witness, we remember all of them.

Indeed they are a holy assembly, which gathers today to welcome him among them on that holy mountain.

And they look at us and pray that God will give us the courage and perseverance to continue the work they began. We must continue the great mission of God which Christ has confided to the Church and which has been passed on to us through our congregation.

Today, then, is a celebration of life! We celebrate the life of Father Isidore Freoux and we celebrate the life of all of those French Oblates who worked amongst us through these past 153 years.

It is a celebration of the life in all of these 42 Churches which vibrate with the pulse of faith.

And it will be a celebration of the continuation of God's mission, when later we commission two new Oblate Priests who join the ranks of the Natal Province, as they receive their first obediences from Father General.

This is the life that is Jesus. It is a life which enlivens all those who live by faith in the power of God to transform our world and who commit themselves to journey upon this way.

Yes, there are difficulties. Yes, there will be trials and tribulations as we journey along the way. That is also a truth of our life as it was of the life of Jesus and of the life of all these French Oblates who journeyed along the way here to bring the truth of God's life to our people.

But God works miracles. He multiplies our efforts by the power of his Spirit so that our small efforts done in faith are reformed into a great harvest for the kingdom.

This is what He did with all these French Oblates working through 150 years to establish and build up the local churches of Southern Africa.

But how many were they in all? How many French Oblates came to Natal during these one hundred and fifty three years?

My first guess before doing the research was about 500. When I thought about it a bit more I revised my 'guestimate' to perhaps 300.

When I found the figures in Joy Brain's book, "Catholics in Natal", I was very surprised.

For they were less than 200
Less indeed than even 150

In fact, from 1852 until today about 120 French Oblates worked in the Natal Province.

About 120 men have been sent from France to mission here.

And here too we see the power of the Spirit of God to transform a human work of faith. For look how much 120 can do, and see how we sometimes complain about our own problems and difficulties.

I really thought it would have been more.

But they were enough. And by their perseverance and life commitment to us, they give glory to God for their missionary activity done by frail weak human beings.

They inspire us to not be afraid when we see how much we have to do today.

Trust in God always; trust also in me. There are many dwelling-places in my Father's house; if it were not so I should have told you; for I am going there on purpose to prepare a place for you.

Jesus speaks these words to Isidore today. He has spoken them to all the French Oblates who worked here to establish this church and whose line ends today.

He speaks to all who remain to commit themselves to the great mission to evangelise all nations and bring good news to those who suffer, are sick, oppressed and abandoned today.

May Isidore rest in peace and may we rest assured that the power of God is with us as the way the truth and the life for us who remain.

2. Zimbabwe Visitation

I spent a week in Zimbabwe from 17-24 August conducting an official visitation. I really enjoyed my time there and was inspired by our men serving there. Here are some thoughts. This mission has produced great fruits over the past 20 years since its foundation in 1983. We should be proud of what has been achieved. Sometimes the mission is seen as not having done very much but in fact a lot has been achieved. Oblates have persevered here in tough conditions. The socio-political environment is very difficult and the economy has now moved into meltdown.

We remain very close to the people everywhere we work. They like what we do and how we relate to them. We are ordinary, we are not chiefs and we are ready to go to difficult places. Oblates are very hard working. They provide an essential liturgical ministry bringing the gospel and the sacraments to the people they serve. They have improved the churches and outstations where we work. More people are coming to church in some places and the faith is getting rooted amongst the people. Someone remarked how people are now calling the priests when someone is dying - something that was done before.

Oblates have involved people in their work: in garden projects, in visiting the sick and in buildings. There is a move towards developing more sustainable communities with both Mazenod and St Luke's developing garden projects which supply food for the community. There are some interesting beginnings of inculturation, like cleansing houses after death, and encouraging attempts at liturgical inculturation in dance and song.

For our size we get a lot of vocations and it is clear that the Lord has something special for us. Our Marian vocation is attractive to people.

"Our come and see" experience is good. What people especially like, is how we live together as one in the Pre-Novitiate: Priests and pre-novices and everyone is free to speak. We get vocations from all over the place including many from outside the Bulawayo Archdiocese where we work. This is a sign that we are called to expand throughout Zimbabwe in the future, and not just be in this diocese. It must be remembered the Oblate mission of Zimbabwe includes the whole territory of the country.

We provide a counter witness to the great desire of many young people to move to South Africa in order to bring money home. This is expressed in the saying 'injiva ifikile eGoli zikhupha amarandi' (The rich man has arrived from South Africa; now we have Rands). But many Oblates in Zimbabwe are South Africans who move from RSA to live and minister in Zimbabwe, earning and receiving nothing except the grace of God. This is a very counter cultural and a good witness to the power of the Spirit working in our men. Further, we are not European or American missionaries but African missionaries. This is very unusual and attractive for people.

There are however many difficulties. Some of these result mainly from the problematic socio-political context of the country and the effects of this on the life of our men. These effects manifest in a number of ways. There are difficulties with relaxation and recreation; there are problems of loneliness as it's not easy to move because of the petrol shortage. There may be problems of burnout that we will have to consider. Then there is the continual financial problem of the mission. All of the communities spoke about financial problems and the inability to achieve their hopes and goals because of finances. Most seem aware that the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. We have to find out how to cope with that.

But we bring many resources. These include our enthusiasm and our belief in the importance of this mission for the country and for the Oblates. They also manifest in our closeness to the people we work with and the joy and solidarity amongst the members of the mission. They are also seen in our commitment to community life and our ability to share together, pray together and witness to our vows and religious commitment together, despite the difficulties. The Oblates who serve in Zimbabwe are of a very high quality. There are no passengers. So the future is bright, as the Zimbabweans seem to be committed and ready to get involved. From next year Zimbabwean Oblates who have completed initial formation will start to move into the mission as a new future begins.

3. Financial Problems

You will remember from our July newsletter that the new Provincial Council has identified finances as our third most important priority for the next three years. This is because our current expenses are far higher than our income and cannot be sustained.

a. Our expenses: an unsustainable burden
Our expenses have risen to become an unsustainable burden because of two main changes since 1998. The first relates to the accepting of the Zimbabwe mission as a mission of the Natal province. You are all aware of the economic meltdown in that country and this has caused enormous pressure on our resources. We would be completely unable to sustain the needs of this fast growing mission, without the support of the Oblate General administration and other Oblate units. Even with this support the financial resources required continues to be a drain on the Province. The second reason for a large increase in expenses is the surge in vocations in the Natal province. This year we have 50 in Prenovitiates, Novitiates and Scholasticate from both Zimbabwe and KwaZulu-Natal. Next year we predict a rise to 60. This is great news for our future but creates an enormous financial strain resulting in our assets being depleted. Once more we receive great help from Oblates throughout the world to share this burden.

b. Our assets under threat
The little property we own is coming under increasing threat from land claims and the demands of restructuring. Inchanga now falls within the Durban Metro, and could become an expensive liability if services have to be provided in accordance with municipal laws. There are a number of land claims on some of our properties. Besides this, we are now required to pay rates on our properties and this is going to be an additional burden.

It is sad that after 150 years of presence the founders of the Church here should find themselves in such a state. There is no doubt that Oblates have laboured strongly to build up the Church here. Indeed much of what has been created has been done by Oblates. In our generosity we have rightly handed over the fruits of our labours so that the local Church should flourish. But now we have to look to our own survival.

And this is an urgent matter that concerns all of us!

c. The way forward
I want every Oblate to begin to examine the question of the support you are giving to the Province. We have been assigned by obedience to this province and the province comprises all of us. Each of us is required to ensure the well-being and future of the congregation in the Province. It is not the job of the Provincial or the Provincial Council or the Provincial Treasurer but of all of us. Look over the last five or ten years and examine how much have you received and how much have you given. If your conscience tells you that you should be doing more to ensure the financial stability of the Province, then please act on your conscience, and look for ways to make a just and generous contribution.

It is clear that some of us work in very poor areas where finance is a daily problem, whereas for others it is easy to give. This is the issue of the widow's mite. But please remember that the widow gave the mite.

To deal with this problem in a more structured way I have proposed the establishment of two new committees. Both have been approved by the Provincial council. The first is a Finance Committee for the province which will help the Provincial Treasurer in his work of examining and responding to our financial concerns. The second is a Fund Raising Committee which will look for ways to begin effective fund raising in order for us to become sustainable once more. The names of the members of these committees appear in the obediences and appointments section.

On the recommendation of a fundraising organisation that will be helping us, I am sending three Oblates to a conference on development and fundraising in New Orleans in October. There they will learn some much needed skills. They are Peter FOLEY, Mbheki NGCOBO and Merlin INCE.

Please begin looking for ways in which you can help to improve our finances and be bold in asking for help. 'Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find' (Matt 7:7).

4. Email changes

Please note the new email addresses at the Natal Provincial office and adjust your address books/email lists accordingly.

Provincial (Fr Stuart Bate):scbate@omi.org.za
Provincial Treasurer (Fr Peter Foley): pjfoley@omi.org.za
Administrative Secretary (Patricia Maycock)admin@omi.org.za
Financial secretary (Carmel Rothman)natalfinance@omi.org.za
The old email addresses will also continue to function for some time.

5. New optional entrance to Provincial house for private visits

The changes in the Provincial House are coming to an end and we now have a place where we can better serve the province with offices and work areas for all our staff. This has meant that the provincial's personal private space is now reduced to a small flat upstairs, but I am prepared to accept this sacrifice. For most of you the changes will not change anything. You can still come in though the Sabon House gate and the glass door into the Sabon House dining room on the ground floor of the Provincial house. However there are some changes that will be helpful for those who wish to see the Provincial privately or confidentially.

a. The official entrance to the Provincial House is now at 39 Pioneer Road, which many will remember as the old street entrance. We have rehabilitated the door and you can come to see us through that.

b. There is a new parking and vehicle entrance facility on Payne Road where the Provincial house garage is situated. Merely ring the bell there next to the new palisade gate. The door will open and you can leave your vehicle there and walk around to our new (old) front door.

6 Obediences and Appointments

Fr Donovan Wheatley
Father Donovan Wheatley has been given obedience to the Province of Natal, Mission of Zimbabwe by Father General. He was commissioned during his ordination Mass, after communion when the people present were informed and a prayer of commissioning was said over him by the Provincial. He is now in Bulawayo assisting Fr Claude Lukuba at Our Lady of Lourdes parish.

Fr Mxolisi Ngcobo
Father Mxolisi Ngcobo has been given obedience to the Province of Natal by Father General. He was commissioned during his ordination Mass after communion when the people present were informed and a prayer of commissioning was said over him. He is currently helping at Umndeni Oyingcwele prior to receiving his first appointment. We welcome these two Priests into the Province and praise God for the gifts he has given them.

Finance Committee
Peter FOLEY (Chair)
Sylvester DAVID
Mhlanganisi DLAMINI
Mduduzi MCHUNU

Fundraising Committee
Peter FOLEY (Chair)
Merlin INCE
Nhlanhla NKOSI

Youth Ministry Committee
Vusie PHENYANE (Convener)
Siyabonga DUBE
Merlin INCE
Callistus KHATHALI
Mduduzi MCHUNU
Mxolisi NGCOBO

From the Provincial Treasurer

1.Please note that Monday mornings, from 9.00am - 12.00pm, will in future be set aside for specifically Oblate requests. We will then process these on Tuesday morning.

We ask you to adhere strictly to this time-frame.

This means if you realise something after the Monday time, we will only attend to the matter the following Tuesday. So plan your requests.

2.Be aware that traffic fines are avoidable expenses and in future we might have to make you pay for them out of your own pocket. Obviously we are speaking of cars registered at Pioneer Road.

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Provincial's Diary

1-4 Inter Provincial Conference, Tre Fontane, Mariannhill.
5 TRIPAC Meeting, (Restructuring of South African OMI Provinces) Johannesburg.
6 Provincial Council Meeting, Provincial House, Durban.
19-21 Catholic Theological Society of Southern Africa, St Augustine College, Johannesburg.
4 Presentation to Conference on 'Spirit Possession and Healing (ubuNgoma) in the Catholic Church', Mariannhill.
9-14 Retreat, Bluff
19 Keynote address: 'Broken Bodies and Healing Communities: Faith based Contextual responses to HIV/AIDS'. International Ecumenical Symposium, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
26-14 Nov New Provincials' meeting, Rome.

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Dates to Remember

02 +Jabulani Nxumalo Episcopal Ordination
11 Francis Duffy Birthday
12 Ewen Swartz Birthday
16 Mbheki Ngcobo Birthday
18 Vusi Penyane Ordination
19 Peter Foley Birthday
25 Bafana Ndlovu Birthday
26 Sean Coleman Birthday
01 Mike Foley Ordination
01 Charles Nabwenje Birthday
03 Henry Niemann Birthday
08 Mario Ceruti Birthday
08 Jeffrey Madondo Birthday
19 Zibonele Ngubane Ordination
21 Elphas Khoza Birthday
22 Eugene Clerkin Birthday
29 Vusi Penyane Birthday
  Errors and omissions contact the Administrative Secretary (admin@omi.org.za)

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Monthly newsletter of the KwaZulu-Natal Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate:
Box 17035, Congella, 4013
39 Pioneer Road, Congella, Durban, 4001.

Provincial:Fr Stuart BATE
E-mail address:scbate@omi.org.za

Editor:Fr Chris LOCKYER

Please send all submissions, enquiries and comments to the editor:
Tel:031 261 6406 or 031 205 9321
Fax:031 261 3928 or 031 206 0270

E-mail editor and computer: John Hughes
E-mail address: hughesjj@iafrica.com
Tel: 031 208 1323
Cell:083 626 3974
Fax: 083 640 0119 or 086 672 6688

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Copyright © 2005 Oblate Province of Natal