Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate - Natal Province


Natal Province

The Mother Province of the Oblates in Africa


VOL 3 No 6     August September 2006



Provincial Congress Promotes Hope

Congress Day One

Congress Day Two

Congress Day Three

Congress Day Four

Congress Resolutions

Priestly Ordination of Rev, Sithabiso Sithole

Schol. Ewen Swartz to Germany






Provincial Congress 2006 Group Photo

1. Good News About Ministry

Provincial Congress Promotes Hope


About eighty Oblates participated at the Provincial Congress held at the Glenmore Pastoral Centre, Durban, from Monday 24 July to Thursday 27th July. High levels of organization and facilitation marked the event. Participants remarked that it was indeed a sign of immense hope which has enkindled enthusiasm and commitment.


The Congress organising committee prepared the programme after a joint meeting with the Provincial council in June when the issues to be discussed were debated. They organised the way issues would be presented and discussed during the congress as well as the presenters. The Congress organising committee also did a wonderful job of ensuring powerful  Congress liturgies, personalised congress packs for each participant,  great banners and posters, colourful decorations and the availability of information technology facilities including video projection, computers and power point facilities.


The Congress was facilitated by Christian Brother Michael Burke CFC who played a major role in ensuring that the proceedings ran smoothly and was instrumental in developing creative approaches to reflection sessions on the various issues.  


Most of the programme was given over to presentations and discussion about the six current priorities of the province: youth ministry, province unity, financial sustainability, the Zimbabwe mission, formation and restructuring of the South African Provinces



Congress began on Monday evening with an opening liturgy of evening prayer led by the Provincial. After a welcome by the Congress committee chairperson, letters of greeting were read out from Natal province members Archbishop Nxumalo of Bloemfontein and Father Jean-Baptist Mpuni currently on holiday in Congo as well as and Father Eugene Whyte, former missionary in Zimbabwe and the Holy Family Sisters in Durban.


The Provincial’s keynote occupied the main part of Monday’s proceedings. It was a comprehensive document which attempted to situate the present context of are missionary activity within the history of the Natal province which played such a major, and often overlooked, role in the history of the Church in Southern Africa. Using the leitmotif  “Failure and Vindication” applied by Oblate historian Father Howard St George OMI to the work of Bishop Allard, Father Stuart showed how the struggles of the early missionaries, often much criticised by the Founder who placed them here, led to a wonderful harvest of souls as the Church was implanted throughout Southern Africa. Failure and Vindication shows the how God the Father who sends the Holy Spirit in power to transform our weak efforts in collaborating in the Mission of Christ. It is a manifestation of the Sequela Christi in our lives.


The rest of the address traced the way in which the Province had come to its present missionary strategy as a result of the Immense Hope project and the work of the current administration in distilling this into a set of six priorities which are our current focus. The purpose of the Congress was to present this work to the whole province and to ask that members own it or make suggestions for adaptation. Once adopted the intention is to call on members to offer their gifts resources and services insuring that this plan becomes reality.


After the keynote address the whole community retired for a social evening of drinks snack and meeting together.



Province Priority: Zimbabwe Mission

Fr Mike Foley, Mission Superior, presented the 18 Oblates, priests and scholastics of the Zimbabwe mission. Then Father Charles Rensburg gave a powerful PowerPoint presentation showing the history, the foundational missionaries and progress in Zimbabwe leading up to the joyful celebration of the ordination of the first Zimbabwean Oblate this year. Oblates are serving under very difficult circumstances caused by political and economic mismanagement by political leaders. The labour in urban and rural settings and in youth ministry and at the Mazenod prenovitiate.


Participants in the congress were invited to share among themselves their reactions to the presentation. A panel of those serving in Zimbabwe answered questions in an open discussion. Generally, there were expressions of solidarity and support for the efforts of the Oblates serving in a particularly difficult situation.


Province Priority:  Youth Ministry

Fathers Mxolisi Ngcobo and Siyabonga Dube led the presentation on Youth Ministry in the Province and presented the youth ministry committee to Congress.


Father Ngcobo described how young people see themselves in a fragmented manner and their struggle to discern their true identity. Consequently many easily succumb to negative pressure. He explained the work of the youth ministry committee in developing a programme which they hope will respond to this situation. It involves teaching young people who Christ is through explicit evangelisation, catechesis and powerful liturgy. It bases itself on the model St Eugene de Mazenod used in his work: “know who you are in the eyes of God” as a way of discovering their true identity. It proposes solutions to help young people find creative ways of being and living though engaging them in life-giving activities within the church and society. The intention is to establish three Oblate sites for youth ministry: at Redacres, Inchanga and Congella/Durban.


Fr. Siyabonga Dube made an impressive presentation on efforts being made in Zimbabwe. They have adopted SEE, JUDGE, ACT approach involving close, direct, personal contact with young people and helping them respond to their present difficult situations. They are already beginning counselling workshops, especially for people living with HIV/AIDS and leadership training. They hope to do some research on the particular needs of youth and develop adapted RCIA programs for those preparing for reception of the sacraments.


Reactions to the presentations were in buzz groups. The majority of interventions from the floor focussed around the real difficulties that young people face and the sense of helplessness they experience in trying to respond to the real and difficult challenges.  They noted that the church seems to be the only place where young people feel safe and welcomed. It was a challenge for everyone to play a role


Provincial Priority: Financial Sustainability

Fr. Peter Foley, Provincial Treasurer, presented the province’s strategy for financial sustainability. For the first time actual figures about our financial situation were disclosed to everyone present. This was done to stress the reality that if the trend of the last five years were to continue, the province finances would be depleted by 2012. The Natal Province is not financially sustainable and an enormous challenge faces us on this front.


The presentation proposed a method for working towards increasing Oblate revenue and sustainability. This challenges each Oblate community to “earn” enough to provide for its own sustenance and apostolic works and to ensure that stipends and gifts received from ministry are submitted to the province. Only then can we guarantee the ongoing provision of services of health care, retirement, formation, administration and the other services the provincial administration provides.


He concluded by challenging members to cultivate positive attitudes and values in relation to financial responsibility and material resources of the province


Congress then broke into three groups to discuss the presentation and give their comments and proposed solutions. All expressed gratitude at the way in which the financial situation was presented. They felt that the presentation gave a realistic and challenging picture of the situation, which calls for introspection and adjustment in terms of practice.


At least one group called for a change in the “old mentality” which bred the culture of a “receiving church”.  Financial help is available in society and we need to develop means and ways of tapping into these local resources. New and creative ways of raising funds need to be investigated. Risks have to be calculated and where necessary, taken.


Some expressed concerns about the wisdom of handing over to the archdiocese wealthy parishes at which Oblates are currently serving. It was noted that mission to the materially poor is a luxury which cannot be done without material resources from elsewhere.


A suggestion was made that parish groups and individuals should be invited to become actively involved in fundraising projects of the province. It was further suggested that certain parish groups could be approached to contribute financially towards formation costs.



Province Priority: Restructuring of Oblates Provinces in South Africa

This session was led by Father Nhlanhla Nkosi. He began by inviting those members of the province below the age of 50 to stand.  Speaking directly to the more than 65% of the assembly who stood, he reminded them that the future of the province lies in their hands. Consequences of decisions taken now will affect this group particularly. He then went on to present the values, fears and concerns elicited from the work done by the team he led tasked with consulting everyone about the proposed restructuring.


After the presentation, participants were asked to reflect individually on the concerns and fears presented, and then dialogue with one other person, before going into nine smaller groups to discuss the concerns and fears presented.


During the plenary feedback, the main recommendation was that workshops should be organized to deal with issues raised. Healing of past hurts, fears and concerns were some of these issues. Emphasis should be placed on the creation of an appropriate atmosphere in which speaking and listening can take place. More opportunities for interactions and dialogue should be provided. Other suggestions included placing a greater emphasis on our missionary vocation and the missionary dimension of the congregation. It was also suggested that the regency program be organised in such a way that scholastics could be exposed to cultures other than their own. Learning new languages should also be taken as a priority in the formation processes.


Province Priority: Formation

This session was addressed by means of a panel comprising those going through various phases of formation.


Initial formation was presented by Scholastic Brother Phumlani Ndlovu who gave a comprehensive reflection on the state of initial formation in the province, as perceived by one currently undergoing the process. He emphasised that “formation must form people capable of responding to the needs of their time”. And he affirmed that “our current formation programmes offer a lot to us that proves useful in the process of forming men with adequate ammunition that allows them to respond to the needs of their time in an Oblate way” He also offered a word of caution that “whether these programmes are taken seriously by us individually or as communities in formation houses is another question all together. For each one of us knows deep down in his heart how committed or not committed he is to the programmes offered in formation houses”. This is because “formation is what we make of it, therefore a struggle of personal choices myself”


Reflection of a newly ordained priest

Fr. Charles Rensburg affirmed the formation model used at St Josephs Scholasticate but raised concerns about the academic formation received at the St. Joseph’s Theological Institute questioning whether it was serving the missionary vocation of the Oblate congregation? He further noted that though scholastics are normally at different levels of maturity, for various reasons they end up being treated on the same level. Immature behaviour on the part of some scholastics was cited as one of the reasons why the formation team errs when it treats everyone equally.


Regency Programme

Father Wayne Weldschidt made a comprehensive power point presentation on the new Regency programme in the Natal province. He noted that the province has developed an effective method that ensures insertion into an apostolic religious community, mentoring and support by both a supervisor and a support team within the parish or ministry environment and input and reflection in three workshops throughout the year.


Ongoing Formation

Fr. Chris Richmond shared his personal experience of going through various stages of Oblate formation, from the prenovitiate to post-ordination formation. His emphasis was mainly on the personal and interactive nature of formation


After a brief moment of buzzing in groups of fours, reactions to the presentation were invited. Some mentioned the difficulty of having people at different levels living in the same large scholasticate community and the balance between academics and spiritual formation. The need for the ongoing formation of formators was another issue. Some thought that too much emphasis is placed on academic formation at the expense of other areas of human development but this was strongly resisted by many scholastics. There was a strong feeling that the length of formation from Pre-novitiate to the end of the scholasticate is too long (currently as much as eleven years if third year of philosophy is included). A call was made for an in depth study of this process.


Provincial priority: Unity in the Province

The provincial led this session.  He noted that superficially, there are very good interpersonal relations between Oblates in the Natal Province. But below that there are some areas of concern that we are not really all equal. A number of strategies had been implemented to respond. He emphasized the importance of promoting interaction within the diverse cultural parameters of all members of the province and not just of one group. He also noted that the question of respect for elders may give disproportionate influence to the older more Western group. He gave examples of how younger black Oblates were being challenged to take a greater stake and responsibility in owning the province including accepting placements in English speaking parishes.


After the presentation, Oblates were encourage to pair up with someone of a different age and culture and talk one to one about the matter. In the general session some felt that distinctions about “black” and “white” are in themselves divisive and not part of their experience. But others strongly disagreed saying the issue is real, deep-rooted and requires honest dialogue. Suggestions included ensuring more cultural diversity at province gatherings especially in the liturgy, dealing with the issue during initial formation; and having a province subcommittee to work on this matter.


Reports from Provincial Subcommittees

A number of new provincial subcommittees have been formed over the last year to coordinate missionary activity engaged in by Oblates outside of parish work and first formation. These committees were introduced to congress and each gave a brief report on its activities.


Retreats and Pilgrimage Ministry committee

Father Mario Ceruti presented the report of this group. He pointed out that Natal Oblates are involved in retreat and pilgrimage centres at Ntshongweni, Redacres Retreat Centre and Lourdes in France as well as preaching retreats elsewhere. This is the principal ministry of two Natal Oblates: Father Michael Gumede and Father Paul Horrocks.  The real need at present is to coordinate these efforts and in particular to clarify our future role at Ntshongweni.


Oblate Education Ministry Committee

Father Allan Moss has been appointed to convene and coordinate this committee. It will bring together Oblates involved in our three educational Institutions: St Josephs Theological Institute, and our two schools: Sibong’mBomvu school at Cedara and Inchanga Primary School. We hope to increase Oblate involvement in them. Father Dan Corijn gave an overview of progress at St Josephs Theological Institute over the last two years. He stressed the value of its accreditation by the South Africa Education department which now gives it the right to confer its own degrees and diplomas.


Missionary Conduct and Support Committee

Father Sylvester David is convenor of this committee. In his presentation he noted that the committee was initially primarily concerned with responding to situations where Oblates are accused of abuse. However it was quickly realised that its concern should be broader and deeper. Hence the change in name and focus.  Its primary focus is to increase the capacity of the province to respond to matters of misconduct on the part of Oblates. But an important aspect of this is the provision of effective support structures for Oblates who find themselves in any kind of serious difficulty.  The committee is new and is currently engaged in gaining a deeper understanding of the issues involved and the operation of the various structures and processes in the Church which deal with matters of abuse and misconduct.


Healing Ministry Committee

Fr. Benedict Gumede made the presentation on behalf of the committee. Their aim is to assist the province “come up with a policy regarding Healing Ministry that is Sacramental, psychological, physical and alternative healing methods”.  The committee could provide an opportunity to share about concerns regarding this meeting. It could look at ways for providing spiritual care for those involved in healing ministry, for example doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other auxiliary staff. It could also make suggestions for a response to hospital authorities who have not yet accepted chaplaincy as an essential component of healing services.



Other Matters

This session was led by the Provincial Council. It was an opportunity to allow Congress to speak to other matters that the Provincial council had been working during the 16 months since it took office.


Leave Policy for Natal Oblates (2006)

Fr. Vusi Mazibuko presented the revised leave policy which now includes missionaries from and to African countries (currently nine Oblates). It also qualifies the possibility of overseas leave on the financial capacity of the province to finance such leave.


A Missionary Memorial Fund

Father Provincial presented a proposal to honour all former foreign missionaries by means of a fund to be set up in their name for current missionary initiatives in the province. Several views were expressed in support for formalizing relationships in particular with the Anglo-Irish Province and also families of deceased Oblates from overseas.


      Sexual Abuse.

Fr. Sylvester David presented two articles clarifying notions of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment in an attempt to clarify the definitions of these matters as outlined in the SACBC documentation. He challenged everyone to familiarize themselves with the necessary documents from the Bishops’ Conference and to be vigilant in assuring no instances of this exist in our ministerial contexts.


Restructuring of Districts in the Archdiocese of Durban

The provincial presented the strategy outlined in the Immense Hope process for an Oblate focus on KZN Midlands and Durban South. Consequences from this policy had led to a withdrawal from Mpumalanga parish and other possible withdrawals in the Inchanga district. However, certain concerns have been raised about the present strategy particularly, but not only, in the Inchanga district. The provincial sought the will of congress on this matter and three proposals were presented to the assembly for voting in the resolutions section.


Contracts With Dioceses Where We Minister

Vicar Provincial, Father. Thomas Zondi, invited suggestions from Congress regarding matters to be considered when contracts are entered into with the various dioceses in which we minister. Among the suggestions raised were concerns about equitable remuneration for ministry and about access to medical care, especially in times of emergency. Another concern was the impossibility of working in very poor areas without support form richer areas and so the need to maintain some more wealthy parishes who could support our efforts elsewhere.


Archives and Museum

Fr. Eric Boulle, our provincial archivist informed the congress that the Oblate Archives situated at Cedara are well care for. The museum at Allard house is run by lay couple. The provincial noted that the Inter-Chapter meeting of the congregation will take place in South Africa next year. Places of historical importance to the Oblates will be visited by some of the provincials coming for the meeting. It will be important for us as the mother province to prepare these visits well.


Land Claims

Fr. Chris Richmond updated the congress on the developments of the land claim at Cedara. He explained that the claim has been made by the amaMbuzane clan and has been gazetted a valid claim by the government. We are still awaiting what will happen next.


The Name of the Province

The provincial raised the issue of the name of the province – Natal. It is a name of historical significance in the congregation, going back to the time of the Founder. It is now, however, politically incorrect representing the colonial history of the country. He asked the views of congress on the matter, the general consensus was that the present name should be maintained at this time in view of the restructuring of the three South African provinces and the financial implications the name change would imply.


On Wills and Pensions

Fr. Peter Foley reminded the congress of the need for each Oblate to have a Last Will and Testament made and handed in to the Provincial Treasurer’s office. A reminder was made to those who have to apply for state pensions.



Throughout the Congress a “Resolutions Committee” had been attempting to assess the will of the group and met each evening to develop a set of resolutions on the day’s proceedings. These were presented during the final session of the Congress and refined through interventions from the floor. A vote was taken on each resolution and the results are presented below.


In terms of the Natal provincial directory only members appointed to the Province have voting rights. Nevertheless it was considered important to assess the views of the scholastics sponsored by the province on all these matters. Two achieve this, parallel votes of members and scholastics were conducted for each resolution. In this way a more universal feel was achieved on each resolution.  


Finance and Fundraising

1. Congress 2006 resolves that fundraising needs urgent attention. The time has come to do it more seriously, professionally, thoroughly, creatively and far-sightedly.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative           Abstain

Schol:               0                      25                    0  

Voters:             0                      41                    0


2. Congress 2006 resolves that all Oblates accept the responsibility to support the fundraising committee in finding legitimate ways of generating income and, where possible, willingly participate in fundraising schemes.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:               0                      25                    0  

Voters:             0                      40                    1


3. Congress 2006 resolves that Oblate property be used creatively rather than alienated and that the latter only happen after careful research and thorough consultation of the province.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:               0                      25                    0  

Voters:             0                      41                    0



4. Congress 2006, recognising the need that young people have for new forms of evangelisation, strongly affirms youth ministry as a priority of our province and encourages all Oblates to make a contribution to this ministry whether at parish level or in more specialized forms.


Vote:    Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:               0                      25                    0  

Voters:             0                      42                    1



5. Congress 2006 affirms the work being done by our Zimbabwe Mission and encourages our missionaries to persevere in building a strong Oblate community as a witness to a divided Body of Christ.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:              0                      25                    0  

Voters:             0                      39                    0


6. Congress 2006 expresses the Province’s solidarity and willingness to participate in the Zimbabwe Mission as prompted by the discernment of the Oblates in Zimbabwe.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:              0                      25                    0  

Voters:             0                      39                    0



7. Congress 2006 affirms apostolic community as our way of mission and ministry and calls on members and leadership of the Province to make this a reality.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:              0                      18                    6  

Voters:             4                      33                    1


8. Congress 2006 encourages Oblates, in their communal life, to take proper care of each other and of themselves thereby witnessing to the healing power of a life centred on Jesus.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:              0                      26                    0  

Voters:             0                      39                    0



9. Congress 2006 recommends that in reviewing formation programmes what should be kept in mind is:

-How well they meet the needs of the Church;

-How holistic they are;

-The length of the total process, particularly in relation to cost; and

-Whether there is a need for alternate academic streams.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:              1                      12                    13  

Voters:             1                      31                    8


10 Congress 2006 recognizing the vital importance of ongoing formation calls for the appointment of director of ongoing formation and call Oblates to commit fully to participation in the monthly retreats.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:               0                      26                    0  

Voters:             0                      40                    0


Unity within the Province

11. Congress 2006 calls local Superiors to provide opportunities for community and team- building, and workshops that cultivate effective communication and integration of cultural diversity in community.


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:              0                      25                    1  

Voters:             0                      40                    0


Missionary Memorial fund

12, Congress 2006 supports the establishment of an Oblate Missionary Memorial Fund to pay homage to the work of missionaries in our province.


Vote:    Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:              0                      26                    0  

Voters:             0                      40                    0


Districts Archdiocese of Durban

13 Congress 2006 resolves to change the policy proposed in the Immense Hope Strategy, and that instead the Oblates working in the Durban Archdiocese be regrouped into three Districts for the sake of viable Oblate community and mission. Decisions about which parishes to take on or relinquish should be governed by a dialogue between Oblate missionary strategies and Archdiocesan plans


Vote:   Negative           Affirmative        Abstain

Schol:              0                      26                    0  

Voters:             0                      39                    1


Other:  Unification of RSA Oblate Provinces

A secret ballot was taken on the question of unification of the three South African provinces. The results were as follows:


               In Favour         Against              Abstain

Schol:              22                    3                      2

Voters:             33                    5                      3


 Time Frame    

       Short-term   Medium-term   Long-term    Abstain

Schol:      3              10               10                  3

Voters:    7              21                7                   6


The guideline figures given for short, medium and long term are 2, 6, and 12 years respectively.




A lively and joyful spirit prevailed throughout the four days and though the programme was packed and demanding most stayed on until late Thursday afternoon when the Provincial presided at the closing mass. 


The Congress helped reveal the diversity and immensity of the ministry activity of the province and scholastics noted that they felt truly part of the province and were ready to commit themselves to its mission should they be called.


Father Motsiri Mosai, observer from the Central province thanked the Natal province for inviting the sister South African provinces to send observers and for the experience of the four days of Congress. Others thanked the Provincial Council for its leadership and the Congress committee for its excellent organisation.


2. Good News About People:

Priestly Ordination of Rev, Sithabiso Sithole

Deacon Sithabiso Sithole will be ordained priest at St Anne’s Sydenham, on Monday 25th September, heritage day. The celebration begins at 10.00 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend this joyful event.


3. Good News About People:

Schol. Ewen Swartz to Germany

Scholastic brother Ewen Swartz will complete his regency year in Germany where he will learn the language. He left for Germany at the beginning of July. In October he will continue his scholasticate in the German Scholasticate at Mainz. We wish Bro. Ewen God’s blessing on this new challenge for him. We assure him of our prayers and our solidarity and we look forward to his return amongst us after he completes his first formation.


Annual Retreat 2006

Retreat at the Bluff NOW FULL

Some places are still available at Redacres.

15-20 October             REDACRES



You may email your booking to scbate@omi.org.za

Or you may SMS your booking. Please SMS the word RETREAT followed by your NAME then either the word REDACRES to 0827121047

You can post your response to PO Box 17035 Congella 4013

 You may Fax it to 031 206 0270


Provincial's Diary


2    Keynote Address (IsiZulu) Catechists FestivalDurban

5    Board Meeting St Josephs Theological Institute, Cedara

5-9  OMI Anglophone Africa Inter-Provincial, Conference, Mariannhill.

11-12    Provincial Council Congella, Durban.

15-16    Visitation Report and Workshop St Josephs, Scholasticate, Cedara



8-13      Annual Retreat Bluff


Dates to Give Thanks


02        +Jabulani Nxumalo         Episcopal Ordination

11         Francis Duffy                 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

12         Ewen Swartz                 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)




Newsletter of the Natal Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Provincial: Fr Stuart C BATE, OMI

*:  Box 17035, Congella, 4013 South Africa

Street Address:  39 Pioneer Road, Congella, Durban, 4001.

E-mail address:  scbate@omi.org.za

(:  031 205 9321Fax:  031 206 0270Cell  082 7121047

Please send all submissions enquiries and comments to the editor


Copyright © 2006 OMI Natal Province