As noted previously, Fr. Tom Cassidy, former provincial superior, is spending his first months out of office visiting the countries for which he had responsibility when he was on General Council in Rome. During his travels he is maintaining a journal; several excerpts from it are being posted on the province blog. The following two entries are from Pietermaritzburg:
Today (November 9) was a long day of travel from Aliwal North to Pietermaritzburg where the South African Province hosts an international formation (student) community. We began our travels at 8:30 a.m. and arrived at the scholasticate at 5:00 p.m.
After dropping off a religious sister whose community was on the way we stopped for lunch in Kokstad, at the convent next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It took me a moment to realize that I was in Bishop Zolile’s diocese. [Bishop Zolile served on the General Council with Fr. Tom before returning to his native South Africa; he was named a bishop earlier this year.]
As I mentioned previously, Bishop Zolile was not there, though I will meet up with him in Pietermaritzburg tomorrow. I did have the opportunity after lunch to visit the cathedral and the bishop’s house where he now lives. It is a new facility having been built by the previous bishop about three years ago.
In touring the cathedral I spotted Bishop Zolile’s coat of arms. It is on the back of the bishop’s chair in the sanctuary. His motto is very Dehonian: “As I have loved you.” Another Dehonian symbol is the cross with the heart that has become the unofficial logo for the congregation.
According to Bishop Adam, most of the diocese consists of villages rather than towns or cities though Kokstad itself seems to be a good-sized city. This part of South Africa is called Kwazulu-Natal.
November 10: Pietermaritzburg
There were two things on today’s agenda. The first was to concelebrate the 8:00 a.m. Mass at St. Francis Assisi Parish, about a 15 minute drive from the SCJ formation community house. This is a parish staffed by SCJs and it is the first parish outside of the De Aar and Aliwal North Dioceses entrusted to the care of the SCJs of South Africa.
In the last two years the SCJs have further expanded by opening a community house in the Johannesburg Archdiocese. I will visit this community during the last few days of my visit to South Africa. It is hoped that the South African SCJs can expand their presence to urban areas such as Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg where the large population centers offer the opportunity for more vocations than what is available in rural areas such as De Aar and Aliwal North.
It may be a little hard to see in this photo but the crucified Christ is an African with St. Francis of Assisi calling all to gaze on the cross and Christ. This parish is in the colored area of Pietermaritzburg. The 08:00 Mass was well attended with the church almost 100% full. The congregation was both young and old as well as a good mixture of men and women. If there were one group underrepresented I would say it was teens. I think, from what I overheard, the reason for this may be connected to the Teen Life Mass this age group had or will have attended this weekend.
The music was wonderful to listen to. Most of the hymns were in English, but because the words were projected on a screen they were impossible for me to see and thus sing along with the congregation. A few of the hymns were done in Zulu and I must confess I enjoyed them above all. What struck me was the stateliness of the tunes as well as the gusto with which the congregation sang them.
Two deacons assisted at this morning’s Mass. Both deacons are SCJs from Mozambique who have spent the last four years at our formation house while studying theology at Cedara. With the end of the semester only two or three weeks away they will head back to Mozambique to prepare for their ordination to the priesthood on December 22, 2013. The deacons thanked the parish for hosting them over the last four years and for assisting them in learning how to function in a parish setting and how to minister to the people of God in their capacity as deacons and as they looked forward to serving God’s people as priests.
Most of us in the States would have found the Mass to be long for our habits. The Mass itself lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes. The homily took 25 minutes. I think if this were a US parish those in the pews would be squirming at a homily of that length, to say nothing of a Mass lasting over an hour on a normal Sunday. From what I could tell young and old took it in stride as though it were (and I think is) par for the course.
The second matter of note on my agenda for the day was dinner at our SCJ community called Hilton Farm. Three SCJs (all from Poland) live here. Two teach at St. Joseph’s Theological Institute in Cedara (the school of theology for religious in South Africa) and one is the pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish where I celebrated Mass earlier in the day. I’m not 100% sure the pastor lives here full time, but at least he was here for the day and helped prepare the wonderful meal we had.
Bishop Zolile arrived late in the day so I had my chance to meet with him before he headed to Durban to catch his morning flight to Johannesburg and then on to the Southern African Bishops Meeting.