Greetings and Joy in the Risen Christ! I hope you had a wonderful Lenten journey. Yes, today, we celebrate Easter, the very core of our Christian life. “If Christ is not risen, then our faith is useless” (1 Cor. 15: 14). Therefore, it must show in our lives by the way we smile, help others, behave well, speak well of others, etc. Joy is contagious and can change our world for the better.
On 28th February, about fifteen youths gather for the day at the Johannesburg Cathedral for a vocation discernment day. Many of them have very good intentions, but the difficult part is to take the plunge! To resolve to give one’s life totally to God is a difficult decision to make for most of them. It is much easier to follow the stream of ordinary life with all its worldly attractions than to devote one’s life to become an apostle. In a letter to young people participating at the 2015 European Meeting of Youth (August 2015), Pope Francis encouraged them “not to conform themselves to a mediocre1 life without aspirations.” One day, a missionary priest was asked why he had chosen this vocation; he simply answered “to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable”. And for this, he had left the comfort of a good family and many friends, and the possibility of having a very good profession and raising his own family. Most importantly, he always reflected the joy of the Gospel!
This month, most priests have been busy with the sacrament of reconciliation in many parishes around. We feel that there is a return of people to receive this beautiful sacrament of the mercy of God. Most people come with a real and sincere desire to improve their lives as regards their relationship with God and their neighbours. For us, priests, it is a very enriching experience allowing us to enter the hearts of our Christians. We really fall in admiration in front of the humility and honesty of the penitents. Each person is sacred and bears the image of God implanted in their inner self. On Wednesday 16th March, Fr. Christophe and I have the pleasure to receive a new member in our community in the person of Fr. George Okwi, M.Afr. Fr. George, a Ugandan, comes with a vast experience of different countries of Africa and Europe where he also did some studies. Welcome, Fr. George, we are happy to have you in Edenglen to help us share the work!
The Easter Season is here, and I would like to wish you all a very HAPPY EASTER! Surely, it is a time of renewal in the Risen Lord, a time to feel more and more how much he is with us and wants to transform our lives so we may bear his image in us and be a source of inspiration for others. Let us ask Mary – who surely was the first to receive her son’s visit after his resurrection – to inspire us in living as “resurrected people”. Let us “ask the Virgin Mary, the silent witness to the death and resurrection of Her Son, to make the joy of Easter grow in us.” (Pope Francis’ message, Easter 2015) The Holy Week was surely marred by acts of terrorism in many places in Europe and Africa, and violent demonstrations and crimes in South Africa; on the other hand, this month, there were five elections and referendums in different countries of Africa; this is a clear sign of hope: democracy is growing. Jesus came to destroy death and bring new Life. Let us be signs of this new Life of our Risen Lord in each one of us.
God bless you! Fr. Michael Meunier, M.Afr
The great event immediately after the last Newsletter was surely the Lay Leaders Conference of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg. On Saturday 29th, with Bishop Jan DeGroef, M.Afr. (Bishop of Bethlehem in the Free State), we met more than 300 lay people from all the parishes of the Archdiocese. We had one hour and a half to explain the missionary activity of the Church. “The Church, by her very nature, is missionary” (Vatican 2, On the Missionary Activity of the Church, 2). With a PowerPoint Presentation and a talk and a song, we try to show that it is not the Church who has a Mission, but it is the Mission of Christ which has a Church! Dillon Naicker, a young member of our Missionary Group gave a very powerful testimony of his conversion and how he became a missionary in working full time in Youth Ministry. He wanted to become a famous actor – he did it for a short while, appearing in the weekly soap Isidingo – then as he said, “the Lord came to pick me up from my miserable life… One day, when I saw the word MISSIONARY on the calendar of the Missionaries of Africa, I knew I had to become a missionary.” He is now a real missionary working full time at the Youth Office of Johannesburg Archdiocese. Our two Congolese candidates have arrived via Durban on Sunday 30th! Finally, they got their students’ visa! At the moment, they are 31 theology students. They are the most numerous of all the congregations studying at St. Joseph Theological Institute in Cedara. They are from seventeen countries, but so far none from South Africa! We still pray and hope that some generous young men will soon join us! On the same day, Sunday 30th, a group of almost twenty youths took part in the Vocation Discernment Day at the Cathedral. It was a lively group really eager to discover their vocation according to God’s will.
The greatest event in South Africa this month was surely the beatification of Benedict Daswa. I am sure you all know about his life, how he was a strong Catholic Christian, always helping the poor and the children of his school – he was the headmaster – and how he was killed by a mob because he had refused to pay R5 to help hire a sangoma in order to find the culprit who, the people said, had sent lightnings to burn some houses in the village. From Sunday 13th September 2015, we can pray Blessed Daswa to intercede for us to God. He can surely help us to follow his great example by giving our lives totally to God. Many newspapers, radio and television stations covered the event. Benedict was a young man of our time (43 years old): he died 25 years ago, not 200 or 300 years ago! And he is one of us, a real South African! Let us be proud of being Catholic and South African!
October is MISSION MONTH. We all are called to be Missionaries. The theme chosen by Pope Francis is “A PASSION FOR JESUS AND HIS PEOLPE”. As you know, our Pope often challenges us to go out to the peripheries and proclaim the Good News of Jesus to those who are far. Let us pray and reach out to others this coming month in order to live better our missionary vocation. Let us also pray for Pope Francis who is on a very important missionary journey in the USA, so that his message of peace and joy may be well received by the American people and by all the people of good will.
Fr. Michael Meunier, M.Afr