Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
Greetings to you as we begin the Season of Advent in the Year of Our Lord, 2020. By now we all are feeling the effects of this rather difficult year as the whole world battles to live through the Covid-19 Pandemic. We embark on this season with prayerful waiting in preparation of the birthday of the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the hope of the nations and the joy of believers.
I wish, first of all, to thank you for your most generous contribution to the Bishop's Advent Appeal last year (2019) which amounted to R348 660,13, this has helped the diocese to send our Priests for On-Going Formation such as Further study at university level, Professional Conduct workshops, Orientation workshops for new Priests, SACOP – The Southern African Council of Priests, Marriage Tribunal training, Coolock renewal programme for Priests over 10 years in ministry, Exorcism Workshops, Annual Gathering of Recently Ordained Priests (AGROP) for all those Priests in ministry for five years and below, Ecumenism workshops,
Vocations workshops, Child Protection Officers four-month course attended by one of our Priests in Rome, Annual Clergy Retreat, Annual Clergy Plenary Meeting, Aspirant Diaconate training and Sabbaticals.
Much of this year was spent in "Lockdown" due to the restrictions in place at various phases of the risk adjusted strategy to curb the Coronavirus pandemic. In a sense, this was an Advent experience - one of anxious waiting. But the coming of Christ, on which we reflect during this season, dispels all fear. And so, the Faithful made use of the opportunity to intensify personal, individual and family prayer. Our beloved priests and parish communities throughout the diocese have made use of different platforms in order to reach out to one another because, as Advent people, we are always invited to imitate the generous love of the Lord which we celebrate in a most profound way at Christmas.
Despite the temporary closure of places of worship for some time during the Nationwide Lockdown, the faithful have tried to continue their financial support to their parishes. For this, I sincerely thank you. Many people are now suffering from economic hardships due to pay cuts and increased unemployment following job losses. This has affected all our communities, especially the poorer ones. My heart also goes out to those who have lost direct members of their family, relatives, friends, benefactors and all their loved ones. May God give you inner healing and restore you to the fullness of life.
Advent summons us to look to the future with hope because it is in God’s safe hands.
In the words of Fr. Flor McCarthy SBD, “Advent is a time of hope: – It is said that while there is life there is hope. This has an even deeper meaning in reverse: while there is hope there is life.
Hope is strength.
Hope sheds light into despairing hearts.
It inspires the will to live.
It is the doctor’s most powerful ally.
It is a shield against defeat and failure.
It revives ideals and renews dreams.
As long as there is hope, no situation is impossible.
Advent summons us to wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In the final analysis, He is our hope.”
In his most recent Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has emphasized that we are all brothers and sisters. This is a much needed reminder about fraternity and social friendship in this time of "social distancing” and isolation from one another. One of the major concerns of the Encyclical is the situation of the poor and vulnerable in the world and about our Christian concern for the poor and our commitment to them. We are to become, in imitation of the Good Samaritan in Luke's gospel, "neighbours without borders" as we stand in solidarity with the poor (cf. Fratelli Tutti 80). In this way, we will prepare our hearts this Advent for the coming of the Lord. Throughout the lockdown the diocese has tried by all means to reach out in charity to needy communities. But the major reduction in parish collections due to the pandemic has affected the diocese's assistance of the non-self-sustaining parishes. It has further affected the much-needed poverty alleviation which the diocese carries out through feeding schemes, soup kitchens, etc., run, amongst others, by the Religious Sisters, the St Vincent de Paul Society etc..
I would like to applaud Caritas Port Elizabeth who worked very hard throughout the lockdown period feeding the hungry, providing sanitization products and coordinating relief from National Caritas directed towards migrants and reugees.
For the Advent Season of 2020 I would like to appeal to you to donate to the Diocese in our efforts to sustain Parishes in poverty stricken areas, Parishes who are no longer self sustaining due to the Covid 19 pandemic and support us in our efforts to contribute to the charitable works carried out in the diocese through the different Religious Sisters, Parish Sodalities and Caritas. Any Form of financial assistance that you can afford will be highly appreciated, I thank you in advance for your generosity.
You can donate in a box provided at your Parish or EFT your Parish with the Reference: Bishops Advent Appeal.
Alternatively, you can EFT the Diocese directly:
NAME: Catholic Diocese of Port Elizabeth
BANK: STANDARD BANK
Branch Code: 050017
ACCOUNT NO: 08 000 638 8
REFERENCE: Bishops Advent Appeal.
May God the Father who loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son in the person of Jesus Christ, grant you and all your families, loved ones and friends his abundant blessings of love, joy and peace during the whole of this Christmas Season.
Yours Sincerely in Christ