It must have been one of the most better organized workshops we have held... and one of the most challenging too!
During the month of December 2016 all the priests were informed about the coming training of lay ministers of our diocese. Fr Mafola, their chaplain, asked all the priests to submit as soon as possible the name of the people that would be attending the workshop in February. He needed to know who would be coming and how many, distinguishing also between men and women in order to provide accommodation.
Nothing prepared them and us for the result: more than 160 people were in the list. There was no way we could take them all. Not enough accommodation and no hall was big enough for the meetings.
It was then decided to cut it to half and ask those attending to train the rest. Taking the decision was easy but making others accept it... not so much. In fact, by the time the training started, instead of having 80 people there were over 100.
|Fr J. Mafola (lay ministers' chaplain)|
The training was run by Sr Phuthunywa Siyali (Holy Cross Sister) who serves at the Department of Christian Formation, Liturgy and Culture of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC).
Before the training, she met fhe priests of the diocese for a few hours. Though we hardly have priests' meetings on Friday morning, they themselves decided not to miss this opportunity and make sure they could share with Sister Phuthunywa the reality of their parishes.
|Lay ministers at the end of the Mass with the Bishop|
I had been invited to preside Mass on Saturday morning. Taking from the readings where the disciples seem to be deciding what Jesus should do or not, I invited them to make sure they always remember who they are and their place in the Church avoiding the temptation to take the place of their priests. I also asked them to make sure that they do not see this service as any type of promotion.
I shared with them a personal story.
Once, while waiting for the archbishop of Cape Town at our airport and I was asked by security personnel who I was and what I was doing (I had arrived early and had been walking and taking photos of the place). When I explained I was the Catholic bishop waiting for an archbishop, I was asked: "if you are a bishop, why did you not send your driver" In their minds, a bishop should have a driver. Probably like a minister of government. Some easily tend to believe that civil and religious authorities behave in the same way but as Jesus says... "not so among you" (Matthew 20:26).
Then, during the day, whenever I was free, I joined them during the workshop just listening to their questions and what they thought the way forward should be.
We are grateful for their service, commitment and availability. This has certainly been an important step forward and we do hope, not the last one.