SACBC President Lenten Message

Archbishop Stephen Brislin

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With great joy and gratitude we celebrate the golden jubilee of the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal. All anniversaries are worth commemorating and are opportunities to turn once more to the Lord, giving thanks for his strength and guidance which have allowed us to reach the particular milestone.

A golden anniversary is especially important as the endeavour has stood the test of time. Gold is purified by fire and the result is precious and valuable. It is true of human endeavours as well – after fifty years they have proved themselves and their value, despite hardships that may have been encountered.

It is with deep gratitude to God that we celebrate the 50 years of the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal. Undertaken so many years ago by the bishops, with vision and faith, the annual collections of the Lenten Appeal has made an enormous impact on the life of the Church and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Southern Africa. Inspired by Jesus’ parable of the separation of the goats and sheep (Matt 25:31ff ), recognizing the moral imperative to serve those in need, as well as the command “to go to all nations to proclaim the Good News” (Mk 16:15), the Lenten Appeal was set up to help those in need and the for the works of the Church in proclaiming the Good News.

We are also deeply grateful to all those who have contributed through the years using mite boxes and envelopes, as well as other means of supporting the Lenten Appeal. For many, it has been similar to the “widow’s mite” (Mk 12:41ff ) – not giving from excess but truly making a sacrifice by giving from that which they need. Their sacrifice has truly been a Lenten Offering and with all our hearts we say “thank you” for your kindness and love.

Few people, even within the Church, are aware of how many programmes are run by the Bishops’ Conference itself. Taken with the initiatives of dioceses and parishes, thousands of interventions are made which alleviate the suffering of people, bringing them consolation and hope. The Gospel is proclaimed through these good works as well as though specific programmes of evangelisation and catechesis. The

Church has provided support in the fields of education, health, development, skills, advocacy and crisis relief. Catechesis, media programmes, small Christian communities, the formation and training of priests and deacons – to name a few – have ensured that there is both the proclamation of the Word and the deepening of the faith.

All such enterprises have benefited from contributions by the Lenten Appeal. The many demands made on the funds mean that no particular project can be fully covered by a Lenten Appeal grant. Some only receive a small amount of their overall budget. Nonetheless, such small amounts are important beyond their monetary value, as they also indicate the support of the local Church, making it easier to approach foreign donors.

Such local support is essential. Although we are a young Church – in 2018 we will be celebrating only 200 years of the official establishment of the Church in Southern Africa – nonetheless we need to work much harder to become a self-reliant Church. No longer should we be dependent on other countries for Church personnel or finances. In the spirit of stewardship, knowing that we have been entrusted with the faith in this part of the world and are responsible for the life and work of the Church, we must strive to generously share our resources.

In particular, we appeal to all of you to ensure that this year of the Golden Anniversary of the Lenten Appeal be a year of generosity and a year to remember. There are many needs and countless opportunities for the Light of Christ to dispel the darkness of poverty, ignorance and suffering in our beautiful countries. Your generosity will make a difference.

Archbishop Brislin

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