Dear Families of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg
I have received a few invitations over the last three years, especially in light of our Archdiocesan synodal journey since 2019, to address our Catholic families of the archdiocese. With this letter, I attempt, as it were, to now enter your home with a message and to speak about an event taking place all around the world this June 22nd to 26th, It is the 10th World Meeting of Families (WMOF2022) celebrating “Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to Holiness”. In direct parallel, we celebrate our own Archdicesan Meeting of Families (AMOF2022) in our parishes and homes, and together at the Bosco centre, Walkerville, on June 25th. This full day-day archdiocesan celebration is indeed part of the global, “multi-centred” celebration since every diocese in the Catholic world has been called upon to join Rome in this capacity in their own respective cathedrals, shrines or other places of pilgrimage.
This event is the first of its kind in our archdicese and involves all our People of God. By now I hope your parish leaders have engaged with the Parish Kit that was sent to parishes on Friday the 13th of May. It is a useful tool toward planning and celebrating this “family week” in your parish and, importantly, in your home. It is also my hope that your parish is making efforts to help families register to attend the AMOF2022 event on June 25th at the Bosco Centre. I join the Episcopal Vicars in their plea to parish leaders to consider sponsoring at least three families in your parish to attend this occasion. Since there are those who find themsleves still intimated by the online platform, I appeal to those parish leaders that are tech savvy to assist families in the online registration process. It is a simple one and has been utilised for prior occasions. A practical suggestion is to arrange a registration station for your parish that can run after every Mass over the following weeks. An entire representative group from your parish can be registered on one single online form. You need only select an ables and dedicated individual to facilitate this process. Time is short with the registration deadline of June 19th fast approaching. It is my sincere hope to encounter your family and others on this joyful occasion.
Of course, your family might be reading this letter when this event has already passed. My message to your family applies before, during and after this occasion and falls very in line with the current synod 2021-2023 journey as families are called to “participation, communion and mission”. Indeed, the synodal conversations that took place in your parish communities this past January through April very much affirmed the local church’s hunger to resemble more a “church-as-missionary-family”. The WMOF in a special way to your family, your vocation and mission in the Church and in society. It acknowledges and desires to journey with you as you face the challenges of marriage and family life and the education of children in this day and age; as well as the pain and struggle of healing and forgiveness in the face of divorce, abandonment, betrayal, addiction and abuse.
I ask you as families to rise and persevere, on faith, hope and love, in fidelity to the Christ and the Gospel through tangible gestures of compassion, forgiveness and love to one another as family members. Consider the beauty of such witness to the world and to our children. When Christian spouses and parents concretely embrace being a “domestic church” participating in the life and mission of the Church, their sons and daughters gain a better “sense of the church” and will themselves embrace the beauty of dedicating their gifts to the service of God’s Kindgom (Chl n. 62).
I invite you to ponder as spouses, parents and grandparents, children, siblings and other relatives, on the gifts you have to offer to the church that is your home and the greater Church. Make no mistake that your home holds substantial potential and value as both a “domestic church” and a “leaven of evangelisation” in soceity (Al n. 290). the Church Fathers beautifully affirm this:
“Thus the christian family will manifest to all men the genuine nature of the Church. This the family will do by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all members of the family assist one another”. (GS n.48)
Pope Francis adds that “the Church, in order fully to understand her mystery, looks to christian family, which manifests her in a real way” (AL n. 67). Our pastors are called to collaborate with families in this great mission of the Church. In addition to and together with the sacrament of Holy Orders, spouses and families are a “sacrament of mission” (CCC n. 1534). Towards this end, and another prominent cry of the synod report, is the acknowledgement that the Church must act in better equipping parents to educate their children, and better forming her pastors, catechists and others pastoral workers to accompany families through their lived realities.
This brings me the pope’s emphasis on the need for the family, like the Church, to be open to other families both in lending and receiving help in the face of li’s many struggles. Our synodal journey revealed the power of “listening circles” in parishes, i.e how individuals and families, especially those on the margins, appreciated an opportunity to speak and listen heart to heart with others, creating a true web of families by which we can better understand each other so as to better serve one another in the power of the spirit.
I again wish to echo the words of the Holy Father:
“The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes. […] The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. […] A positive experience of family communion is a true path to daily sanctification and mystical growth, a means for deeper union with God […] Hence, those who have deep spiritual aspirations should not feel that the family detracts from their growth in the life of the spirits, but rather see it as a path which the lord is using to lead them to the heights of mystical union. (AL n. 315-316)
I ask you to pray together deeply and continuously as a family. Forsake not the truth that a “family that prays together stays together”. Invite the perpetual presence of the Father, Son and Spirit into your home. Many of you are likely reading this letter to your family in and around the feasts of the Sacred Heats of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. I urge you not to underestimate the power of consecrating your home, your marriage, your children, indeed every element of your family life to these TWO HEARTS. May your family life be enveloped by their love and may God’s choicest graces be bestowed upon you all according to your real needs.
Let us also pray together that, through these events, the Church will undertake a journey of real discernment and pastoral action in the Spirit to help families face their present challenges. I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, that I may serve the local flock in truth and in love. May our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph always accompany your family and help you resemble the beauty of Love.
I invoke God’s blessing om your family.
Yours in Christ and Mary Immaculate
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