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8th March 2012

Greetings from Rusape! Last weekend was probably the busiest I have had in the past ten years. The Bishop summoned all the priests to a meeting in the Pastoral Centre, Mutare on Thursday , March 1st. The topic was “Protocols for dealing with allegations of Misconduct.” Unfortunately, Fr. Robert Igo OSB, who had conducted a seminar in Harare last year for members of religious orders or congregations was not available. Fr William, a Redemptorist, did the input and facilitated the meeting. Some of the material was very theoretical and technical. There needed to be a presentation from a victim of abuse to ground the issue. I stayed in Mutare on Thursday night and played eighteen holes at Hillside on Friday morning. It could be called rapid golf as I got around in two and a half hours. I had Mass for the Sacred Heart Sodality on Friday evening. An early start on Saturday morning with a brisk walk followed by breakfast. I was on the road again for Mutare at 7.45am for the ordination of a Diocesan priest at St. Paul’s Danganbvura. Six of the faithful accompanied me. I picked up two more at Nyazura. The Toyota truck travels well with some weight on the back. Mutare, like the city of Rome, is surrounded by hills. Danganbvura is at the base. The ordination was out of doors between the church and the hall with very little air movement. A black tarpaulin covered the altar and the area where the faithful assembled. It was very hot, probably between 35 and 40C(95/104F). The ceremony lasted almost four hours with a moralistic homily of thirty five minutes. A poor choice of preacher and a worse choice of theme for an ordination ceremony. Moralising does not fit well with a celebration ceremony. I have no problem with inculturation in the liturgy( e.g. when people receive Holy Communion, they make the customary gesture of clapping their hands as they would greet a friend) but when the book of the Gospels is carried in by a child riding a donkey before the proclamation of the gospel, it is a step too far. Of course, the book of the Gospels should be brought in at the entrance procession and placed on the altar. A ceremony which started at 10.15 concluded at 2.15. Choirs vie with each other to put on a performance. Besides the main choirs, a male choir and a children’s choir sang long hymns after communion. Words of thanks develop into long speeches followed by rounds of applause. I have seldom felt as tired as I was on Saturday night. Perhaps, it is the ageing process! On Sunday I had 8.00am Mass at St. Simon’s followed by St. Andrew’s outstation. I picked up the Holy Child Sodality children at St. Joseph’s at 10.00am with two adults, who had been in for the weekend. They were in great voice and sang most of the way to St. Andrew’s. After Mass, I visited four old people at their homes, including old Ambrose who was grateful for his monthly supply of groceries. From his place, I went to the home of a 90 year old, who up to recently walked 7km to and from Mass. He and his very ill wife were so gracious. Gentle and faithful people. Their nephew, a primary school teacher, did the translations for me as I celebrated the three sacraments of healing with them. It was 3.30 by the time I returned to St. Simon’s, too late to start out for Mutare as the Ireland/France Six Nations Rugby was due to start at 5.00pm. A long days work. It was an absorbing game, in very wet conditions, as France tried their best in the second half to pull off a victory. They had to settle for a draw on their home ground. By 8.30pm I was ready for bed, unable to stay awake and watch Rory McIlroy claim first place in the world of golf. An extraordinary achievement for a 22 year old. Golf at Hillside on Monday was enjoyable with a good first nine performance. It was very hot in mid afternoon, about 35C. Energy and concentration faded. I heard that John Maxwell( a cousin) set off for Western Australia last week. I hope he finds satisfactory employment in that beautiful part of the world with his qualification in architecture. He has practical experience of doing woodwork with a cabinet maker in Athlone during his summer holidays. Love and best wishes. …………….O. Carm., NB Lecture given by Archbishop Martin on Feb 27th, 2012 at Mater Dei College, Dublin. I just copied some apposite paragraphs. The change that is taking place in the Irish Church today is much more significant than many imagine. The change that will take place between now and the year 2020 – just eight years away – will be enormous. I am more and more convinced that these years will be the most challenging years that the Irish Church has had to face since Catholic Emancipation. The goal posts have changed and changed definitively. These are difficult times in the Church; day after day there are those within the Church and outside it who prophecy the end of the Church as a significant factor in Irish society. There are others who feel that the Catholic Church in Ireland is on a suicide path created by its own internal culture. We must realistically recognise the critical situation of the Church, but we should never give in to pessimism and negativism. I thought it would be good to quote from the homily of Pope John XXIII on 11th October 1962 at the opening of the Second Vatican II. Pope John’s first words to the Vatican Council at the beginning of his homily were Gaudet Mater Ecclesia: Our Mother the Church rejoices. Polarisation in the Church can and has led to a loss of the sense of joy which should be a mark of the community of believers. Reformers and traditionalist alike can all too often be men and women with a mission, but also men and women with gloomy and stern faces. The Church at all times has reason to rejoice. Jesus loves his Church and will be with his Church. The Church’s agenda is driven by Jesus and it is from his fidelity to the Church that we can draw hope. The challenge of faith in Ireland can only be addressed by radical efforts of new evangelization. That new evangelization must however have its own Irish characteristics. The renewal of the Irish Church must be led from within the Irish Church. It must begin immediately. There is little time to waste. For too long the Church appeared in a role of moralisation and people failed to transmit the real depth of the Christian message which is about Jesus as a person who in his life and teaching reveals to us who God is. God is a God of love with whom we can in Jesus enter into a personal relationship, which then brings richness to the way we live of our lives. Again, without becoming elitist, the Catholic Church in Ireland must be concerned about the lack of knowledge of basic elements of the Christian faith and of the nature of the Church among Catholics. This is a situation which should be a cause of concern as it can only increase from one generation to the next. The Irish Church invests too little in the on-going education of the faith of adults. The New National Directory of Catechesis Sharing the Good News is truly a forward-looking document and work in underway in every diocese to address its implementation. The Irish Church is extraordinarily weak in its knowledge and use of the scriptures. The Church of tomorrow will not be created tomorrow or next week or next year but I believe that slowly the Church in Ireland is turning the corner. I say “is turning the corner, not ”has turned the corner”. History teaches us that hope and challenge will always be present together in the Irish Church. We have to get the balance right. The crisis today is however much greater than in the past and we have only one chance to get it right. Burying our head in the sand or making a mistake of discernment, especially any return to triumphalism or self-satisfaction, could turn renewal back irreversibly.