Over the past week we have been having a meeting, here in Bergvliet, of the superiors of our Redemptorist communities in South Africa. In total we have six communities in South Africa. Apart from our community here and our neighbouring community in Retreat, we also have communities in Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Rustenburg and Kwa Zulu Natal. It has been a very good and fraternal gathering, and we have focussed on how best to maintain the values of our Redemptorist community life while also doing all we can to best serve the needs of all those we encounter through our parishes, and in our parish missions and retreats.
One obvious area of difficulty is that we are striving to maintain our communities and serve the needs of the people while the number of Redemptorists in the country are very few. When I arrived here almost 30 years ago we had a total of almost 50 members of our Redemptorist Province. Today our numbers are down to about 25, including our elderly and retired priests. This makes it all the more important that we help one another to be faithful to our community life as Redemptorists, while our pastoral responsibilities are always increasing.
Our meeting has given each of us hope and a fresh desire to be faithful to our calling to live our lives in Redemptorist community. Of course, here at Bergvliet we are very blessed in that we still have a large community which does all it can to meet the needs of the parish and at the same time where we are able to rely on one another for fraternal support in so many ways. As I listened to the other superiors, who live in much smaller communities, I realised just how much more difficult life is when our numbers are very few.
We obviously spoke too about the need to do all we can to increase vocations to the Redemptorist way of life from within the parishes that we serve. Where else are our vocations going to come from? And this means that here at Holy Redeemer, as well as in all our other parishes, we are dependent on our parishioners to make vocations to our Redemptorist way of life a real focus of prayer. God is still calling people to priesthood and religious life. So we need to pray for generosity of heart and an openness among the young to listen to the call of God. I would seriously urge that prayer for vocations should be an aspect of our personal and family prayer each day. It should also be a focus of prayer for all those who come each day to spend some quiet time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. If we fail to attract young people to our Redemptorist vocation, then it is obvious that we will not be able to continue to serve the people of God in the ways that we are currently able to do.
This coming week, the Archbishop has called all the priests serving in the parishes of the Archdiocese to a meeting which will last from Monday till Friday. This means that both Fr. Scott and myself will be absent all week. We are very blessed indeed that Fr. Sean, our Provincial, will remain to keep our parish running as smoothly as possible. Let us then pray in these coming days and months that our Year of Mercy, might bring with it a renewal of both religious life and the priesthood.
Fr Gerard, CSsR