Pretoria (Fides Service) - “Continuing Jesus’ total mission” is the theme of the Lenten Appeal launched by the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference SACBC. Recalling the Gospel of Luke “You sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to the blind new sight, to set the down trodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour”, the Bishops underline that continuing this mission includes proclaiming the Good News more effectively. This involves forming future priests in local seminaries, training people to assume leadership in the Church, providing teaching materials for catechists, improving the Church’s liturgical services, inspiring evangelisation work, facing the challenge of injustice, reaching out to other Christian denominations and non Christian faith communities.
Lenten offerings go to support “the work of the Church and the poor” in the dioceses that fall within the Conference boundaries and promoting discipleship. In a lengthy article in the Southern Cross Catholic weekly, Lenten Appeal national director, Fr. Michael Slattery SMA, said that despite financial difficulties in many communities, the response is always generous. The largest portion goes to the poor, the rest goes towards educational projects such as bursaries, teacher salaries, priestly formation, Bible translation work and distribution, ecumenical projects and so on. One programme sustained by the Lenten Appeal is Rural Education Access Programme which enables talented students from poor backgrounds to pursue a tertiary education.
Each diocese has an Appeal Director who meets the National Director to prepare the Lenten Appeal Message. Fr. Slattery recalled that collecting funds for the poor is part of Church tradition of Lenten sacrifices, sharing part of one’s resources with those in need. He said that the South African situation does not completely mirror that of other African countries, South Africa’s economy is comparatively good and functioning with extremes of poverty along with extremes of wealth. Finally, with regard to the Church in South Africa, the national director of the Lenten Appeal underlined that the donations made by the faithful are gradually helping the Southern African Church to become financially independent able to continue its mission without needing assistance from abroad. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 16/3/2007 righe 33 parole 412)