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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Feb. 4, 2015
Here goes.  Jan.. 22, I was called to anoint 2 people in the hospital. It is called the sacrament of the sick. It is meant to give healing to the body, if possible (God doesn’t really want people to suffer), and in the spirit (when one is seriously ill, one tends to think about one’s life, the ups and downs, the good things and the bad things (we are all sinners) and often, one thinks that maybe this is the time to ask for forgiveness for anything that one feels is not in keeping with what we know God expects of us, so that, if I am going to get the final call, I will be ready to go up the gates well prepared, and not caught with my pants down. It is always touching for me and somehow joyful to see the sick person experiencing a feeling of peace and relief.  I have had the experience too of others in the ward, who are listening and doing their own praying, saying, “ how about me too?” OK, not a problem. And I then remind everyone in the ward, regardless of denomination or no religion at all, that every day we are praying for them and putting the before God and asking God to hurry up and look after them so that they can get back home (if that is what God wants) and get back to work for the family, if one has a job.
    I also got and invitation , on the same day, to take on a retreat for our CPS (Precious Blood) nuns who are in vows from 5 to 20 yrs. It is supposed to be from June 4 to 10. Wow! But I accepted the challenge and am already remotely preparing. What a great opportunity, I think, to celebrate their 5 to 20 yrs. of commitment to the service of their community and to God’s people, and to plan for ongoing commitment into the future. What a privilege to be asked to accompany them on this part of their jour ney.
     Sunday, Jan. 25th, was the usual commitment to the community at Savannah Park. A bigger crowd than usual and always a delight to be with them, although it is mostly in Zulu (MY Zulu, Ha! With a bit of Xhosa and English thrown in ) there are a few who are only English speaking but very few. About 70 people. When it comes to the greeting of peace before communion, I usually greet everyone and I start with the children where, instead of shaking hands, we have a couple of big hug-ins, as I would imagine Jesus would have done with the children in his day, and as any parent would do for their child (what parent shakes hands with his/her child. Ha!
     After the Mass, instead of taking lunch with the leader and his wife and kids at their home, I accepted an invitation to attend a memorial service for the mother-in-law of my eye doctor, Casandra Seethal.  This was an inspirational experience for me.  Casandra’s husband’s mother, was the one being remembered, 20 yrs. after her passing. Theresa Lazarus. A school teacher, grade one. It was inspiring to hear how those who still knew her appreciated what a beautiful and loving woman she was, explaining how she had touched their lives and made them better persons. I only realized, after hearing from a few people that I had known her sister, Cecilia Gabriel, who was one of the first women who “adopted” me, and Indian lady, also beautiful woman, loving but strict with her kids and with her husband, Johnny Gabriel, one of whose favorite sayings was “ I am the king in this house and whatever my wife says, shall be done.” I think that that said it all. I knew their family well and met Cecilia’s youngest brother, who still remembered me from all those years ago (going back to 1967—almost 50 yrs. now). We kind of rediscovered each other again.

Holy Moses, it is now Feb. 8. Time has been flying.

Let me start with the arrival of my grand niece (the daughter of my niece, John and Donna’s daughter Ann). Her name is Katrina and we (Sr. Gorette and I ) met her at the airport sun. Eve. Jan. 26. What a delight. We have been waiting for ever for her arrival. We took her to her 8 star flat at the orphanage here at Mariannhill (St. Vincent’s Home). Being kind as I always am, I let her sleep and get over her jetlag, a bit, and checked on her about 11am. We made a plan to take her shopping especially to get her cell phone operating. Ha! This modern stuff. Not a sim card but a nana-card, a tiny little thing. But we have got it and it worked. She got R50 of airtime. I tried phoning her and she got my call. All is well—we thought.
     I received a card from a friend I knew in Zimbabwe, who didn’t leave her email address so I had to send a reply via snail mail. I hardly go to the post office any more, but I got some beautiful stamps in case I have to do that again.
     I have kept myself busy cutting grass in between rains, collecting fallen branches, removing weeds, checking each day on Katrina (she is now working in the office and is a great help, plus being a big sister to all the little and not so little kids, who swamp her needing lots of TLC).
      On Friday, I went to our department store, Game, to get some printing paper and saw a stove (hob separate from the oven) on sale. So I bought it. It is for the man and his wife to look after our outstation and act as leaders and helpers. Their 20yr. old stove is slowly dying (two burners don’t work any more) so I thought that rather than try to patch up this old thing, it is, maybe, time to put something up to date in their small kitchen. I used the money that you send to help people with. It was R3200.00. That is $320. I don’t know how that compares with prices where you are at but it seemed a good buy from here. I won’t tell you the problems we had with credit and debit cards but it made the transaction frustratingly interesting. I told them to deliver it on Monday as I knew that I would be super busy on Saturday and Sunday, as well, forgetting that on Monday, we were celebrating the taking of vows of those who have now finished the novitiate (1st year of discernment). Then there were others renewing their vows for another year (they have plenty of time to decide whether they want to stick out the religious life or to say goodbye, before they make their permanent commitment. Anyway, I forgot that Monday too would be a busy day/
    On Saturday I took Katrina with me to a friend who installed the new thermostat in my little vehicle and she was welcomed in the house and got her first taste of some Indian food (Samoosas, among other things). I gave her a break and then took her to another house Sat. night to meet the couple whose child we were going to baptize a week from that day. They showed her what a South Africa braai-vleis (cook out) was like. Since they are about her age, it was a good experience.
    Sunday, Feb. 1st was Katrina’s birthday, so after Mass at the hospital, I took her to a nice restaurant overlooking the valley of a thousand hills where she could see a bit of rural KwaZulu Natal. It was rainy and cold but still enjoyable.
    Monday I spent time at the celebration for the vows (Mass ---maybe 3and ½ hrs. and the feast after that) and also  made sure to make our new novices from Mthatha feel welcome here in their new home for the year. They come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they spent a year in Mthatha in the postulancy, trying to learn some English as well as some Xhosa. Now they will be challenged by Zulu. But, in between, I was keeping an eye out for that stove. It finally came late in the after noon. The guys got lost and I had to go out and lead then to our house. We off loaded it and put it inside and I sent them off on their way as they still have many deliveries to make (it was after 5pm by then. Good luck to the deliveries)
     On Tuesday, I delivered the stove (Bishop Khumalo didn’t believe that I could get the stove into my little vehicle. We showed him. Of course, they were happy to receive the stove. I still haven’t stopped in to see if they installed it yet. Then I took Katrina back to where we got her nana-card because she discovered that she can receive calls but can’t  phone out. We discovered that the whole R50 was used up uploading stuff on her I-phone so there was no airtime left to phone out with. She had them shut off that part that did the automatic, sneaky, unannounced uploading so that it wouldn’t do that again.
    On Thursday I took Fr. Macarius to the  Ophthalmologist to have his eyes checked (Macular Degeneration—he gets an injection directly into his eye once every two months—ouch!, and the doctor was pleased that they had been stabilized. He has now moved permanently from Zambia and will be with us here at MD.) We then visited several other  priests who were nearby and who appreciated that we took the time to see them. Why not!
    Lots more grass cutting (when it rains, the grass grows faster than even children.) Br. Innocent helped a lot this time.
     I received pictures from my cousin Jean Hedstrom, of Aunt Rose Pietrusiak celebrating her 97th  birthday, smilingly cutting the cake. What a delight to have her still with us. She is a family treasure, as is her faithful caregiver, Lita.
     Yesterday  I baptized Grace (Pienaar) at their church in a place called Kloof. The whole family, both sides where there (about 50 people or even more) and it was a delight. She smiled all the way. That is the second time I had a baby smiling all the way through the baptism ceremony. I must have caught on to something! We went to the reception at the home of the grandparents after that, and I left Katrina there since there were others of her age and they would probably be doing some dancing and enjoying themselves that night. I had work to do at home. In fact, I had just gotten home, about 3:45pm when I got an SMS to come to the hospital to anoint an man who was dying. (No rest for the wicked). I organized for the sister to meet me at the door.
     When we went to the ward, I discovered that it was a white male. Oh. I was prepared for Zulu. He couldn’t talk but wrote a few things in answer to my questions. What is your name, where do you come from, what is your church, etc. He wrote that he expected to die that night and wanted to get ready. His name is Philip, he comes from a place called Drummond (not far away) and is an Anglican. So, I told him to have a talk with the Lord and tell him that he was sorry for anything that you may have done or not done that hurt or disappointed God, ask God for forgiveness, and I will add my prayer to his giving him absolution ( a kind of affirmation that God, who always hears and forgives if one is really sorry, has forgiven him, and he now has a clean slate), then I anointed him with the healing oil of the sacrament of the sick. I then told him that he was as ready as anyone could be to head for home whenever he would get the call, but I doubted that it would be that night as he crunched the bones in my hand with his handshake. Not a sign that he is ready to take the final trip home yet. I will check him today. I told him that it really depended on God. If God thought that he wasn’t ready to go home yet, well, just swing with it and be patient. So, we shall see.
That’s it for now. Cas.

March 20, 2015

More than a month has gone by and I am behind, behind, behind. It reminds me of a sign that was on my boss’s desk at Kelsey Hayes. “The hurrier I go the behinder I get”. That seems to be me.

Here are some of the highlights of my adventures this past month.
1)      Monanyane (Mona).  One of the boys from Sabelani Home (Fr. Guy’s boys). He had a history of spoiling his education, high school, by joining his other two brothers drinking. He was warned many time but…. Well, Fr. Guy managed to get him a bursary to St. Mary’s nursing school. He pretended to have been beaten up and to have lost his money on his way to Mthatha about 2 months ago. He lied because the money he had been given was used to buy booze which made for a very enjoyable weekend. He was told that that will be the last time. He was given a reprieve. But not long after, he came back to the hostel drunk with his same friend and this time he was kicked out of the hostel by the authorities and told that, in mercy, he would be allowed to sit for his exams in May, but had to find a place to live outside somewhere.
April 4, 2015
     I give up. I can’t keep up. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I wonder how the families of the victims of the atrocities of ISIS and Boko Haram and Al Shabab and Taliban will be celebrating Easter this year, including the families of that deliberate plane crash into the mountain. They have already had their Good Friday (In Xhosa and in Zulu it is called—Olwesihlanu olumnyama---dark  Friday).  What a world we live in---violence, violence, violence (that includes those black American Families who have lost loved ones to some racist police—it is clear that racism is healthy and strong in my beloved homeland.
     Well, I guess that a part of the celebration of Easter is the revival of hope where it all seemed hopeless so that we can continue to try, at least, to live our Christianity, like Pope Francis, who puts his money where his mouth is. All those who experienced the revival of hope at that first Easter are long dead, and those who were closest to Jesus, eventually died like those victims of ISIS and the others. But we are the fruit of a hope that could not be crushed.
    I have been cutting lots of hair and lots of grass. Came across some sexual abuse of a young woman by a priest chaplain…attended a jazz concert,,,gave several workshops and attended a few… managed to get some material for my guy in Landsend so that he can get started making school uniforms for a local school and earn himself a living…visited the dentist…managed to use some of your gift money to buy a new stove for a family wholse 20yr. old stove was giving up the ghost…using some of that gift money also to pay the rent for one of Fr. Guy’s boys who is studying nursing, etc. etc. etc.
     However, let me simply wish you all who are taking the time to read this epistle, a very happy and hope-full Easter. The impossible has happened setting a precedent for anyone who thinks that there is something else that is not possible.  Love and Peace, as always, Cas.

PS. All holy week services in a combination of Zulu (my Zulu) and a smattering of English.