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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

January 8th, 2016,
My boss at Kelsey Hayes, Bill Byers,  had a saying on his desk that, I think, applies to me here now. The hurrier I go the behinder I get. Ha! Life has been going too fast and I am already behind and the new year has already gone into first gear.
Let me summarize it this way. Katrina was on an emotional roller coaster as the school closed and she had to say goodbye to all the kids. Tough job. Also, we spent a good bit of time together going around from family to family saying goodbye—all people that had taken her into their homes and hearts. She had become part of mor families than she could count. And I became more and more proud of her.
For me, it was a Christmas rush, preparing Masses and liturgies for one feast after another, in both languages, English and Zulu. It takes time, you know, to think things through and then to give a decent sermon or homily on such special days.
Again, before and after Christmas, we visited sometimes 3 or 4 families in one day. Then came the departure day. One of the families that had taken her in as if she was their daughter, Logan and Rajes Govender (and their son) took us all to the airport in a bigger car than I have. We got there in plenty of time and had a cup of coffee and some time to chat.We waited, purposely, up till into boarding time so that we wouldn’t have to look each other in the eye and start you know what. We said our goodbyes quickly before tears could come and then she was off and out of sight. Then we were left to our own emptiness. That was the 29th of December.
She had tried to put in some sim cards that would work in the States and even here but there was no communication for a long time, except for one quick notice (I don’t know how she sent it, maybe borrowed someone’s phone) that she had been very rudely served a document that said that she was an “undesirable person” (persona non grata) and would not be allowed to return to south Africa for five years. They asked her to sign this document, which she didn’t understand, so she asked them what she was signing and that’s what they told her. They also said that she could appeal, period. Damn!!! But then , silence. Eventually we connected again and she had drafted a letter to somewhere appealing this decision. She sent it off by email to some address but never got an answer back as to whether it was received or not. So we are trying to follow up on that now.
In the meantime, I have been back where I started in 1967, at St. Mary’s hospital for Mass every morning and visiting the sick there. I was asked by the chaplain to take his place while he went on home leave and for a retreat till 27th January. Then I discovered that he won’t be back. He has been assigned to another parish far away from here. I suspect that they are thinking that I will just slide in and take over the responsibility of doing the job there but I won’t. I have too many other irons in the fire and don’t really want to be confined to just that job. Am I selfish? Perhaps, but I don’t want to have the responsibility of being the full time chaplain there, although I love the work. As I said, I have too many other irons in the fire.
It has been brutally hot here in the Durban area, 35C not uncommon, and up to 28C in the house the whole night. That is in the 90’s, at least, in Farenheit. Very uncomfortable. And we are also suffering a drought and there are some towns and villages that have to have water trucked in. I can’t imagine a city then size of Durban, with the townships and suburbs, running out of water. It would be an ubelieveable catastrophe.
Well, I am now concentrating on getting my home leave trip organized properly as I don’t want to miss anyone. I will be checking on addresses and phone numbers, hoping that most of them are the same as last time but having the new ones ready to go.
Love to you all. 2016 will be another year of great adventure. So many not problems but challenges---the middle  East,  Africa, gun control, climate change and the whole ecological earth system, etc. etc. etc. Wow!
We’d better not lose contact with the creator because we will need a lot of enlightenment to deal with all these challenges. But, as Obama’s slogan said,  Yes we can. We just have to make up our moral and political minds and put our noses to the grindstone and do it. Pope Francis has given us all a big push. Thank God for him.
 Hey, I am going to leave you now. Stay well. Grow in the Spirit. Love and Peace, Cas.   

January 28, 2016
I need more discipline to keep this blog updated.Well, here goes.
The chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital asked me if I could help out while he was on a retreat and on his home leave. This started back in December 22nd.  You heard some of it already. Well it somehow got into a morning routine. I get up at 4 or 4:30, take a shower, or, if I took a shower the afternoon before, have a kind of rub-down wash concentrating on my crooked back. Ha! Then, if the internet is working (on and off), I check the emails and see if there are any interesting articles that I can share with others as well. I have already read over the readings for the next day and am prepared to make a short 2 minute homily, usually reflections on some of the words of the readings. I have been going down to the kitchen to have a bowl of bran flakes with a small handful of Muesli (keeps the pipes cleaner, so they say, but not always so). I usually have about a half hour to do some meditating before heading for the hospital (via the nice little Hyundai) at 25 past 5. I get the altar organized, and then have a few minutes to get my thoughts together for the celebration of the Mass.
There are usually some communions, so, after Mass one of the sisters accompanies (and guides) me to those patients who would like to receive communion.  By the time we are finished the sisters have already gone to breakfast and I join them and we have a little natter. After breakfast (it has become routine now) I go back to visit the patients who  received communion, find out their names, pray with and for them, and greet everyone in the ward (usuall y there are 8 in a ward.) reminding them that whatever  church they may belong to , we pray for them each day at our morning service (Mass), hoping that God will listen to our prayers and help them to a speedy recovery so that they can get back home to their famiies. This is usually in Zulu, but sometimes there are patients who only know English, so we chat a bit with them as well. This got to be the routine I followed from Monday to Friday up till day before yesterday. The old chaplain has been re-assigned to a far away mission and someone has been asked to fill in for him till they find a permanent replacement. I think that it is crucial that anyone who is going to be a hospital chaplain must know that his job is to go from ward to ward, visiting, encouraging, praying with, bringing some of the good news of Jesus to whoever and letting them know that you are available to listen to , counsel, whatever to help them in their very vulnerable situation there in the hospital.
The other morning, one of the patients ( I know her name but don’t know if she wants me to use it) who looked very bad, and was on and off oxygen for a whole week and a bit more, wasn’t in bed when we came to bring her communion. I was disappointed as we moved off to the next patient, but, lo and behold, here she comes after having brushed her teeth, walking (unbelievable). So we turned back and joyfully gave her communion. I rejoiced with her after breakfast and told her how pleased I was to see her up and about, praise the Lord. I am going to take a break here…..
It is Sunday Jan. 31, and I left yesterday for Mthatha at 8am and arrived about 1:15pm. I delivered a huge crucifix to one family, took a parcel to the CPS sisters at Ikwezi Lokusa (morning star), visited an older confrere , Fr. Francis Jank and then came out here to Libode (about a 45 min. drive from Mthatha) where Fr. Winfried is parish priest. We had a long discussion as to why so many young people (mostly young but not all young) have given up on the “institutional Church” but continue to believe in God and live good lives trying to be good people (Christians?) and doing their little bit to make this a better world. Any Ideas?
But to jump back to where we left off (at the hospital).
I forgot to mention a very traumatic but very happy wedding on Jan. 2nd. A young couple (I have known he girl since she was a youngster—Ziningi Mabaso) came to me back in October to ask what they have to do to organize a church wedding, and if I could take the wedding on Jan. 2nd. I told them that the usual place to start was with her parish priest. (She is from near Mariannhill, a place called Klaarwater but both she and her fianc√© are living and working in Cape Town. ) She managed to catch her parish priest immediately after Mass back then and started the paper work for their church wedding. However, when they tried to contact the parish priest to continue and complete the paper work, he was unable to be contacted. They flew up twice from Cape Town ( a bit expensive) but didn’t succeed in seeing him so they talked to their priest in Cape Town, who finished the paper work for them.  I also reminded them that I am not a marriage officer so they must go and register their marriage at the Magistrate’s office or at Home Affairs. Then we would do the church/God thing after that. They tried unsuccessfully to get to home affairs ( I guess that Magistrates’ are not the usual way any more) as they were told that all the offices were closed till the new year sometime in Feb. as they were being renovated. Can you believe it!!! I checked with a Bishop in CT and a priest friend and they both confirmed that it was true and that Home Affairs is hopeless. So What’s new. Well I decided that if worse comes to worst, I would conduct the church part of the wedding and would tell them to just go to Home affairs and get themselves registered there. However, I wanted to check with  a bishop friend here in Durban where this was kosher or not, but I was going to do it anyway, as they had already found a church who would allow us to have a wedding ceremony in their church, not far from where the reception would be help after the wedding ceremoy. The bishop told me that I could easily find a priest there at the monastery who is a marriage officer and he could do that. I breathed a sigh of relief to hear such a (what I thought) simple solution to a scary problem. I organized a meeting with the priest at the monastery and them for the day before the church ceremony. It happened. Then, the next day, when I went to get the civil ceremony  copy to give to the parish priest at the church, I was told that, no, he, the priest, had to be there at the church ceremony to witness to it and get them all to sign. Holy Moses. I thought that everything was taken care of. Now what! I begged him to cancel whatever he had to do that day and please come with me to do the job from the civil point of view. Thankfully , he agreed, and came along with me. Otherwise, I don’t know what would have happened. In fact he was a special blessing since he is also a musician and he wound up playing the usual wedding march and a few other things during the service which helped it be alive. The only problem was that, he is 83 yrs. old, and while I was looking forward to the dancing after the meal reception, he was tired and wanted to go home. I had to respect him so, I missed out on the dancing. This is the second time this has happened and soon I am going to lose my touch. Ha!
Just a mention of a few other highlights of this January’s events. I met a friend from Austria and we spent some time together and as a result, he wound up helping one of the women who is trying to build a house, with some funds, for which she is very grateful. I used some of your donations for that same purpose. Now she is up to the roof and we want to find some more funds to finish off the roof.
I also attended the jubilees of the FSF sisters, down the South Coast. I have known many of them for lots of years and I even had a chance to visit one of them who welcomed me when I first arrived in South Africa at my first assignment in a place called Harding. She is well on in age now and was super happy to know that a priest friend still remembered her and felt honored by the visit. It was I who was honored to spend some time with a real old faithful soul, friend of the Lord.
I’ve been back to the Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Naidoo, who checked and was satisfied that the troublesome knee is doing OK. He gave me some stuff to build up the cartilage and an anti-inflammatory to take from time to time to ease the discomfort (they say, pain, but it is easily bearable---some of you know what I am talking about---old age sort of stuff).
Since the weather has been very hot this month, and because there was a good bit of rain for a few days, the grass was busy doing its thing. So, I spent a lot of time cutting the grass especially the grass that grows on the side of the hills where the usual lawn mower can’t go. But, I discovered, that after an hour and maybe a bit more, I was running out of energy, sweating like crazy, so I had to come in, have some water and a cup of coffee, watch the Al Jazeera news for a half hour and then go back, if I felt up to it, and continue the cutting. After lunch, I usually, (if I was going to do it) went straight to work (starting about 1pm) till about 2:30 and then did the same, cleaned up the machine, had some water and a cup of coffee , watched another half hour of news, till  3:30 then took a shower and Skyped with a friend at 4pm (if there was a signal—very frustrating, on and off, now you have it, now you don’t).  Then say my evening prayers, get the table ready for supper, watch the news from 6:30 to 7:15 and then spend the rest of the evening preparing thoughts for the Mass the next morning, as well as the workshops I have agreed to give on the two new encyclicals of Pope Francis, Laudato Si (Caring for our Common Home) , the Gaudium Evangelii (the Joy of the Gospel---how he sees what the church is and what is should be doing to bring love, mercy, hope and peace to our world) and finally, Justice and Peace, especially as you see in in Luke’s Gospel. But, by 9am, especially if I have been  cutting grass and am really tired, I just say that’s it and hit the sack. Very hot, so no blankets, even a sheet is sometimes too much.
 I have to stop now as I am going to lunch. Fr. Winfried just came back from his Xhosa mass at 10:30. I took the English Mass this morning at 8am and enjoyed being able to do the whole thing in English. See you later.
Feb. 4, 2016
I am picking up again. We had a Board Meeting at Sabelani Home at 3pm with Fr. Guy’s guys. Each gave a report as to where he was at in his work or studies and then we assessed the situation as to how long we could go on before people got married or found jobs far away or whatever and what should happen to the house and grounds when people have been scattered and are starting new lives. There is no doubt that their lives have been immeasurably enriched by their upbringing by Fr. Guy. I guess that everything must come to a close but the repercussions will last for generations. We had supper together before I went off for the next meeting at Abbot Francis Home.
The meeting started on Sunday evening and lasted until 9pm on Monday. Lots of things were discussed, especially the financial situation which is precarious. (It seems that this is true where ever I have been with all communities.) But the main thing is that elections were held and a new team was chosen to lead and guide the Mthatha Province for the next three years. The world situation has changed so much in the last few years that it will be a real challenge for them to find the best way forward. On Tuesday the three young Congolese novices took their temporary vows. One is being transferred to Zambia to continue his studies there and the other two will remain here and continue their studies in South Africa. Two of our confreres made their permanent vows, one from Congo and one from South Africa. The life of the community moves on.
I spent Wednesday and will spend today visiting people, especially at Landsend and Bedford, where people are struggling, and will use some of the donations I received from some of you for helping them (some school fees, a water tank, finishing the roof, etc. etc. etc. ) The lack of water is a real problem. We really need lots of rain. Many of the dams that provide water are dry or almost dry and this is true throughout South Africa. On river, the Orange river, like our Mississippi, that is the main river taking water from the mountains to the West and the Atlantic Ocean, is completely dry. Unheard of.

Well, that’s enough of updating you. I am now planning my home leave and fine tuning who I can visit and when and where. Many of you are on my list and I really look forward to that. In the meantime, I hope that the new year is treating you with love and respect.  Me too. Love and Peace, Fr. Cas.

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