, 02 September, 2020 / 9:26 PM
Members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) have sent a message of gratitude to the people of God under their care for “being faithful to the Church” during this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic and for contributing towards the conference’s coffers despite the harsh economic times.
In their collective message shared with ACI Africa on Tuesday, September 1, the Prelates highlight some of the challenges that the Church is facing during the pandemic and the new changes the people had been forced to adapt to, key among them popularizing virtual prayers and financial challenges.
“This has been a real challenging year for all of us, two weeks of Bishops Lenten Appeal collections and over 150 days of lockdown on different levels, leaving us now on level 2,” the Bishops say in their message signed by Bro. Ashley Tillek who serves as the SACBC National Director of the conference’s Lenten Appeal.
They add, “This has truly been a hard time for you the laity adopting to use social media for Holy Mass as well. But we would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the true dedication shown throughout this pandemic and your commitment shown to being faithful to the Church during this challenging time of the covid-19 pandemic. I thank the Lord for your generosity.”
They reported that a total of R.3,867,651.49 (US$232,059) has been collected in 2020 towards the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal as compared to R.9,809,346.90 (US$588,560) that different dioceses and Church groups in South Africa contributed last year, translating to a 61 percent plunge.
“During the first two weeks of Lent our different parishes held their annual collections for the Bishops Lenten Appeal and a total amount of R.3,903,235.27 was collected, which is 39 percent of what collected last year,” the Bishops say in their August 27 message.
“For this we are so in debt to you all. As a member here at Khanya House said we are lucky to have received more than R.500,000. And yes, I would say we are most blessed by your support shown to the poor and needy and the works of the Church during these difficult days,” they say.
Nearly all dioceses recorded a decrease in their contributions compared to last year, with a number of jurisdictions only managing to contribute less than 30 percent of the amount they contributed in 2019.
In an interview with ACI Africa on Wednesday, September 2, Bro. Ashley said that the amount collected was more than what the Bishops had expected, owing to the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.
“We only had two weeks to collect the money instead of the normal six weeks but we still managed to collect about 40 percent. Nothing was collected during the remaining four weeks since places of worship were closed. We therefore expected very little,” he told ACI Africa September 2.
With the R.3.9 million, the Bishops went ahead to give a breakdown of what projects the money was meant for, including Seminarians’ formation and support and vocation awareness programs.
Other projects that were allocated funds included Catholic Charities as well as diocesan development programs to assist parishes with fostering “specific objectives.”
“Unfortunately, this will leave us with a deficit of R.224,425.67,” the Bishops say of the budgetary allocation that was slightly over R.4 million.
Asked whether the deficit will impact planned projects, the member of the Order of the Friars Minor (OFM) told ACI Africa that the Bishops were still rallying for funds from the people of God.
“We have received a little bit more money and I believe that from the trend I am observing, the deficit will be cleared in just about one or two weeks,” said Bro. Ashley.
He added, “From our last year’s collection of about R.10 million, there is still some money remaining and it is from this that we will be able to support some of our projects this year.”
According to the OFM Brother, it is high time that the Church in Africa became creative in financing her projects owing to the reduction in Church collections because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For a long time, we have relied on support from European countries for a long time, but, even before COVID-19 struck, this help from abroad was slowly reducing. There is therefore a need to go back to our early Christians communities and find ways of running our projects,” Bro. Ashley told ACI Africa.
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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa