Bishop in South Africa Cautions Priests against Organizing Big Anniversary Celebrations

Members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC). Credit: SACBC

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Mthatha in South Africa has urged Priests to celebrate their 10 years of Priesthood with modesty and to desist from spending a lot of effort in organizing huge celebrations.

In his opening address at the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) Plenary Assembly on Wednesday, January 18, Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka invited the Priests to benchmark with the Church’s Memorials and Feast Days in celebrating their anniversaries.

“I want to note a growing phenomenon of making huge celebrations for the priestly 10th anniversary. It is a sign of appreciating one’s Priesthood to celebrate any anniversary, but it should not be overdone,” Bishop Sipuka said.

He explained, “If the liturgy, with its ranks of feasts from ordinary to the optional memorial, memorial, feast, and solemnity, can be taken as  a benchmark for celebrating anniversaries, one will understand that it means that we  cannot be celebrating every anniversary as a solemnity.”

He appealed to Priests to guard against the culture of “wanting to be celebrated too much,” adding, “Failure to guard against this temptation will confirm the accusation of clericalism where we, as Priests and Bishops, expect to be treated differently from women Religious and the faithful who do not usually have a splash and a banquet feast of the 10th anniversary.”


“Let us do it modestly without much fanfare and splashing,” the SACBC President said. 

Hinting at the topics for discussion at the Plenary, Bishop Sipuka said that the situation of Priests, who he referred to as the Bishops’ “closest collaborators” in the Southern African region needs to be discussed thoroughly.

Bishop Sipuka hinted at the possibility that some Priests in the region lack spiritual directors and do not go for regular confessions.

“There is a presumption that we make that, as was expected when they were still in the seminary, all our Priests have spiritual directors and regular confession, but this is not necessarily so,” the Bishop of Mthatha said.

He added, “I have no solution to this challenge because we do not have enough Priests and women Religious as spiritual directors. Still, I am raising this so we can grapple with it because, as you may agree, the consequences of a lack of spiritual direction and confession for Priests  are ghastly to contemplate.” 

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Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishop has condemned the reported assault at a holiday resort in Bloemfontein, where some white people are said to have allegedly violently prevented some black teenagers from using a pool. 

The South African Bishop says the incident had resulted in racial tension, adding, “After almost 30 years of the new dispensation, this is yet another manifestation of the lingering lack of social cohesion in South Africa.”

“If we take seriously the continued conspicuous absence of white people in our Diocesan celebration and other manifestations of the lack of cooperation and fellowship between black and English-speaking Catholics, we, too in the Church, are sitting with a lack of cohesion and how do we hope to champion it in society when we do not have it ourselves,” he said.

According to the Bishop who has been at the helm of Mthatha Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May 2008, white people, for the most part, do not respond to the olive branch that blacks have and continue to give. 

“This needs to be stated, and a call to conversion be made,” Bishop Sipuka said January 18.


Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.