God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Wanderer between worlds

Often I am asked about “my holidays” when I return from a shift as chaplain to sea for one of the cruise liners going around the world in our days. And when I tell them it does not feel like holiday people don’t want to believe me.
Well, as a matter of facts, there is indeed the usual work load of a chaplain:
saying Holy Mass, conducting prayer services for passengers and crew, playing escort for land excursions. It means also being present 24/7 for a possible crisis or counselling, confession or any approach by passengers or staff.
On the other hand it is clear, that being on a cruise liner is indeed also a break from the normal routine of my work in South Africa and therefore has a sort of “holiday effect” of some kind.
What I discovered over the years is that the gap between the realities I know and partly work in and the “perfect world of luxury holidays” is widening and that it seems more and more difficult to bridge this gap or to just accept that those worlds live almost parallel to each other. The vast amount of food wasted on a cruise liner and the knowledge that at home kids go hungry to bed is difficult to comprehend. The way people often romanticise poverty while doing excursion in so-called third-world-countries is sometimes hard to swallow when overhearing it.
Giving talks about my work and engaging into discussions show how big the gap is between the realities people on board are coming from and the realities I know from my work.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the luxury of a cruise ship once in a while. It is nice to be pampered and looked after and to have the chance to eat and drink whenever I feel like it. I also know that I have to be home in both worlds, as only then, encounter can happen and gaps can be bridged and understanding and help can be born out of the worlds meeting each other one or the other way. But there remains still this little devil of doubt whether it always works to bring realities together which couldn’t be more different. The only thing I know is that I am trying hard and that I need both worlds to do what I see as my calling.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, chaplain to sea, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , ,

From Cruise-liner pastoral work back to African realities

Some gaps are difficult to cover – and after doing pastoral work for passengers on a cruise-liner going from Australia to Sri Lanka, I am now back in Cape Town to continue my work in the local Archdiocese of Cape Town. It was nice to be away for a while and it was interesting working on such a ship. What a meeting of worlds, what kind of dynamics. I seldom had so much fun preaching in the prayer services and Eucharistic celebrations – it felt like hearts met and a connection established which brought “my world” to these mainly elderly people who traveled the world without getting too much in contact with reality. One day Cambodia, one day Thailand, one day Aceh and so on – it seems to me a first smooth encounter and how much I would wish for a deeper encounter – but time don’t permit. On the other hand – having worked hard at home the passengers tried to conquer the world, to catch a glimpse of other cultures and living environments. And I am sure it changes their perception of the world, it these encounters are done in a sensitive way.

I was able to show the BR TV production “Hoffnung am Kap” and tears and big eyes gave witness how often it is forgotten: the plight of those less fortune then we are. It is not easy to realize that wealth and high living standard is only possible if others suffer or at least have little to live on. I am sure I found new friends for HOPE Cape Town and some people staying in touch with me and the work I am doing with all my colleagues.

The cruise has shown me again how big the gap is between North and South – and how much I am already more an African than an European. It is scary, it is amazing, but it remains my challenge to be a bridge between two worlds which at the end need each other.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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