God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Ball of HOPE and bridging the gap

Sitting in Venice at the airport waiting on my flight to Cape Town via Frankfurt and Johannesburg I realize that in one weeks time we will have the Ball of HOPE . Being on a ship means also to be exposed to a different kind of crowd – often people who have never seen the realities of poverty and disease but on TV. It’s not their fault, it never came up and doing a cruise means often to pick all the beauty of every country and not being able to see behind the curtain of real life in the respective countries.

Being a bridge between worlds as a chaplain is one important task besides saying Holy Mass and attending to the needs and problems of those on such a cruise liner. It would be false to compare the needs in the township of Cape Town and those I hear about during such a journey. I have to realize that for problems and needs are very subjective and therefore to the person concerned equally important and to be taken serious. Maybe it is indeed a grace to be able to live in both of the worlds without comparing, but with the clear intent to bring those worlds closer together.

Bringing worlds together is also part of the mission when it comes to the Ball of HOPE. Yes, it is about charity, about raising money but also about bringing worlds together. May it be only a couple of kilometers – in Cape Town worlds are living very close together without having the chance, sometimes without wanting the chance to meet each other.

Let’s hope that the Ball of HOPE serves it purpose: to bring together people who realize, that we all have the right to live a decent and dignified life.

 

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chaplain in a special mission

A real priest playing a chaplain on a cruise liner for a trip – that was the wish of the production company when approaching me to join them discovering the beauties of the Black Sea on a trip on the MS Artania. Not more was said during the time before we left Venice two days ago and one would think that the filming would concentrate on the priests obvious duties: the prayer services.

But that was not what the film crew had in mind. Their request was and is to add a religious figure on land during land excursion to let him explain some landmarks in more depth to the persons they accompanied on the trip. The priest as a sort of guarantee for a bit of quality and in-dept information in a reality series normally focusing on emotions and stories more on the surface of life.

I found this approach first strange, then more and more appealing, because at the end that is the task priests should have: being able to add more quality and more sense to normal life, being able to read the signs of time and individual life and to assist in translating life experience into a deeper sphere of understanding. Touching those layers in our existence which are fundamental for understanding and living life to the fullest without being in the lead – connecting the dots in history pointing to what lays ahead in the future and is also represented in this particular moment in time – and all this in a serving role, not overwhelming the persons concerned. So not the leading role but being a supporting actor is the part we as priests are called to perform often in life.

I guess there is more to meditate about during this trip.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , ,

No time to rest…

It is amazing – after 24 hours at airports and in the air back in South Africa and it takes not even minutes to receive the first phone call. How do they know that one is back in the country, just switching on the cell? This week is occupied a lot from work with HOPE Cape Town. The transition phase is ongoing but I get the feel that we are getting there. The website need an update and all the news about the new cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences Neu-Ulm must be beamed up. We started research in the fields of E-learning: How do our people learn best? With paper documents, computers or handheld devices? A 6 months study will hopefully tell us more about it.
But it was great to see the enthusiasm of the students and lectures from Neu-Ulm coming to Cape Town for a week of extensive work. And it was good for our HOPE Community Health worker to see how networking is functioning and how important it is to learn from each other.
Other meetings with fellow priests and friends complemented the week and there was also a second meeting regarding founding a European Club for Cape Town. A club, where one can do networking; but also intellectual and spiritual exchange should take place. And not only once a week or once a month. The club should provide a venue to be accessible every day, just to bump in for a drink and a chat or a business meeting. To make such an idea working one has to look at existing clubs to liaise and form an additional grouping using the facility. I find it an exciting idea and I have the impression that all involved like to work hard to get it off the ground and going.

Ending a time as chaplain at sea means also to write a report about your work, the church wants to know what one has done in this swimming vineyard and even some guests have already taken the opportunity to send greetings from home to their “ex-chaplain”.

Church wise the appointment of Bishop Mueller from Regensburg in Germany to be “God’s watchdog” has created some debate and yeah, I guess, it is debatable. He has a diversity which leaves one sometimes guessing in which direction it explodes. On one hand he is a friend of one of the most acknowledged liberation theologian in South America; on the other hand he dealt with laity in his diocese in a way which is more than questionable. And for the Pius-brothers he seems to be a heretic – denying the virgin birth of Jesus and the teaching of transubstantiation. So it seems nobody is really happy – except the pope I guess and I think we just have to wait and see what is happening. Even if the past might be difficult, there is always the hope that people can change or grow into a job in a way serving God and the people.  All the hasty judgements,be it positive or negative are too early. Let him start and we will see…

Reading also the news on AIDS I see that Uganda starts to have problems related to resistance. This comes not as a suprise, this is indeed one of the biggest challenges we have to keep the virus far away from turning into a nasty resistant one. But the chances are high that it will happen if we don’t watch out very carefully, also here in South Africa.
I also note that the OraSure HIV home kit test is now FDA approved. I remember sitting with the representative of this company quite some years ago and at that time I felt that this test could prove good to make testing easier and avoid the pre-test counselling which I believe we have to stop doing as soon as possible. But local government and the hospitals were not keen at that time even to listen to such a test not performed in a hospital setting.

Well, weekend is coming and I hope there is time for some reading. I just have counted: There are 23 books waiting to be read…

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

In between Helsinki and St. Petersburg

Being a chaplain to sea means to be away from the usual “always being connected” and living in an environment so completely different from the usual daily life in South Africa. More than 800 people constantly around you, from which are almost 300 on board to make the life pleasurable for the rest of . As the “Grosse Ostseereise” means many ports to call on, it also means that almost every day I am somewhere on shore to go with a busload full of passengers and a local guide exploring the respective country. Little time to focus on TV, news and there-like.
Nevertheless I try to keep myself informed and note with excitement, that the dialogue between Archbishop Zollitsch and the signatories of the “Freiburg Aufruf” concerning the divorced-re-married couples seems to go well and that all parties are concerned about the problem and wish to get it right and end the discrimination of those in question. Ideals can never be enforced by punishing those who have failed for the rest of their lives. Good to hear reason in this case also from the authority.
Also news from Uganda with their madness to re-introduce the death penalty and other harsh measures to punish those being born gay and trying to live out their affection for a person of the same-sex. It will never match my understanding of logic and God’s love that the church punishes those affected with life-long celibacy claiming that God wants it like this. It will one day end up like the quest to abolish slavery, because at the end, we ask them to be obeying slaves of an idea connected with a hostile look at sexuality instead embracing and emphasizing their love and the newest academic research on this subject.
In Kenya, I note, HIV rates are climbing with those using drugs by injecting them. The topic of needle exchange versus a conservative view of society will have to be solved in favor of protecting those who are depended on drugs. It might be the first step into getting drug users off in keeping them alive and healthy in a way.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22.11.2009 4 weeks and already he is gone again

Exactly four weeks has my successor as the new chaplain to the German-speaking Catholic Community lived in Cape Town before leaving again. Living behind “burglar bars” was not his dream, a mugging added to the anxiety. It is a pity as once again it has been proven that the transfer of priests is not a chess game or goes according to files from the human resource department. For me it was sad to see that an obvious wrong transfer knows only losers: the person who was transferred, the community who was looking forward to have another priest and obviously also the Kath. Auslandssekretariat, which has shown that they ignored the realities of the persons and communities concerned.

I wish my successor, who is now back in Germany awaiting his new assignment, all the best. Thanks God the pastoral community council found a retired German priest who is able to supply for the rest of the year. And for me amazing to see how people now take more ownership and responsibility to maintain a certain level of service until a new chaplain will arrive somewhere next year. Nevertheless, after 12,5 years of building up a community, it is somehow frustrating to see how careless my previous headquarters puts at risk the work of many years.

As mentioned yesterday in my blog, my last “spiritual seminarian” will be ordained deacon on the 6.12. This is the first time that I will be at Nazareth House again and meet with the German-speaking Catholic Community. I have to attend this event after years of accompanying Dominik towards priesthood. His diaconate will be the first step of ordination, end of next year should then follow the ordination to the priesthood.

Finally a good start into the week also for HOPE Cape Town. We will get new offices at pharmacology in February next year. Then all senior staff will work in close proximity at the University of Stellenbosch, Tygerberg Campus and also I will occupy an office there. But we still have to search for a new team secretary for the G7 Ithemba Ward. Also for February  next year – if you know a reliable person with secretarial knowledge and a lot of human values and a peoples person – let me know.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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