God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

04.06.2010 Back to normal…

Arriving yesterday evening home again and unpacking – the usual after a week away. Today the morning starts with office work – so many email still to be answered, preparation for the weekend and sorting out all the commitments for the next two weeks. Then off to Tygerberg Hospital to attend the HOPE Cape Town management meeting, which takes most of the afternoon. Lots of interesting topics to be discussed surround new ventures, new approaches but also the consolidation of the existing: always that small little red line between conservation and new adventure, the proven ones and the trial phases as a consequence of new challenges. HOPE Cape Town is developing further and we plan a workshop in July to determine medium and long-term goals for the next years to come.

In the evening then farewell party for diplomatic staff – and it is good to meet and greet a lot of people I have not seen for ages. It is something I will never get used to: to bid farewell people you learned to like and to know and to work with and after a couple of years they have to move on as part of their profession. After 13 years it feels sometimes a bit tiring to befriend new people but I guess, that’s part of working as a citizen of this world.

A full day, and, as most days, too much is still waiting to be prepared, finalised etc.. Why days not having 36 hours is sometimes a mystery to me…

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

04.10.2009 Big plans and little plans..

It was a good day, a marvellous service, brief speeches and I am at the end of the day very happy and grateful for this final accord in a life’s chapter.  Two friends who happened to be actors wrote me a message, saying that they are in thoughts and prayers with me, and then they added:  “Wenn Gott Grosses mit uns vorhat, dann muessen wir das Kleinere eben lassen” – translated it would mean: if God has big plans with us, we have to leave our little ones..  I am not sure why, but this sentence, which they took from Hildegard of Bingen, a saint of the Middle Age, accompanied me through the whole day and comforted me a great deal. As did the “Halleluja” from Haendel during the service, sung by a choir and accompanied by an orchestra. Music is an amazing tool, it can lift up the hearts in a way which leaves me very often speechless.

This evening I can say that I know amazing people,  I have amazing friends and I am blessed with so many good people around me. I am blessed in so many ways that I hope I can give back of all these blessings in the years to come. To feel blessed, to count his/her blessings and to be a blessing for others – what more can describe the way a Christian life should go? But not only a Christian life, I think everybody has the right and the duty to cherish his/her blessings and to be one for others. Enough now of blessings.. 🙂

After this day, I am prepared now for the new page in my life…

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , ,

04.10.2009 Farewell Sunday..

It is Sunday morning and in a couple of hours the farewell will take place. A 12,5 year long chapter of my life will come to a formal end. The move of my office on Friday already signaled the radical change in my life. And my thoughts wander a bit around, first to those, who wanted me out of office and will today look satisfied and content, because they removed what was in their eyes a constant tread to the church and the German Bishops Conference. I am sure Mr. P. will be satisfied of his victory. His strategy of coercion and harassment hs worked in that sense.

But I feel in the moment rather far distanced from those people who changed surely my path of life. But I strongly believe that it will all come to a good end. And I am delighted to read all the mementos from sympathetic  people reaching me via email, amongst them one from Hans Kueng, whom I admire a lot. That is indeed balsam for my soul.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , ,

26.09.2009 It hits home….

Saturday evening, and slowly but surely it hits home: This very next morning, it will be the last Sunday service you are conducting as the chaplain of this German speaking community. Since days I can feel, that besides all happy ends and staying in the country and working in the fields of HIV and AIDS it is indeed work to get an emotional grip to that fact. For 12,5 years the Sunday service was always a fixed point to meet the people, to have a chat afterwards, to liaise with those, who attended every Sunday, to welcome the new ones, say farewell to the swallows before winter, joke with the kids and eat some cake or have a coffee.

I will simply miss it. And all supply services of this world will not bring me back that feeling of belonging to this bunch of so diverse people, unified only through their language. Communities abroad are indeed special, they are a melting pot for a whole range on opinions, longings, life designs and desires – it’s a vibe I never found in a German parish. This is said without any judgement.

I guess it will take time to re-adjust and find myself in the new position. And I decided that I take my time to mourn the loss of this community and that I take my time to absorb this farewell so that at the end, a wonderful kaleidoscope of memories will be part of my life. I can sense now how much I loved to be the chaplain, how much it was part of my life. Actually a good feeling, combined with the sadness of leaving…

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

13.09.2009 Sunday eve

It is Sunday eve and after a day full of chatter, farewell celebration and lots of eating it is time to bid farewell to Durban. The mass this morning was full of well-wisher and once again I felt this special atmosphere and bond which exists between these good people and me. Lots of hugging and spontaneous joy as I revealed that I will stay in South Africa. Most of the people did not buy into the white lie of the press officer of the German Bishops conference that the termination of my contract was a “normal one”. It would have been easy to fuel the sense of betrayal and frustration; some told me of answers they got after writing to a bishop or the bishops conference and they felt not taken very seriously.  But they have been the lucky once, others even didn’t get an answer. I am not sure whether those responsible really know how they work in their ways against their own objectives to keep people in the church and to strengthen faith. They should be servants of the faithful and not the opposite. We still have a long way to go until the human structure of church becomes mature in this sense. Still too much puberty in the ranks… But I never give up hope. 🙂
Sunday afternoon an invite from the pastoral community council for coffee which happened to stretch until supper – with so much love prepared from Renate and Wolfgang, two parishioners who opened their home for us all. And once again challenging debates around the table. Those are the people who make so much efforts to keep a community going, to bring up their kids in our faith and at the end, all our hierarchy would be nothing and meaningless without the dedicated work of those on the ground. Sometimes I wonder how much wisdom and maturity we as a church miss out because we as the clergy tend not to listen carefully enough. And not only listen but following this – and here we are again – sensus fidelium and spiritual wisdom of those we call laity.  This blog is automatically also loaded to my Facebook side, and speaking about laity and their power, a facebook friend of mine, Jeff wrote a comment about his experience in his church and he ended:

Our parish has a tradition at baptisms where the priest not only makes the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead with chrism but also puts a hand embroidered stole (not a full sized one — they are made by people in the parish and are gifts to the newly baptized, even infants) around the neck of the baptized and says to that person, “you have put on the new life in Christ and are invested as a minister of the Gospel.” That is always a powerful reminder for me as a lay person when I hear those words spoken.

I also find this a powerful symbol and it shows the true power of Gods people, each and everybody is called to minister the faith and to be taken serious.

Well, this eve I feel indeed graced with all kind of things: the kind words, some little presents, quite some hugs, lots of good wishes and blessings and I had to promise that I will pop in next year somewhere and somehow. And I will do. I really will, not only because people here in Durban miss me but because I miss them also after 7 years of  service. I will miss Hermann, who always was worried about my stances on good old doctrine and we became friends, understanding each other 🙂 , I will miss Sr. Agnes, who always found somebody to baptize or confirm or visit when I was in Durban (but I really loved to serve under her 🙂 ), I will miss the talks with all the Mariannhill sisters and their struggle to maintain Mariannhill while growing older, I will miss the altar servers, who never let me down, Trudi and all of the pastoral community council, the finance committee counting the money faithfully after mass,  and all those friendly faces coming up to communion and listen so attentively when I tried to reach hearts and minds with my sermon.

Sizobonana & God bless them all!

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

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