God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

09.08.2009 Sunday blues…and toughts about the sermon…

Sunday morning – and the usual ritual. Going to the office, last preparation for the church service and then off we go. And as every Sunday the question before: Does my sermon meets what the people need to hear…? Need to hear to go home afterward more joyful, more thoughtful, with more sun and love and compassion in their hearts? Am I able to touch their hearts and minds – those of the adults, but also those of the kiddies, the young and the old ones?

When I do prepare for a sermon, I always have somebody in front of my mind, or a situation close to my heart. Theological lectures are for study purposes, a sermon should bear witness from my faith, my thoughts, my questions, my experience with the unconditional love. I strongly believe that I can only touch peoples lives when they sense that my words are matched by my life experience. Otherwise I only deliver bloodless words…

Getting feedback on my sermons is very important to me. When I hear that a family was still discussing the sermon on the way back home, or somebody after quite a while can still tell me what I said on that occasion.. it is amazing for me and I feel blessed being able to be a blessing for others. Or an encouragement. Or a stone to stumble and get into deeper thoughts about life and faith.

Whatever it is, a sermon, even if nobody is able or willing to respond directly, must be a dialogue of hearts, otherwise it is a waste of time. Lets hope for this dialogue this morning again.

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02.08.2009 First Sunday….

First Sunday after the holidays… so nice to see the known faces, to hear all the “welcome back” comments and to experience that people are happy to have you back. Even if it is only a short lived “being back”. Everybody wants to know how things are develop, what my future plans are. And still I cannot give any answer as I do not know. I have hoped that the future is clearer by now, but no word from anywhere. Also more and more press enquires about my future, also here I only can ask to wait a bit more before I can give a proper answer.

The sun is shining in Cape Town, a brilliant day and I can feel all my senses back to  normal and somehow an energy to go for whatever is waiting for me in the next days and weeks. I feel energized in a way I did not expect -even all the nitty gritty of moving do not disturb me in the moment. I just have to make a plan now how to get everything done in a meaningful way. I feel blessed after this service and the encounter with my dear community. It is true: we can be angels for one another – or devils, as I have experienced enough in the last months thinking of certain persons…

But I also feel some longing again for Asia – and I once again contemplate whether I have been an Asian in my previous life? 🙂 But for that, I have to be a Buddhist, as a Christian we only have one life to live before eternity kicks in. Sometimes not sure what is more convenient… When I am looking on my lists of things still to do and to experience, I am sure one life is not enough, even two might be a bit short…  🙂

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24.07.2009 one week to go…

When holidays start, then it seems like quite some time – but suddenly, after having done two/third, time seems to run faster and faster…  And one suddenly must make a plan to do all the things still open on ones agenda. Well, this time it isn’t different – and suddenly the realisation, that next week this time, I will already be back in Cape Town, most probably struggling with jet leg and an office full of requests and notes and mails and so on…

What makes this coming home so special is the fact, that with the day I start working again, my last 8 weeks as the chaplain to the German speaking Catholic Community will commence  (if all is going according to plan).  Without knowing exactly until now what will be my next “stage” in life, I have to move from one place to another within Cape Town, I have to wind down all the technicalities which such a hand over requires – and South Africa can be a nightmare in this concern. 12,5 years of service going towards an end.

I feel a bit like Abraham going towards the unknown;  with the difference, that he was much older, and he was called out, not kicked or pushed out – so to speak.  🙂 I am sure I will reflect quite a bit what it meant to me being a chaplain to that very special community in Cape Town – not to forget the folks in Durban. All so special and come what may come, I am aware that it was indeed a privilege to serve those communities the last years.

I always said when we had visitors: “What can be more nice than to be a chaplain in Cape Town?”

Having reflected on it a bit during my holidays I am aware that Cape Town changed me a lot. Living in Africa, living next to Table Mountain, living in vivid history happening in the country in the moment – having such a diverse crowd of faithful from all corners of German speaking parts of the world and quite a lot already distant from the institution “church”, it made me realise that whatever we think we know exactly can quick fade away as I had to learn every day that life is more colourful, more diverse, more exciting, more different than I ever thought.

This diversity, the colourful mixture of God’s brothers and sisters has sometimes an intensity, which definitely you hardly will find back home in parishes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland or all the other places. And adding all the experience through our social project “Hope Cape Town”, the mixture of guests at our Mediterranean Villa – sometimes it could get even for me a bit too much and too hectic…

And then still remains the question: How do you bring this “all” home to Germany? How do explain those on the purely administrative level that such diversity requires sometimes solutions beside “the norm”? How do you open up their hearts and minds that indeed church has to be diverse too – and has been and will always be.  Not that easy….

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17.07.2007 clarification

I am asked many times what does it mean not being the chaplain to the German speaking Catholic Community in Cape Town in the near future? Does it mean to give up priesthood? to be thrown out of priesthood?
No – being a chaplain to an immigration community means to be assigned to that post by the local bishop on recommendation of the German Catholic Bishop’s Conference.  They organise the recommendation of such positions. As a diocesan priest, you are ordained and consequently attached to your diocese. Ending the position as a chaplain to an immigration community anywhere in the world means that you are falling back to your dicoese and that your bishop as your superior must now decided how to position you for the future.

If you are a religious, meaning belonging to an order, the same rules apply, but instead of a diocesan bishop, your superior within the order will decide on your repositioning.

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17.07.2009 … not needed anymore…

What does one do if one suddenly is told that your services are not needed anymore? Working hard, believing in what you are doing, this was always a more theoretical question in my life – until it hit hard in Jan 2009 and manifested itself in the last months. I always assumed that I am a strong person – taking on, whatever comes its way and moving on to conquer the next mountain in life. Being the chaplain to the German speaking Catholic Community was indeed part of my life, I loved the work and all what came with it. Knowing, that we as priests have to change position I twice agreed in the last years to be transferred. All was agreed, only to be called of again without real reasoning…

I guess everybody deals differently with such a situation – one person fights on, runs virtually against a wall; another licks his wounds and falls into depression – whatever it is, what you do: there is no other way than to work through all your feelings, aggressions, disappointments, hurts and hopefully to come out as a stronger person you are in the moment.
In my situation it was to realize that there is indeed a difference between the world of church technocrats, knowing the world from their files in the office and some travel in between and us priests living at the frontline of pastoral work on a daily base.  Of course you know it, but you don’t touch it, because you are too busy with your daily challenges.
There is the other realization that our church is run by humans, you have the nice ones, the genuine ones, but also the weak, the careless, the ones only looking for a career  or whatever unrecognizable intention they have…  Once again, you know it, but you ignore it as long as you can and most times, you meet people who are compassionate about their work and take seriously that they are serving God and mankind.

But the biggest challenge in such a situation is to take a deep and careful look at yourself. What is important for you? Where do you get your stamina from? What makes you tick? What do you really believe in? All those questions bring you to the deepest valleys of your own life – not an easy one.. It must be clear for you in such a situation that the basic laws of life applies: you cannot change anybody else than yourself. And if you have experienced the unconditional love of God in your life – is there really somebody else able to border you so much that he or she can derail your way in life? They might be able to close one door – but closing one door in life means only that others will be opened and that looking back, the insult meant to you has been transformed into  a border crossing into a new path, leading to more life, more love, more peace and more happiness and fulfillment in life.

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