At the beginning of the year of our Lord 2011, there were many and long radio debates about the value of making New Year’s resolutions.  For some strange reason the majority of listeners voted that “resolutions are not much good, because within weeks of making them, most people have broken and abandoned them.”

That statement set me asking a number of questions: If New Year’s resolutions are made because a person wants to change for the better, why do so many people give up even before they start?  Do they really not want their life to be better?  Is that why year after year the same poor services are rendered?  What could be the root cause of this?  Is it that they have stopped having a vision or a dream?

One of the prophets has said: Without a dream the People will perish. So, let us check whether we have a common vision for the Archdiocese, which will enable us to dream and so find creative ways to change the life and mission of our local Church for the better.

It is to our advantage that we don’t have to start from scratch. We already have good solid foundations in place. We just have to dust them off, evaluate, realign and reorder them to meeting the changed circumstances of our time.

From the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference we derived the first foundation for our long-term vision and dream, namely that of becoming “Community Serving Humanity”.
From a series of resolution taken by our Diocesan Synod we identified the following as further basic elements for our vision and dream:

  • Synod 1995 – Adult Education in the Faith; Youth; Family and Social Outreach
  • Synod 2002 – Poverty, Unemployment and AIDS
  • Synod 2007 – Evangelization

From IMBISA the Regional Conference of Bishops Conferences of all Southern Africa we garnered the following insights:

  • How to become a more self-reliant Church;
  • How to develop and practise Good Governance as a Church;
  • How to develop and maintain a Good Work Ethic in the Church

These are but 7 of the many good ideas that we have to keep in mind when as the local Church of Durban we set about “reading the signs of the times”.  Hopefully our reading of the signs of the times will enable us to recognise those strengths and weaknesses, those opportunities and threats or challenges that are evident in our day to day life as a Diocese.

Given that the first Inter-diocesan Pastoral Forum held in 1980 is nearly a life time ago, it is only reasonable and necessary to call for another concerted effort to consult the broad membership of the Church, in particular the Lay Faithful.

Given also that most if not all the priority needs or concerns that we have identified will be with us for the foreseeable future, perhaps the best and most effective action is to select a few key areas to focus on.

From what is being said at the SACBC, at our Regional Bishops’ Conference (IMBISA) and at the Continental Conference (SECAM), it is the centrality of Jesus Christ in our faith and life that poses the most serious and urgent challenge to all levels of the Church.

So, before we dream, before we start outlining our vision, we need to determine – as individuals, as families, as parish communities and as a diocesan community – where Jesus is on our life, how important he is to us and how we are going to ensure that he is at the centre of our efforts.

Therefore the logical place to begin our visioning and dreaming is where Jesus is.  That must be our first priority, the starting point from which we launch any New Year’s resolution.
This is also the reason why we have to make Evangelization – in particular “personal evangelization” – priority number one.  This is also why we just have to hold a thorough evaluation of what has happened to us since we started implementing our resolution of the 2007 Synod.

Remember how we decided to begin with Personal Evangelisation, which can be regarded as an exercise comparable to the encounter between Jesus, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter and his companion. That encounter had a particularly happy and fruitful outcome because of the way in which Andrew and his friend responded to Jesus’ invitation to “Come and See”. Their encounter lasted “the rest of the day” and the effect on their life was immediate and practical. “Andrew went and found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus, saying: we have found the Messiah. He is Jesus of Nazareth!”

Let this be our dream and vision too, to encounter Jesus and be transformed by him.
+ Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, O.F.M.