Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious Brothers and Sisters, Seminarians, Catechists, and the Lay faithful,
Greetings and Peace of the Risen Lord to you all and your respective Churches Communities and Families.
On Sunday, 7th May, 2017, the Fourth Sunday of the Easter Season, also referred to as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, our Diocese will join the rest of the Universal Church in celebrating the Second feast on the Pontifical Mission Societies’ Calendar to pray and mobilise resources for the intentions of Vocations for the Church.
Whilst the Church appreciates and indeed always prays for the vocation to the Married Life, the Vocation Sunday focuses more on the intention to pray for many young men and women to join priestly and religious life. It is with this in mind that I exhort you, my dear people, to reflect and pray using the Gospel of the same Sunday (John 10:1-10). Although this year’s Gospel reading does not talk directly about the Good Shepherd, which only comes in verse 11, it uses the image of the ‘gate’. Jesus Christ presents Himself as the gate of the ‘Sheepfold’ (Verse 7). This figure is used in connection with others: the Sheepfold itself, the gatekeeper, the thieves and the brigands (strangers). We need to bear in mind that the image of the shepherds during Jesus’ time was negative. However, Jesus Christ as a Good Shepherd himself came to change the image of the shepherds from that of being despised, violent, weather beaten, impure, dishonest and deceitful people, like all humanity, Jesus Christ came to liberate them and made them among the first to see Him when he was born. He focuses on their positive role of taking care of the Sheep by protecting them, calling each one by name, leading them to safety, fresh pastures and waters. All this is done at the expense of His own life, personal safety and comfort.
The Catholic Diocese of Solwezi and indeed the entire Catholic Church still need shepherds (Priests and Religious) under the model of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, to take care of the flock (the people of God). She still needs more priests, brothers and sisters to reach out to many places within our own centres, parishes, deaneries, diocese, country and the world at large. It is common knowledge that some communities, for lack of priests and religious to accompany and lead them, have ended up being led astray—going out of the sheepfold and following voices of strangers who pretend to be shepherds but just to save their selfish motives.
It is with the said resolve to offer an “Integral Evangelisation of God’s People’” that I invite you all, to join me during this feast of vocations and always to pray for more young men and women to respond favourably to our appeal and prayers to join priesthood and religious life. So far the Lord has been gracious to our diocese that the number of young men in the Seminaries (Minor and Major) and those in secular secondary schools with the interest to join the seminary is increasing. Equally men and women coming from parishes within our diocese to join religious life (men and women) is also encouraging. However, this should not make us feel complacent but instead it should help as to pray more in thanksgiving so that as many as possible may indeed respond and grow more in the spirit of Jesus the Good Shepherd, taking care of God’s People.
My dear brothers and sisters let me also remind you that more vocations call for more responsibility on the Church so as to offer a quality, spiritual, human and academic formation to future priests, brothers and sisters. Therefore, as always, I invite you to give generously, to help me and the diocese to make a generous contribution to the Holy Father’s solidarity fund for vocations in the entire Church. Always aim at beating your own record of contribution(s) as a centre, parish and/or deanery.
I have also sent vocation posters to help you in the sensitisation, animation and prayers for vocations (Vocation Sunday).
May our Mother, Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Priests and Religious bless you all as you make your generous spiritual and material sacrifices to help in raising shepherds under the model of her Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yours in Christ,
Catholic Diocese of Solwezi
Rt. Rev. Charles J. S. Kasonde
Bishop of Solwezi