By the Communications Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
(photo of Bp Mbuyisa courtesy of the SACBC Comunications Office)
The episcopal ordination of Bishop Thulani Victor Mbuyisa C.M.M as the 5th Bishop of Kokstad since it was elevated to a diocese in 1951 took place on the 11th June 2022. The ordination was graced by the presence of 23 bishops, among them three bishops from Lesotho and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Peter Wells. More than 100 priests, religious, the Superior General of the Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries and the laity were also at Kokstad Sports Grounds to be witnesses to the ordination.
The principal consecrator of the ordination was Archbishop Zolile Mpambani of Bloemfontein, with Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Apostolic Administrator of Eshowe, and Archbishop Mandla Jwara, Archbishop of Durban, as co-consecrators.
Being that the ordination takes took place on the Feast Day of St Barnabas and the proper readings were used for the ordination, and Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, the President of the SACBC, in his homily said to the people of Kokstad, “you could call your new bishop, bishop Barnabas because he was sent to you under similar circumstances in which Barnabas was sent to Antioch. There were believing people in Antioch, but they had no bishop, so Barnabas was sent. There are believing people in Kokstad, but they have no bishop, so Fr. Thulani has been sent, welcome bishop Barnabas.”
Basing his homily on the character of Barnabas as the son of encouragement Bishop Sipuka said like Barnabas, Fr. Thulani, found the people of Kokstad having faith and knowing the Lord, and so he is not starting from scratch. He said the task of the new bishop is to encourage them to remain with a firmness of heart in that relationship with the Lord and to cling to the Lord because it is only when they have a living, personal relationship with Christ that they can be committed to his example of life and what he stands for.
Speaking in line with Bishop Mbuyisa’s motto, which says, “His graces are made new each day”, Bishop Sipuka said this will happen when there is a daily practice of people availing themselves of God’s grace every day and not only on Sundays. “If we do not create the space in our lives for the grace made new every day, the grace will be there, but it will be to avail for us. The suggestion from today’s 2nd reading and your motto is that you should encourage people to daily remain faithful to the Lord, not just on Sunday, and propose practical ways to do this,” advised the Bishop Sipuka.
The President of the SACBC said to Bishop Mbuyisa that his task as bishop will include encouraging those who are haunted by the mistakes and sins of the past and have left the Church and assure them not despair about themselves but to come back home and use the gifts God has given them for the building up of his kingdom. “Some of these people who go astray will include the priests who will need your fatherly encouragement and guidance to regain the purpose of their vocation,” added the Bishop.
Bishop Sipuka went on to also encourage of the people of the diocese to support their own bishop and diocese saying today the Church needs financial and personnel support to do its work. “We have gone a long way to becoming a self-sufficient Church in Southern Africa, but a lot of encouragement is still needed.”
Pointing out that Church needs money to fulfil its mission, and Barnabas sold his property to assist the Church, Bishop Sipuka said he not sure if Bishop Mbuyisa will succeed in asking all the faithful of Kokstad to sell their property and give the money to the Church. He said but you can ask them to be more generous in their offerings than giving coins in the collection and a monthly contribution of R10.00.
“Anyway, be it lay people or priests or religious, our generosity to the Lord and his Church with our lives and resources will be determined by our personal relationship with Christ. People will not sacrifice for an idea; people will not die for an idea but for a person they love,” added Bishop Sipuka.
“May it be that the people of Kokstad under your leadership will be encouraged to put Christ at the centre of their lives and make His mission theirs,” closed Bishop Sithembele Sipuka.
At the end of Mass, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Peter Wells, who oversaw the profession of faith and oath-taking of Bishop Mbuyisa and gave a homily at the vespers the evening before, congratulated the new bishop and the people of Kokstad. “We are very lucky to be in this diocese”, said the Nuncio noting he had an opportunity to spend some time there some years back adding that, “One of the things I was touched by was the strong faith and foundation that has been placed here.” He noted the foundation that had been by the predecessors of the current bishop, Cardinal Napier, Archbishop Slattery and Archbishop Mbambani. The Nuncio asked a favour of the faithful of Kokstad that they support their young bishop especially in prayer, noting the hardness of being a bishop today.
The words of congratulations were also rendered by Cardinal Napier and Archbishop Mbambani. Also present for thanksgiving was the Superior General of the CMM, Fr. Michael Mass. Fr. Mass said Mariannhill’s loss is Kokstad’s gain, “for the last five and he half years he was our Superior General, a good one. We appreciated his leadership model of being a father and the same time being a brother. We will certainly miss his leadership”
Fr. Louis Mathew spoke on behalf of the priests and religious of the diocese, “It has been two years since we have started praying for a bishop and now our prayers have been heard he was given us a wise, young and energetic, enthusiastic and spiritual father to lead us and to guide us.” Fr Matthew was followed the representative of the laity who thanked the Holy Father, the Apostolic Nuncio and all involved in the process of the appointment of the bishop of Kokstad, adding “On behalf of the laity of Kokstad Diocese I stand here to humbly express our deepest gratitude and profound appreciation to your selflessly availing yourself to this appointment. We the laity promise to work with you, and the priests and religious to build God’s Kingdom in the diocese.”
The new Bishop of Kokstad in his thanksgiving speech thanked Cardinal Napier. To the Apostolic Nuncio the Bishop of Kokstad said, “I would like to thank you for your presence here, and the homily that you addressed to all of us last evening. Your presence here is a sign of the closeness of the Holy Father to us.” He went on to thank the President of the SACBC, Bishop Sipuka, also thanking the Archbishop Jwara and Archbishop Mbambani, and all the bishops present. “My dear brother bishops, thank you so much of all our support, all the messages and phone calls telling me that you are with me, you are praying for me and you will always support me,” said Bishop Mbuyisa adding that he does not know how many people know what a beautiful fraternity the bishops are. “From what I have seen and heard I feel encouraged and supported”,
“I did hear that since I am the youngest bishop now I will be the one carrying your bags. So, I would like to add that I will also polish your shoes. So next time when you see the bishops wearing shiny shoes know that it’s me who polished them,” joked the new bishop of Kokstad before thanking the new Superior General of the CMM and all the confrairs. The thanks were also extended to the previous bishops of Kokstad promising to build on a firm foundation they laid. He extended the gratitude to all the priests, religious men and women present and not. Thanking also, especially the former Diocesan Administrator Fr Lizo Nontshe. Like a good son he is he did not forget to thank his mother and family, and all the people of the Church of Kokstad.