By SACBC Communications
This article was initially published on the SACBC website on Saturday 3 September 2022.
The episcopal ordination of the Auxiliary Bishop of Pretoria, Bishop Masilo John Selemela took place on the Saturday 03 September 2022 at Moreletapark, Pretoria, presided over by the Archbishop of Pretoria, Archbishop Dabula Mpako as the main consecrator, and Bishop Joao Rodrigues of Tzaneen and Bishop Vincent Zungu of Port Elizabeth as the co-consecrating bishops.
In his opening remarks at the beginning of Mass Archbishop Dabula Mpako said the prayers at the mass are raised up to God, especially for the Bishop-Elect Masilo John Selemela, asking that God will shower his blessings abundantly upon him as he takes on this very important responsibility in the local church of the Archdiocese of Pretoria. He said the prayer is also for the local church that through the presence and ministering of Bishop Selemela it may become the kind of Church that God would have it be.
As usual at the episcopal ordination the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Peter Wells, read the mandate from His Holiness, Pope Francis, regarding the appointment and ordination of the Bishop-Elect Selemela. In the letter the Roman Pontiff said the church is urgently called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, to save and renew every creature in the present order of things from which the new condition of humanity arises. He stated that it was the Archbishop of Pretoria who requested from the Apostolic See an auxiliary bishop. And favourable to the petition and appointing the then rector of St. John Vianney Seminary Fr. Masilo John Selemela the Pope said of him, “You are known to have a good spiritual life, skillful in the affairs of administration, and most given with other human and priestly virtues. These gifts were especially visible at your ministry at the seminary where you wisely served as rector. From the fullness of our apostolic authority and having obtained the opinion of the Dicastery for Evangelisation we appoint you auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Pretoria.” Pope Francis said while he entrusts the beloved son to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel he also encourages him to serve the flock especially on Sundays by fraternally holding fast to the teaching of the Catholic Church and to charity.
The homily for the Holy Mass was given by the presiding bishop, Archbishop Dabula Mpako. “The motto he has chosen for his coat of arms and through the scripture readings he has selected for this episcopal ordination ceremony invites us to remind ourselves again of who we are and what we exist for as the church,” said the Archbishop, adding that all should engage with this invitation with open hearts, reflectively and prayerfully, and everyone’s participation in this momentous liturgical event will be for everyone a grace-filled moment of renewal. The Archbishop of Pretoria said the motto the bishop-elect has chosen for his coat of arms, “Called to Discipleship” echoes the great commissioning of the gospel of Matthew 28:1, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” In continuing Archbishop Mpako said this great commissioning reminds everyone that the church by its very nature is missionary, that is, the Church by its very nature is sent out. Referring to what was said by Pope St. Paul VI, Archbishop Mpako reminded that “the church exists to evangelise, to proclaim Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit so that people can open their hearts to God and find salvation and a path to authentic holiness. Thus evengelisation is the church’s deepest identity and mission.”
He touched on the commitment of the church to the pastoral plan of the conference and how the Archdiocese of Pretoria has adapted its pastoral plan to it. “As our mission brother Masilo, we have committed ourselves to promote and foster a personal encounter with Christ. To deepen our faith and spirituality, to become truly and authentically an evangelising and missionary Church together.”
Noting also that as all receive this message about who the Church he wishes that God may renew in everyone, individually, as committed Christians, and collectively as the Church community the commitment to ever grow in becoming evangelised evangelisers. He also expressed the wish that all may take personal responsibility for building up the Church and carrying out its missionary vocation. His wish also is that all may be the living parts of the body of Christ who fulfil their roles willingly and generously, living stones, building up the temple of God.
“May we completely outgrow the approach of seeing the Church as some kind of spiritual supermarket where we shop for spiritual good, but for which we assume no responsibility, and of which we have no sense of ownership. May we cease to view the Church as some sort of a spiritual bus in which we are passively carried from one destination to another. A spiritual bus in which you are carried from earth to heaven,” preached Archbishop Mpako. “Let our approach not be about what I can get from the Church but about what I can contribute as a living and active member of the Church.”
Directing himself again to Bishop Selemela he siad their shepherding should not be about being a dictator over the flock entrusted to them but rather an example that the whole flock can follow. “Todays’ gospel saying feed my lambs, look after my sheep, feed my sheep, must in addition being about shepherding with care and concern for those most in need be also about gently, as sometimes brother Masilo, ‘firmly.’” Emphasizing his brotherly advise Archbishop Mpako said “And I used the adjective ‘firmly’ Masilo, advisedly, for experience has taught me that sometimes you have to practice tough love for people to become all that they can become. For the their beauty to come out. And when you that sometimes they don’t like you, but after a while they thank you and they love you”.
At the end of Mass the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Pretoria, Fr. Mabuti Amos Ma…. said they are highly delighted to welcome Bishop Selemela in the Archdiocese of Pretoria and they have no doubt that together with Archbishop Mpako they will form a formidable team and together fulfil a good work he has done. “It is a great honour and privilege that you were chosen for us.” Presuming that he was given an opportunity to accept or decline an appointment and he chose to accept the Vicar General that the newly ordained auxiliary bishop for accepting the appointment. Even though Fr Masemola did not promise the auxiliary bishop a nice time in Pretoria he said Bishop Selemela must not be discouraged because challenges present an opportunity for the best that the auxiliary bishop can offer to the Archdiocese of Pretoria. “We pledge our support to you.” Fr. Masemola also thanked Archbishop Mpako for having made a special request for the auxiliary bishop. “We are privilege to have both of you leading the archdiocese of Pretoria. We will rally behind you as priests, religious and faithful of Pretoria to make this archdiocese become what God desired it to be. In his gratitude he also thanked the Diocese of Tzaneen.
In his short speech the President of the SACBC Bishop Sithembele Sipuka said although they have lost Bishop Selemela in the seminary where he was doing a very good job they have not really lost him as he is joining the bishops conference. The President said they are looking forward to Bishop Selemela’s contribution to the bishops conference, particularly in the areas of formation of priests. “We need a man of your calibre.” The the people of Pretoria Bishop Sipuka said “You have no excuse of saying we don’t know this man, you know him because he is from your province and worked in the seminary.” He further warned that the people of Pretoria must not think that because they have two bishops they are going to relax. He said since the Archbishop of Pretoria warned against treating the Church as a bus a simple of a rowboat will suit them because everybody in the boat rows, together with the archbishop and the bishop they must row the boat,and not sit in the bus.
In his typical multi-lingual self the newly ordained Bishop Selemela in his acknowledgement speech thanked God and the Holy Father for confidence shown in him. A gratitude also to the Apostolic nuncio for the support. The auxiliary bishop of Pretoria said it took him two full days to have proper sleep after he was told he has been appointed as the Auxiliary Bishop of Pretoria, “I have accepted to work in the Archbishop of Pretoria and I am ready to do so. He thanked his family as well, also acknowledging the presence with thanks of Archbishop Thabo Makhoba of the Anglican Communion and Bishop Sidwell Mokgothu of the Methodist Communion.
A note of gratitude also went to the formation stuff of the seminary and seminarians for the support and prayers. Thanking also Bishop Vincent Zungu, Bishop Rodrigues, the Secretariat of the SACBC. In expressing his deep gratitude for the support to his former bishop, Bishop Rodrigues he the bishop could have withdrawn him back to the diocese, but always said the bishops need you. Bishop Emeritus of Tzaneen, Bishop Hugh Slattery was acknowledged for empowering Bishop Selemela so that he could contribute meaningfully in the Church. The priests, religious and the faithful where not forgotten for the support they have shown. Gratitude to Bishop Masela, the priests and the faithful of the Diocese of Polokwane, his diocese of origin.
“To the Archbishop of Pretoria, thank you very much for welcoming me so well in the diocese of Pretoria and also being warm, patient, encouraging, and showing me the robes around the Archdiocese of Pretoria. “Even now as I live in community with him I still find him very warm and encourages. I look forward to working with you.” “The people of the Archdiocese, I have only one prayer that all of us can know Jesus Christ and want to serve him truly.” Bishop Masilo John Selemela said as the Archbishop of Pretoria said people must be evangelisers that are evengelised, he himself says “rooted in the art of descipling we are going to be the disciples that are discipling,” as he is looking forward to working with the people of Pretoria.