A critical evaluation of the members of the religious Congregation of the Holy Spirit's understanding of their mission to the poor in the Dioceses of Bethlehem & Durban - South Africa.
Kansimbi, Sylvester Tonje.
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This thesis is an evaluation of the members of the missionary religious Congregation of the Holy Spirits' understanding of their mission to the poor in the Dioceses of Bethlehem and Durban in South Africa. The Congregation of the Holy Spirit was founded on 27th May, 1703, Feast of Pentecost. A group of poor clerical students knelt before the statue of the Black Virgin of Paris (Our Lady of Deliverance) in the Church of St. Etienne-des-Gres. Their friend and leader was Poullart des Places. This small group of young men consecrated themselves to the Holy Spirit so marking the foundation of the Congregation. In the year 1848 some forty missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Heart of Mary founded by Francis Libermann in 1841 were integrated into the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. From its foundation, the mission of the Congregation has always been the "evangelization of the poor" (Luke 4:18). For the founders, the poor meant those who were oppressed and marginalized among whom were the poor students and slaves in the colonies. My particular concern, however, is to evaluate the members of the Holy Spirits' understanding of their mission to the poor in the Dioceses of Bethlehem and Durban in South Africa. How do Spiritans in these two dioceses understand or interpret "the poor" whom they serve? How does this contemporary South African Spiritan understanding of the poor match with that of the founders or constitution of the Congregation? My response to these questions is an affirmation. In the evaluation, we will discover that the poor in the dioceses of Bethlehem and Durban include those who are unemployed, HIV/AIDS patients, orphans, children and women who are abused, refugees / asylum seekers, street children and many others. In summary, it is noted that the poor are those who lack physical necessities, socially oppressed and spiritually poor. In faithfulness to the intuition of the founders, it is observed that Spiritans in both Bethlehem and Durban Dioceses are attempting to be at the service of the poor. They are serving the poor through the proclamation of the Word, administration of the Sacraments, visitation of people in their own homes, attending to those who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS pandemic, promoting the values of the Kingdom of God through justice and peace ministries and finally, Spiritans are working among the refugees, prisoners and hostel dwellers. Looking at these Spiritan ministries, it is noted that their choices of works are in accordance with the vision of the founders a well as what is in the Spiritan Rule of Life or constitution. Spiritans in both Bethlehem and Durban perceive their vocation as being at the service of these people. However, as religious, there are other elements which should be taken into consideration, such as prayer, community life and missionary spirituality. These are essential elements in the life of the members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. In general, the interviews show a lack of community life among members of the Congregation. This lack of community life affects prayer life as well. Other important elements include the need to revisit the idea of education and recovery of prophetic dimension of the Congregation where its members are always at the frontier situations.