Sr Hermenegild Makoro, CPS, is the Secretary-General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC).
As Secretary General, Sr. Hermenegild works in close collaboration and consults with Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town. The Archbishop is the current President of the Bishops’ Conference. The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference consists of Catholic Bishops of South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland.
It is a dynamic Conference which recently celebrated the golden jubilee of the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal.
“One thing that is evident (about the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal ) is the sacrifice that people make during this time, during the six weeks of Lent… people are generous. The Lenten appeal campaign has become a tradition. Even where a priest sometimes does not remind (parishioners); the people themselves know… (When Ash Wednesday draws near) they will ask for the purple (contribution) envelopes,” Sr. Hermenegild said recently in an interview with Vatican Radio.
According to Sr. Hermenegild, funds collected during the Lenten period support seminary formation, soup kitchens, HIV/AIDS and several other projects determined by the dioceses themselves. It is a major fundraising exercise that in 2015 raised over 10.8 million South African Rand which translates to more than U.S.$800,000 at today’s exchange rate.
At the start of this year’s Lenten season, Archbishop Brislin said the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal Fund had impacted the lives of South Africa’s needy.
“The annual collections of the Lenten Appeal has made an enormous impact on the life of the Church and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Southern Africa… the Lenten Appeal was set up to help those in need and the for the works of the Church in proclaiming the Good News," Archbishop Brislin said at the time.
Sr. Hermenegild attributes the success of the Lenten Appeal to people’s generosity; the entrenchment of what is now tradition; the involvement of children as well as an efficient organisation of the Appeal by the Bishops’ Conference itself.
The Bishops’ national Lenten Office provides dioceses with the Purple envelopes (Sacrificium envelopes) and Mite boxes for children on time. The Office also prepares and distributes promotional material ahead of time.
However, there is also another factor: South Africa has witnessed a notable revival of faith that is being attributed, at least in part, to the beatification of Blessed Benedict Daswa. He was beatified in 2015.
“The beatification of Daswa has seen a great moment of faith revival,” says Sr. Hermenegild. She adds, “Daswa encompasses everybody. He was a family man, and so men can associate with him; he was a teacher –teachers are also there. He was a Catechist; Catechists are there. He also liked farming. So everyone can really take a piece from Daswa,” Sr. Hermenegild said.
(Fr Paul Samasumo, Vatican Radio)
Click below to listen to Sr. Hermenegild Makoro on a wide-range of issues affecting the Church in Southern Africa. She speaks to Fr. Paul Samasumo of Vatican Radio’s English Africa Service (13.01”).