Fr Ioane Racumu SVD
The Year of Grace invites the whole Church to more deeply contemplate the face of Christ and open ourselves to God’s loving action in our lives. In this edition of Society Matters, SVD missionary, Fr Ioane Racumu reflects on Grace as he experiences it in his ministry in South Africa.
I am working in a parish called Good Shepherd in a small mining town called Phalaborwa in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The parish is an African potpourri with locals and mine workers from all over the African continent trying to earn a living with the three mines situated beside the town. The surrounding villages consist of the Sepedi and Shangan speaking people, two of the 14 officially recognised languages of the country. Mozambique is about 80km to the east, and the Zimbabwe and Botswana borders about 150km to the north, thus this place is also a stopover for travellers.
I have been here for four years and I minister to the English speaking townspeople, and to both the Sepedi and Shangan speaking people. I would say that the Sepedi people are more middle class but the Shangan face more challenging situations like poverty, AIDS, malaria and broken families.
Marriage has taken Elina, 76, a parishioner in the Sepedi area, away from her Zulu people to her husband’s Sepedi people. She lives with her elderly husband and three grandchildren, and they have lost two children through AIDS. Elina accompanies me when I visit the sick and elderly people in her area. Giving communion, confessions, praying, and sharing stories are a big part of the visits. The compassion, care and dedication that Elina brings to our visits is very inspiring and also infectiously effective, as it draws me to be present to this pastoral work to the people. I look at her and often wonder where she gets all the energy and drive to be such a blessing not only to the people but also to me. She often replies “I am able to do it Father… be able where you are.” Indeed.
We have so often used the word ‘grace’ for such people and situations. Most people we have visited feel they don’t deserve Elina’s kindness and compassion. Grace is often described like a laser of light from God that tears through every obstacle and challenge in the human heart and ignites it with love and life. With her many challenges in life, Elina’s love of God and her people overflows to all those who know her.
That is God’s grace for me because my experience of her humbles me to simply love and be present to my vocation. It is grace for the people we visit weekly because they experience Jesus’ great command of loving others unconditionally. Grace is God’s presence in our lives, or should I say ‘intervention’, whether we know it or not, it is simply there.