God wishes to draw people to himself through vivid evidence of his love. Only in this way will we understand the incarnation of his Son, who was born of Mary in a poor stable.
An unusual year worldwide is coming to an end. We have just celebrated Christmas. The birth of Christ gifts us with hope, trust and light in the present dark situation. Our wish and prayer for you is that you receive just such hope and trust in rich measure.
We would like to share with you a little of what has been happening in this past year. It has been a year in which we have all shared due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. However, as difficult as the year has been, as we look back, we realize that God’s love and grace has broken through in many ways. South Africa has had high levels of infection and in order to combat this, the government imposed strict regulations on the country. This has had a devastating effect on the economy. Many of the smaller and informal businesses closed and the levels of poverty increased enormously. We Sisters were also affected in many ways. Most of our apostolate has had to go online and our retreat and training centres were closed, as were our students’ residences and our kindergarten. However, it also made us creative in ways we would not normally have considered.
Searching for God's plan
Divine Providence helped that just before the lockdown, we had begun to install fibre for good internet access in order to better serve our apostolate at our Centre in Constantia. We were thus able to quickly install a web-camera in our Shrine. We Sisters took up extra hours of prayer and adoration which was livestreamed so that people could participate online. We were very grateful that we were thus able to get things done quickly, also thanks to your donations which we could use for this. We were surprised at how ‘worldwide’ our website has become both inside and outside of Africa. For those of you who would like to visit our Shrine virtually, our web address is www.schoenstattsisters.org.za.
Birth of Helping Hands
Since our Retreat and Training Centre and Students’ residence at Constantia could no longer function as such due to the Covid-19 restrictions, we considered what we could do. Since we had an empty building and staff with no work, we came up with the idea of starting a poverty-relief project. This was the moment when our community outreach project called “Helping Hands” was born. We focussed mainly on providing food since this was the need of the moment.
We advertised as widely as we could through the social media and our Schoenstatt Movement members as well as liaising with other community outreach projects. The Training Centre became the depot where people dropped off the donations and our staff then sorted the donations, in some instances did the cooking and then packed the parcels and distributed them to the needy and other charities which we chose to support.
We were able to support 30 families in distress in a suburb on the Cape Flats, called Retreat. We have been able to supply them with weekly food parcels these past 5 months. It was heart-warming to see the surprise and incredulous joy on peoples’ faces the first time we knocked on doors and handed over the food parcels. Unfortunately, but understandably, donor fatigue is creeping in but we hope to be able to supply them with a Christmas hamper and then probably next year we will only be able to manage a monthly food parcel.
Another outreach project is Sandra’s soup kitchen. Sandra is an enterprising mother living in a shack in the huge shanty town called Khayelitsha. It is built on the sea sand of the coast on the Southern side of Cape Town. Since the schools were closed, the children went hungry as many of them rely on the feeding scheme at the schools they attend for their porridge in the morning and something to eat at lunch. Sandra, a teacher herself, decided to do something and started a soup-kitchen, using her small salary and whatever help she could get. She would cook the soup on her small two plate stove in her own shack. Over the past months, she has provided thousands of warm and nutritious home cooked meals to the children in her community. She won the “Lockdown Heroes Times Live” award for her service.
We have been helping her twice a week with the soup. We fetch donated soup and bread from the breweries in Woodstock and often add whatever we have gathered in donations. We then take it to her and help her with the distribution. We have also been able to supply all the children with masks and sanitizer.
Just before Christmas we organized a Christmas party at the beach for the children. We have been able to source donations of Christmas gifts, a backpack for each child as well as food and money for the transport. We involved the parents by inviting them to come along as adult accompaniment. It was a successful and joy-filled occasion and helped towards positive relationships between children and their parents.
A further project we are supporting is the Ikhaya Labantu (home of the people) Frail Care Centre in Langa, another poverty-stricken area of the Cape Flats, this time on the other side of Cape Town. The Frail Care is in a converted barracks and was started and is run by a dynamic woman, Mrs Nkanyuza, who is undoubtedly the heartbeat of the home. Through minimal donations, and currently no help from Government, she manages to care for a full house of 30 elderly patients. Her message to us was ‘We may be poor, but we do have water and the place will be kept spotlessly clean’ – we can certainly bear testimony to this fact! Through Helping Hands, we were able to organise a truck- load of beds and various other equipment used in the care of the elderly. The faces of the staff at the Frail Care were a picture of disbelieving joy as everything was offloaded and brought in. We immediately received a recorded, heartfelt message of thanks and confirmation that every item received will be put to good use. We are currently collecting a supply of adult nappies (all sizes), to donate to the Centre to see them through the holiday season. This is one of their biggest and most necessary items on their monthly bill.
Those of our sisters who can sew, were kept busy making masks out of material we ourselves supplied or from material we were given. We were able to distribute hundreds of masks through our Helping Hands outreach as well as to the staff at an Old Age Home in Kensington. We contributed to a feeding scheme run by a Schoenstatt member at our Shrine in Cathcart, a village in the Eastern Cape, where many of the people live in poverty. Unfortunately, due to the high level of crime, we had to put steel bars across the windows of the Shrine and a security gate at the door. This proved a blessing in disguise, since even though people are not allowed in the Shrine due to the Covid-19 restrictions, we can leave the door open but keep the security gate closed so that people can still see into the Shrine and pray.
It has indeed been a year with a difference! Many of our plans and programs came to a stop and we were forced to follow a path we had not planned for at all – as most of us have experienced worldwide. We are convinced that even though the pandemic may be largely man-made, it is still a heaven-sent opportunity to reflect on what is truly important. Since many countries are not receiving post, we have also been forced to update our data base and capture people’s email addresses. It reminds us too, that paper is a natural resource and not to be wasted. So please do send us your email address to email@example.com so that in future we can use email rather than print. We thank you all most heartily for your prayer, sacrifices and financial support. In thanks-giving for your generosity, we will remember you during our novena of holy Masses in this time of Advent. We will intercede for health for you and your loved ones and a rich measure of grace for a blessed New Year
We remain gratefully yours,
The Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary in South Afric