20th Anniversary International Year of the Family, theme: FAMILIES TOGETHER, THAT’S US!

April theme:  Faith and Families, Growing Together.


Communicate with us www.marfam.org.za facebook or info@marfam.org.za

Family Matters Printable Version


Fascinating picture seen in Knysna Catholic Church

SACBC Prayer for Families Reflection: Intergenerational solidarity means listening to each other


Article of the month

SACBC Family Life Desk News and activities, Year Planner: 2014 April theme: Faith and Families,  growing together


CORRESPONDENCE:   letter from Singapore. 

FAMILY SPIRITUALITY for months April – May

FINALLY …  on a lighter note  



Our Father, we come to you as your children in the Church which is your Family.

As families of many kinds we praise and thank you for your love and care in good times and in bad.

Strengthen us to build strong families, be faithful spouses, good parents and nurture the life of all.

Help us to support the rights of each member so that there will be no more violence or division.

Through practicing the life-giving love of Jesus, your Son and through the power of the Holy Spirit make our families holy families where the joy of your presence is felt in our little churches of the home.

Open us to the needs of other families especially the neglected, the lonely and the poor.

Bless our leaders as they guide us in living your plan in our family.

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us and show us the way.

Saints of God ………….   Pray for us
Add your own particular needs
SACBC  2014-2016 FOCUS ON FAMILIES.    This prayer is available in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Pedi and Xhosa


Intergenerational solidarity means listening to each other  

Big words, but a simple message; communicating across the generations. Intergenerational solidarity and social integration is one of the themes for the 20th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family.  There are plenty of facets to that but a glance into the media and communication illustrates some of them.

Recent popes from the start of the electronic age  have written much about the value of the modern media as a tool for evangelisation.  It certainly is and can be but, should we add, if well used?  What are the most popular forms of media?  That may depend on the age group.  Older people are probably TV, radio and email users.  Younger adults use their computers for reading news, facebook for sharing their activities and thoughts while others prefer twitter more as a brief form of reporting events and sharing bits of news. You Tube offers any number of possibilities for those tuned in, but most likely younger family members make best use of it.  Teenagers have their own way of communicating, endlessly and constantly, only restricted by the amount of airtime they have.

This very rough perception struck me while running workshops for family ministry and promoting family communication.  Intra-family and in particular intergenerational communication, be it face-to-face, visual, audio or electronic, is complicated by the fact that we “like” to use different forms of media, feel comfortable and not frustrated. Who blogs?   Any people with thoughts they wish to share, but seldom would you find your own family members interested in your blog.  All these means of communication can be harnessed, and in particular in a unique and special way where families are separated through work, migrant labour, divorce or studies. I can envisage, but not easily, an absentee father engaged in regular meaningful skype contact with his son or daughter. Learning to skype and to share on facebook allows for richer and better expression but sending sms’s or tweets can still be a way of keeping in touch.

Take the news in South Africa at this time as an opportunity for sharing. I found the Oscar Pistorius trial coverage a trial in itself.  At first, rightly or wrongly, I couldn’t bear to see that young man put through such a grilling that it literally made him ill.  Others relished that and wanted to see more.   The seven-day newsworthy value did die down and now, at the end of another month, we are no nearer the truth as one of the assessors was taken ill and the trial was postponed. Will true justice prevail?  What thoughts and feelings can be shared on that?

Election coverage is only still hotting up but it can become tiresome and will get a whole lot worse, although again it may be of interest to some.  No doubt there are serious social issues to be addressed but the volume of coverage, watching antics of candidates and listening to abuse being hurled at one another surely taxes one’s tolerance.  Nkandla and the saga of the presidential palace still offers much to munch on. It is enlightening how political allegiance continues to play a role in whether the Nkandla report and the person of the Public Protector should be given credibility or whether the person of the President comes out as a suitable leader of the country.  Political allegiance is irrationally powerful.

Consider family communication then.  We all watch and listen to different versions of news and current affairs. We adults, and any young people eligible to vote have to take seriously our responsibility to put our cross where it matters. What influence do adults, parents and others have on the thinking of the next generation or what can we learn from their ways of thinking?  On faith matters the generations are also not quite on the same page.   We older Catholics say that the youth must be told or helped to become committed Catholics.  Who will tell them, how and will they listen?  What do they themselves say and who is expected to change?

The April family theme: Faith and Families, growing together,  appears rather elusive. It is all very well teaching little children to say their prayers, but are we able to share a real prayer moment across the generations?  With children beginning to think for themselves, used to their unique ways of communication, how possible will it be as we come closer to celebrating the Easter mysteries to share our faith moments in a meaningful way?  Possibly, if we have been growing together over the years and the channels of communication are still places where we meet from time to time, it can happen.

A very real dilemma is that no one is likely to want to change because we have a right to be different and are set in our often age-related preferences for dealing with forms of the media. A decision can be made to want to change provided the benefits are seen to be worthwhile. What experiences of life and love, of the presence and healing of God will we be able to share if we learn how to and are committed to do so?  Will that happen when during these last weeks of Lent people are encouraged to spend more time at parish talks and events rather than deliberately promoting that faith sharing that can build the much-needed intergenerational solidarity?

Evangelisation is sharing good news but not in a simplistic way.  Are we really credible across the ages if we are not real with one another?  Is building the church of the home about building relationships with one another and God primarily through the tough times?  The saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough starting praying” has its own very important messages for us at this liturgical time.

Finally an Act of Intergenerational Kindness.  The neighbor of a four-year-old child was an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his wife.  Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old Gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy just said, ‘Nothing, I just helped him cry.’      Lent and Easter blessings to you and yours.

Toni Rowland




The 20th anniversary UN International Year of the Family with its important and far-ranging themes is under way. Are we all on board?  In the public domain there still appears to be a relatively low awareness of a family focus and of the themes.  The SACBC 2014 Family Year Planner, Thoughts for the Day booklets and the FAMILY MATTERS magazine which will be available this month are basic resources for family life education in a relatively simple format. They utilise the UN themes as well as the church’s pastoral challenges for the Special synod.  Families need education about their reality and place in the Church, but do they want it?  Is it to do with brands and packaging?   Who knows, but we keep trying as it is ultimately for their benefit. Maybe the faithful out there are not as faithful as the hierarchy would like. That is a sadness for us all and the subject of reflection for the Synod.

A full calendar overview for the year is published on the website,  www.marfam.org.za.  All current publications include Holy Week and Easter and the FAMILY MATTERS magazine also presents the devotion STATIONS OF LIGHT from Bosco Youth Centre in Gauteng.  Pictures of the mosaics  by Fr Pierre de la Croix are used with permission.

We are making a little progress with social media but time is a major problem. I saw a suggestions somewhere, “Forget chocolate, give up social media for Lent.”    I am almost inclined to agree and wonder how many of us, possibly older people,  are forcing ourselves to keep a presence, so giving it up would be a relief rather than a sacrifice.



THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY  April – June R10,   Lenten Reflections THAT THEY MAY BE ONE  (reflecting on different religions within a family) R8,       A FAMILY PRAYER BOOK R10.  Bulk prices apply to all these.   

STATIONS OF THE CROSS FOR FAMILIES in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana   R5. .

STATIONS OF THE CROSS FOR THOSE WHO ARE WIDOWED in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, R5.

GOD’S PLAN OF LOVE, A Resurrection Story, is a new story and colouring book for children covering salvation history until Pentecost.  R10. 

2014 FAMILY YEAR PLANNER is still available and various other Lenten programmes and activity sheets for a Family Prayer/Paschal meal and Reconciliation service are some publications noted on the website. www.marfam.org.za




See familydesk.sacbc.org.za created by Mariannhil Mission Press and linked with other SACBC departments. Also see www.marfam.org.za/blog for the links to family movements.



JANUARY : New Beginnings, Towards balanced families

FEBRUARY : Love, the basis for care

MARCH : Human Rights and Family Rights

APRIL : Faith and Families – Together

MAY : Parenting and Work-family Balance

JUNE : Youth and their Families

JULY : the Elderly and Families

AUGUST : Gender Balance

SEPTEMBER : Families, Diverse and Together

OCTOBER : Reaching out, Family to Family

NOVEMBER : Loss and Needed Support

DECEMBER : Healthy Families, Hope for the Future


APRIL : Faith and Families, Growing Together.     

Freedom of religion is a basic human right. The practice of religion is personal but may have become individualistic and so the right and duty to transmit their faith within families is often disregarded.  A common and shared faith life acknowledges God’s presence within a family as a little church of the home even if there is a difference in practice of religion. Family prayer and sharing of faith and life realities are an important means to strengthen interpersonal relationships and relationships with God.  “The educational mission of the Christian family” is “a true ministry through which the Gospel is transmitted so that family life itself becomes an itinerary of faith, a Christian initiation and a school of following Christ. In the family conscious of this gift, all the members evangelize and are evangelized.  AM46

A selection of reflections mainly for Sundays is on the website in English. Afrikaans, Sesotho, Zulu, Tswana, North Sotho and Xhosa are emailed out when available.  

ACTIVITIES. More of the activities of the FL Desk are posted on the SACBC website in future.

Promotion, promotion, promotion.  Parish talks, workshops, meetings and fundraising are the order of the day using afamily focus and the International Year of the Family themes .   Interesting were an ecumenical visit and  being hosted on Radio Veritas YouthWise programme and getting into discussion about youth and families. See picture.

Of interest was some time spent doing secretarial duty at a SECAM meeting with some French and English speaking church general secretaries general from other parts of Africa.  Sharing just a little about the reality in the Central African Republic, or Rwanda or Ghana does broaden one’s outlook on such issues as the need for Reconciliation.

2014 – 2016  A FOCUS ON FAMILIES.  As the bishops are making family life a priority for three years the Family Life Desk working group will soon meet to suggest plans to implement family strengthening and spirituality in dioceses.

A FAMILY PRAYER and SUGGESTIONS FOR FAMILY DAYS.  The bishops in their plenary meeting had tasked the Family Life Desk and the Department for Evangelization to prepare a prayer that could be widely used in different languages.  The text of the prayer published above has been approved and is being distributed in English and local languages.  A prayer card can be printed with 2 languages back to back.  Bishops have been asked for orders as the ideal and most cost-effective way of distribution.   The suggestion leaflet for celebrating a Family Day has also been passed on to the bishops and will be published on familydesk.sacbc.org.za

FAMILY CONFERENCE.  We are excited that Radio Veritas, the FL Desk, Johannesburg Family Life Department and the Salesians have so far started developing a programme for a family conference at Bosco on 20-21 September.  Other role players are being approached to make this a meaningful and fun event for families who will participate.  Further news to follow.   

Networking with the Department of Social Development on their formal national plans continues slowly as with elections coming in May most other things will be on hold.   


Valuable websites


The various websites also contain research papers and documentation to support the need for family-orientated poverty alleviation programmes that can have a spin-off on intergenerational support and work-family balance.

According to the UN Nations “the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (IYF) offers an opportunity to refocus on the role of families in development; take stock of recent trends in family policy development; share good practices in family policy making; review challenges faced by families worldwide and recommend solutions.” As national and regional policies are examined, we can consider if our dioceses and parishes do have adequate family policies with regard to marriage preparation, enrichment, even openness to counselling, baptism preparation family catechesis, etc? Assisting dioceses is one of our family ministry objectives. All church members as individuals, members of groups or sodalities in their individual and family capacity with their particular skills and all church agencies have a role to play in the strengthening and support of families and all their related issues at all levels. Justice and Peace and Development departments have been asked to incorporate a family focus, e.g. address family poverty holistically or work-family balance through the Economic Justice Desk. AIDS projects too can look holistically at families in their care programmes.

What is your group, sodality, RENEW group, parish team or organisation planning for 2014?  We hear that parishes are using a prayer, an icon of the Holy Family, a candle in the parish and at home to use at prayer time.  Bracelets are being promoted by  Fr Des Royappen in Durban.  stjosephdbn@iafrica.com   Let us have other suggestions;   fridge magnet, badge, conferences and workshops at any level, diocese or smaller groupings. Gatherings should be fun,  but by building in some of the current topics can be enriching and informative.

Diocesan family events could be held and take different forms.   Different events during this year can look for ways to incorporate a family focus in their projects.

(The above poster available in A3 or A4 size for parish notice board or other promos.)

FUTURE FAMILY MINISTRY EVENTS AND OTHER NOTICES:   Contact 082 5521275 for details or requests.

5 April.    Talk by Professor Jan Jans of Tilburg university in Holland.  The 2014 Synod on the Family.  What are the Expectations?   

Many Lenten talks and actvities are planned.  Check out your local options.  It is to be hoped that these will incorporate a family focus as appropriate or take people away from their families too much.

MAY a month for Family and Life.  Focus on life issues. 

3 MAY  PARISH FAMILY MINISTRY WORKSHOP, JOHANNESBURG CHANCERY.  Aim to look into IYF and ongoing support for family life in parishes.  Nearby dioceses are free to join in.

13 MAY CPLO event around the launch of the Government White Paper on the Family 

15 MAY, INTERNATIONAL FAMILY DAY.  Celebrate in parishes and at home building in the IYF themes, especially work-family balance and parenting.  Call on Department of Social Developent or other resources

17 MAY,  IYF and the SYNOD.  Conference at Pauline’s, Johannesburg .

Parish Family Ministry Weekend Workshops can be held for any parishes or dioceses. Follow-up sessions are also important.    JHB PFM WORKSHOPS  3 May( not 10th), 2 August, 4 October.    Next weekend in Johannesburg 5-7 September 2014



ELECTIONEERING is now in full swing in South Africa leading up to elections on 7th May.  The bishops have issued a statement calling citizens to pray for a peaceful campaign and for voters to act responsibly.   See www.sacbc.org.za    The Moral Regeneration Movement, an independent civil society structure has issued its general election ethics charter.  “Ethics is about values, and, for the social beings that we are, it is about shared values. If it is ethical to vote, it is also necessary to be ethical in voting” the chairperson Smangaliso Mkhatshwa says. Families should communicate with their young people about the upcoming elections too.  Discuss party manifestos and assess the suitability of candidates put forward.

LAY FORMATION.  With restructuring of the departments of the bishops’ conference and an Inter-diocesan Consultation under way to eventually develop a new Pastoral Plan the role and formation of the laity is important.  Pope John Paul in 2005 expressed it well.  “A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders. The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill its mission for the life of the world.”    We pray that his canonisation together with Pope John XXIII will be a blessing for families and the church. 

FOLLOW THE POPE(s).   Preparations for the Special Synod on the Family in October are progressing.   Pope Francis at the meeting of consistory mused, “ how is it possible for any woman to develop an incisive presence in the many areas of public and professional life where important decisions are made and at the same time maintain a special presence within the family?   (Those are IYF questions for us to consider too.)     Subscribing to www.zenit.org gives access to regular bulletins from Rome.

The International Year of Family Farming 2014.  This UN worldwide commemoration aims to stimulate active policies for sustainable development of farmer families, communal units, indigenous groups, cooperatives and fishing families to combat poverty and hunger. www.familyfarmingcampaign.net

RADIO  VERITAS broadcasts on 576AM, DSTV audio channel 170 and is streaming on the internet.  Many Catholic issues are addressed and attention is being paid to the International Year of the Family at present.  FAMILY MATTERS is a magazine programme on Wednesday 9-10am highlighting many aspects of the IYF and hosted by Toni Rowland with guests.

members, may more effectively fulfill its mission for the life of the world”.


FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS CONFERENCE (FABC) Office of Laity and Family based in Singapore is a new connection. Of interest in their newsletter was a communique from a professional woman in India decrying the lot of women in India.  She writes, “How can the family be a domestic church in countries like India when the birth of a girl is lamented and prevented? How can a daughter encounter Christ in the family when she is denied the same education and inheritance as her brother and sold for a dowry?  How is it possible for a mother to nurture a family where there is no food for her to eat, or her health is neglected because she is expendable? “ Abuse, violence and marital rape are common.   Interfaith marriages are a particular concern In India and elsewhere in Asia with an incidence as high as 76% in Japan.   http://www.fabc.org/offices/olaity/olaity.html

In common with another new contact JANETTE DAVIDSON of the DIOCESE OF BROKEN HILL, AUSTRALIA we have the Omaha Family Life Office Parish Family Ministry programme already of 20 years ago.  It is a small world!

WORLD WIDE ORGANIZATION OF PAST-STUDENTS OF CATHOLIC SCHOOLS: OMAEC.  The organisation aims to gather and unite past pupils and sympathizers of Catholic education/schools in order for them to serve the church and society at large. For more information contact FEDERATION OF PAST-PUPILS OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION IN SOUTH AFRICA IS LOCAL OMAEC faecas.localomaec@hotmail.com.   (I matriculated at Holy Cross convent, Aliwal North in 1961. Oh dear, how that dates us!)


For contacts of local marriage and family programmes see : www.marfam.org.za  and familydesk.sacbc.org.za

SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS Desk at the SACBC.   Subscribe to e-Khanya bi-monthly newsletter on www.sacbc.org.za,  Southern Cross online www.scross.co.za

Mariannhill Mission press www.mariannhillmedia.org and www.mariannhillpress.co.za for printing and websites

South African Catholic Internet Resource Blog set up by Frank Nunan frank@sacatholiconline.org.

RIGHT TO LIFE ISSUES Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute http://www.c-fam.org/ austin.ruse@c-fam.org

Marriage: www.foryourmarriage.org   US Catholic Bishops sponsored newsletter on marriage and family life.

www.smartmarriages.com  carries numerous articles on marriage and family life.

Catholic Education:  www.catholiceducation.org/updates/latest.htm  a resource for educators and any adults.

Parent-teen support:  www.tugoflife.com and LIFETALK are for parents, teens and teen educators.

CIE (Catholic Institute of Education) has many programmes dealing with school-parent-child issues.  www.cie.org.za

Heartlines films and other resources on values are very helpful for groups and workshops.   

Non-religious family support resources.  Government Social Development departments, FAMSA, LifeLine, Child Welfare and many other NGO’s, social workers and psychologists offer counselling, marriage preparation, family education, divorce mediation and counselling, parenting, fatherhood  and many more.   Family Preservation is a vision and a programme.



Suggestions for April theme: Faith and Families – growing together and May theme: Parenting and Work-family balance.  

“Any good religious educator should be armed with a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. That is the way to link faith and life.” Visit www.marfam.org.za  for more ideas or google.

THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY, April to June  booklets contain a short reflection for every day.   Special Holy Week and Easter themes ask “Where would Jesus be today?”   Sunday reflections are also emailed with translations where available.

 FAMILY PRAYER BOOK  has many short prayers and family members are encouraged to make up their own.  The bishops PRAYER FOR FAMILIES is printed on the back cover.

GOD’S PLAN OF LOVE, A Resurrection Story, is a new story and colouring book for children covering salvation history up until Pentecost.

A Family Prayer Meal, a Family Reconciliation service, Stations of the Cross for Families.  These as families at home are some  possible “liturgical activities,” of the church of the home. Others are painting easter eggs, making hot cross buns, or chocolate moulded figures, an Easter egg hunt possibly with biblical clues, even having an Easter bonnet competition can be fun these days.

STATIONS OF LIGHT at Bosco Youth Centre. A scripture sharing activity is published in FAMILY MATTERS magazine with the mosaics created for the devotion.  Groups and families can take a trip to Bosco and pray the Stations as part of a family day. 

Easter Monday is Family Day in SA.  It is a public holiday and can be used for a Family Talk Walk, Fun Day.

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER ART.  Movies, paintings, stained glass, creative Stations of the Cross provide reflection material.  Beautiful traditional music as well as modern compositions e.g. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR or GODSPELL are worthwhile mood setters.

From 27th April, Freedom Day to 7th May, Election Day.   Twenty years down the line and more means the youth of today are not aware of the meaning and value of this time. In whatever context families live, share your experiences and pray for reconciliation, true freedom as the way to a bright future.

MAY month has many possibilities.  Mary’s month – praying the Rosary or a decade, including a prayer to Mary in daily prayer,  a focus on Life Issues and the need for effective Parenting.   MARFAM has resources or referral information for many of these.

11th May, Mothers’ Day. 

15th May is International Day for Families.  Not a church day but an international day of solidarity with families all over the world reflecting on the important themes and on Parenting or Life issues.   Plan well ahead.

Faith sharing in a family – not a prayer group – with members of all ages is a recommended form of family catechesis especially when using current themes.  Even more than important it should be considered necessary for normal growth and a stable family.

As a family do some research on the lives of SAINTS, our own name saints and the FEASTDAYS for THE MONTH.  See  www.catholiconline.org or google to find out more.


If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses. Lenny Bruce

Rules of Chocolate Easter Eggs.

If you get melted chocolate all over your hands, you’re eating it too slowly.

Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices and strawberries all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want.

Diet tip: Eat an Easter egg before each meal.  It’ll take the edge off your appetite, and that way you’ll eat less.

Money talks. Chocolate sings.

Chocolate has many preservatives.  Preservatives make you look younger.

The problem: How to get two pounds of chocolate eggs home from the store in a hot car.
The solution: Eat the eggs in the car park.

Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous?  Because no one wants to quit.

If Easter and chocolate are about new life why is there such a thing as “Death by chocolate?”

The Funny Story of the Taxi Driver and St Peter

One Easter a priest and a taxi driver both died and went to heaven. St. Peter was at the Pearly gates waiting for them.

‘Come with me,’ said St. Peter to the taxi driver.

The taxi driver did as he was told and followed St Peter to a mansion. It had everything you could imagine from a bowling alley to an Olympic size pool.

‘Oh my word, thank you,’ said the taxi driver.

Next, St. Peter led the priest to a rough old shack with a bunk bed and a little old television set.

‘Wait, I think you are a little mixed up,’ said the priest. ‘Shouldn’t I be the one who gets the mansion? After all I was a priest, went to church every day, and preached God’s word.’

‘Yes, that’s true.’ St Peter rejoined, ‘But during your Easter sermons people slept.  When the taxi driver drove, everyone prayed.’


Read More about Marfam And its Vision at www.marfam.org.za/. Financial and other support welcomed.

MARFAM’s vision since its start in 1995 has been the renewal of family life in the Church through education and enrichment. Publications are a resource for families, educators, parishes and for the work of the Family Life Desk of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Read more at www.marfam.org.za/ We thank our advertisers for their support and ask readers to support them in turn. Financial contributions towards MARFAM’s ministry are also most welcome. Details supplied on request.

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