‘For to us, a Child is born.’ That’s the gift of Christmas — God’s gift of himself, in the Child Jesus who is born.”
CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2017
By Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala
December 20th 2017
Dear brother priests, seminarians, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio,
Our hearts are filled with the tenderness of God’s love when we see little children kneeling in front of a Nativity scene, especially a church display where the figures are large enough to pick up and play with.
The Nativity scene continues to attract us even as we grow older. Christmas retains an excitement that surpasses the glitter and the gifts, the decorations and the festivities. Most people, even those for whom Christmas may be a trying time, automatically sense the approach of this “most wonderful time of the year.”
For some, though, the wonder of Christ’s Birth disappears as soon as the Christmas season ends. The decorations are put away, and so is the appeal with the Holy Family. The peace, joy and love of our Christmas greetings are abandoned as quickly as our New Year’s resolutions. I propose that now is the time to make an extra effort to keep Christmas throughout the year by getting closer to Jesus, and by inviting someone else to get closer to him.
The Priorities and Goals recently announced in our diocese’s Pastoral Plan by launching the first diocesan synod was so to contain one goal that points particularly to this challenge: fostering an intimate encounter with Jesus. We want to do everything possible to enable the faithful to begin or deepen their personal relationship with God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ.
In this first diocesan synod, we are preparing our goals with the awareness that we should all be more passionate about the Church’s evangelizing mission. It is not enough to be content that our Catholic population continues to grow, lifted by the blessings of hard work of our priests and religious as well as our lay faithful.
Therefore, we are building churches, our schools are full, our programs and activities are keeping us busy, and our faithful are devoted and generous. However, we cannot close our eyes to the challenges that face us. Too many of our students leave the practice of their faith after they finish school or when they get descent jobs or public office promotion. Too many of our married couples experience breakdowns in their marriages. Now no many marriages are being celebrated both civil and church ones. Very little number of our faithful contributes to the welfare of the diocese financially or technically. Sharpe hate and disagreement among our faithful, and sometimes killings of one another for simple things. And too many of the more than 1,000,000 Catholics in our diocese are no longer regularly nourished by the Sacraments in a parish community.
Evidence suggests that most people weaken or lapse in their practice of the faith because, for many different reasons, they were never truly evangelized down to the core of their being.
Our diocese of Tombura-Yambio is committed to giving pride of place in its upcoming activities to fostering personal relationships with Jesus in the family of the Church. God revealed himself as our merciful Father in the face of Christ. The spellbound children in front of the Nativity scene can sense that. As we grow older, our task is to ensure that we keep that excitement of letting Jesus attract us, by welcoming him into our hearts and by then sharing him with others.
The New Evangelization calls us to be committed to responding to the deep yearning of many people to deepen their faith and relationship with the Lord. That’s why our parishes, schools, health institution, programs, and ministries will be focusing on helping Catholics grow in this ultimate relationship.
In the field that is social, let us work together to transform our society. Your diocese is ever committed to this fact, ‘health mind in health body’ or souls and body’s option’. Last week I was checking lists in our archive of Diocesan Human Progress Option, I came upon unforgettable achievements. We realized that most of the intellectuals and leaders in our present day society have been in one way or another beneficiaries of our diocesan dream in regard to Human Progress Option through quality Education. E.g. In Meridi State the governor and four of his ministers, in Gbudue State, the governor and three of his ministers, in Tombura State; the governor and all his minsters fall in line of our diocesan educational inputs to transform our society. Leave alone the MPs and professionals or civil servants! The purpose is to building men and women in our communities as God fearing persons and people’s lovers. Please help them with your prayers and necessary support to deliver with God’s guidance.
I assure you that as a diocese we determined to go farther and meet greater heights, so please join hands with me and our diocese to realize have a society free of ignorance.
I take this chance of Christmas spirit to announce to you the good news that, in 2018 we are commencing and bringing to our diocese a University. We are setting up University in Mupoi as constituent University College of the Catholic University of South Sudan. It will have compasses in Yambio, Tombura and Meridi. Vocational Training departments are inclusive as well.
Let me make this invitation to you all to resolve to:
Christmas is a special season when we come together and celebrate the birth of Jesus. Our parishes overflow with families gathered to pray and rejoice. My hope and prayer is that this Christmas enthusiasm carries forward throughout 2018. Just imagine if all our churches were bursting at the top every weekend. This is possible with your help.
As the New Year 2018 approaches, I would like to ask you to make a resolution to increase the time you give to God by one hour a week. If you attend Mass weekly, spend nine minutes more a day in prayer. If all 1,000,000 Catholics did that, guess what would happen?
Let me ask you all to pray for me! I need your prayers more than anything else. Please take care of my priests, sisters, catechists, seminarians. Legion Maria, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Catholic Action, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Marriage group, Youths, Children movements, scouts, and beidi Natele furoni dunduko.
I am coming on pastoral visit to you soon. I have completed Eastern Deanery and Central Deanery but Western Deanery will begin in February 2018(from village to village). See then!
Let’s take a page from the children and see the Birth of Jesus through their eyes: wonder, awe and a sense of being infinitely loved.
Wishing you the blessings of this Holy Period and my best wishes for the coming New Year 2018,
+ Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala
bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio