In his diocese of Kimberley, Bishop Gabuza (pictured right) was no stranger to rural outstations. On the left he is shown leaving his car at the side of the road and proceeding to an outlying village by donkey cart.
Introducing Archbishop Abel Gabuza
‘It was on 26 November 2018 when I took the call from the Apolostolic Nuncio. His message that I was to be moved to Durban as Coadjutor and then in time replace Cardinal Napier as Archbishop of the Diocese of Durban, came as a shock to me.
I was stunned. I had mixed emotions. I froze for a moment and was overcome with fear. Surely, I was having a bad dream. Why me? I asked myself. Especially as I’d just arrived in Kimberley.
In the 35 years since my ordination, I have always considered myself to be an obedient son of the Church. I’m always conscious that I’m a servant, and will go where the Church wishes me to serve. In my farewell letter to the church in Kimberley, I used a common South African phrase, Thuma mina Nkosi (send me Lord).
Through prayer and spiritual direction I’ve accepted my new charge, digging deep to eliminate what can hold me back.’
One of six children, born on 23 March 1956, and baptised after 40 days, Abel Gabuza received his name from the Old Testament.
He attended a Catholic school and remembers the Holy Cross Sisters as being so good, treating the children to hot soup in winter, and ice-cream in summer.
Young Abel grew up in bad times in South Africa in his township of Alexandra. At age seven he saw his first dead body in the street. After his father died, his mother sent him away to boarding school to protect him.
For as long as he can remember, Bishop Abel always felt drawn to becoming a priest. Immediately after finishing high school he entered the seminary for a year. Then he took a break and became a factory worker – an experience that helped him understand the hardships of workers, and importance of work.
The call of the priesthood returned him to the seminary and he was ordained in 1984. A scholarship took him to the Jesuit School of San Francisco from where, after an earthquake, his mother begged him to return home.
Opportunities to rise in the Church came his way (for which he’s very grateful), culminating in his present role.
Coadjutor-Archbishop is not a common thing. It’s never happened before in the history of the Catholic Church in South Africa. This position means that Bishop Gabuza will run the Archdiocese of Durban alongside its incumbent Archbishop, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier in the role of Vicar General as prescribed by Canon Law. With this position comes the right to succeed Cardinal Napier as Archbishop when the Pope decrees so.
A heartfelt welcome to the Archdiocese of Durban was given real meaning on Sunday 10 February 2019, when the Mass of Reception was celebrated with the lively participation of over 4 000 attendees.
Cardinal Napier describes the occasion as depicting the warmth and love that the people of this Archdiocese show when receiving the Shepherds sent by the Lord to care for them.
Last Word (from a friend of the Zulu Missions in the UK)
I’m one of the many friends of Archbishop Napier whose possible replacement I find difficult to envisage. Now he has you, he will, I think, sleep more easily in his bed, since he knows the future will be based on you!
God bless you in your new role. You’ll be loved as Cardinal Napier is, and I’ll add you to my list of those who matter to God.
I’m not a Catholic, but I am a Christian, and wish you the love of God, always.’