Molefe ministered right to the end

Jo Mdhlela

Jo Mdhlela

It is said that life is wholesomely lived if it manages to reach the biblical "three score and 10" years, which translates into 70 years.

Father Abe Molefe, a retired Anglican priest who died last week at the age of 77, easily reached biblical wholesomeness.

But the word retirement was a misnomer for Molefe. It did not exist. Though officially retired by his bishop in 1998, he stoically continued to slog on until the end of his life.

In the true Anglo-Catholic tradition, Molefe embraced the priesthood in the Order of Melchizedek - a priesthood of Jesus that is a bringer of life, hope and justice to the people of God.

Melchizedek could be translated to mean the one who brings "bread and wine". In the ancient world, wine and bread were sources of life and prosperity, also described as a blessing.

Priesthood is not limited to saying mass on a Sunday. It extends beyond that. To be a priest is to live out a life of justice, righteousness and compassion.

Even in retirement Molefe dedicated himself to hospital ministry. Every day of the week the hunched little figure of Father Molefe could be seen trudging through the hospital wards to give hope and spiritual sustenance to bed-ridden patients at Chris HaniBaragwanath Hospital.

I once engaged him in a discussion, enquiring why he thought it important for a man of his advanced age to engage in hospital ministry.

"Father, why don't you leave this ministry to us? We still have the legs and energy to run around," I said.

"Well, you see, Father Francis Blake, a monk of the Community of the Resurrection, taught us that we do not live for ourselves. We live for others.

"The ministry we are engaged in is a ministry of Jesus. We are all priests in the Order of Melchizedek; our priesthood is eternal; it has no beginning; it has no end. It is both a cosmic and eternal priesthood that knows no time. So retirement, or old age should be no barrier."

Molefe was buried yesterday at the West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg, and we gave thanks and praise to God for his ministry and his wholesome life.