On 6 January 2018, the Servite Sisters of Swaziland celebrated two golden jubilees, one silver jubilee and a first profession. 

Below is the text of my homily

* * * * *

Every year the Servite family gather on this day to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. It is “their” feast. 

This year, the feast the marked by the celebration of a first profession, a silver jubilee and a golden jubilee. The feast is marked by vows to be made today or made decades' ago. The feast is marked by the celebration of religious life.

I believe the feast of the epiphany is a great image of what religious life is. We have these “wise men” from the East leaving behind every possible security they could have in order to find “the newly born King of the Jews”. 

No cellphones. No maps. No GPS. No precise indication of the place. No physical address. No name. No surname. No nothing.

Religious life is about leaving behind what to other people seems normal: deciding on their own lives, financial security, getting married and building a family... 

Religious life has that challenging dimension in the eyes of so many:
    • What? You don't have a wife / a husband?
    • What? You don't have a bank account on your name? You don't have personal money?
    • What? You don't decide...? You have a superior?!

It is always interesting to see how many times people and even pastors would come quoting the Bible trying to justify why they should have money, power, a family of their own. They would cleverly ignore any other text that might support the choice being made by religious sisters, brothers and priests.

Like these wise men, these “wise men and women” believe that nothing is greater than Jesus and they are ready to give up everything to be with Him, to follow Him, to tell the world about Him. Religious life points to Jesus in a very special way. 

Maybe two images should be underlined today:
    • Religious sisters, brothers and priests are like the wise men as they look for Jesus;
    • Religious sisters, brothers and priests are like stars guiding others to Jesus with their lives.

It is all about Jesus. That should be noted. That should be clear.

Religious life has its challenges though:
  • One might get tired. One might forget why he / she has started this journey. Nothing moves him/her anymore. One then become like the leaders of the people who hear the news of the newly born King of the Jews but do not move a finger to look for Him. They do know the right answers but are not really touched by them. Religious then become “professionals”. They dress as religious sisters, brothers and priests but nothing moves them anymore;
  • One might forget Jesus is at the centre of their call. Once you forget that, you replace it with something else. It all becomes “me, myself and I”. Money becomes indispensable. Personal accounts. Secret accounts. Obedience? Sure. Everyone should do as I say. Even the superior. They become Herod. Herod could not accept that anyone ... not even Jesus! ... could be at the centre. The love of Jesus that should be at the centre disappears and we start killing each other like Herod would do.

Today we might not be celebrating wise men but we hope we do have four wise women! We do hope we have many more than four. 

We need religious life in our diocese. We need people ready to tell us with their lives that nothing and no one is more important that Jesus. 

We need people ready to fool Herod and not to be fooled by him. I love the image at the end of the Gospel when the wise men fooled Herod. He keeps on waiting for them to be back and then realises he has been fooled by them. 

Fool Herod! Fool all those who tell you Jesus can wait. Fool all those tell you Jesus can take second place. Keep them waiting.

One more thing. In English we say: “Blood is thicker than water” to imply that family relationships are always more important than friends. Show everyone that faith is thicker & stronger than blood. 
Lead us all in the way of love. 

Arriving in the diocese of Manzini in 2014 as resident bishop I shared a story about “bats”. 
I said that Catholics should be recognised by three things:
  • Bible – Word of God
  • Cathechism of the Catholic Church – Our Faith
  • Social teachings of the Church
From that time I kept on wondering how to make this possible in our diocese. I wondered how to help the people of our diocese to know or deepen in these three areas. I finally came with a plan: a three year course on these three topics.
The title will be:
Word – Faith – SocialWith all your heart, soul, strength, mind
and your neighbour as yourselfLk 10:27
“And now a lawyer stood up and, to test him, asked, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What is your reading of it?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered right, do this and life is yours.’” (Lk 10: 25 – 28)
How it will be done
  • The course will last 3 years
    • A: Word
    • B: Faith
    • C: Social
  • Participants will be free
    • to take one – two or three years
    • start on Year A or B or C and continue with the rest of the cycle
  • A certificate of attendance will be issued
    • at the end of each year and
    • at the end of the three year course
  • When
    • ONCE a month on the first Saturday of the month (from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm)
    • From February to November
  • Place: Catholic Centre (Manzini)
  • Cost: Emalangeni 500 (which includes E 100 registration fee)
  • Registration
    • at the Catholic Centre (or through your Parish priest)
    • closes 20 January 2018
  • Only 60 places available
The first year will be entirely by our own Bible Scholar: 
Fr Dumisani Vilakati


A new year! We are grateful to God for this sign of his blessing, care and love for each one of us.

We bring into this new year all our hopes and dreams of a better future for each one of us, for our families, for our nation and for the world.

We bring into this new year all our hopes and dreams for peace! Peace in our hearts, peace in our families, peace in our country, peace in the world!

Unfortunately a new year does not come with the turning of a page where all the bad news of the previous year are left behind. We brought into the new year our “2017 unfinished homework”.

The challenges of poverty, gender based violence, human trafficking, climate change, corruption, HIV/Aids among others, walk with us into the new year. They will still affect our lives.

If our wish for peace is real, each one is called to commit himself / herself to make a difference.

Though so much is in the hands of each one of us in any type of leadership, it is not “someone else's responsibility” to put an end to them. It is yours and mine and we can only do it together.

We have said enough words. It is time for a change of attitude. We need to move from a “selfie” attitude of “me, myself and I” at the centre to the gift that each one of us can be towards our brothers and sisters. Everyone is needed.

For us, Christians, this is a matter of faith. We are our brothers and sisters' keepers (Gen 4:9). We are called to love not just by words or mere talk, but in an active and genuine way (1 Jo 3: 18).  We too, like Jesus, ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 Jo 3: 16) because if one sees his brother or sister in need but closes his / her heart, how can the love of God be remaining in him/her? (1 Jo 3:17)

    • Let us multiply spaces of dialogue and help each other to find practical ways of addressing these issues;
    • Let us reflect together on the way we relate with each other making sure our most vulnerable brothers and sisters in our families, churches and society at large are cared and protected;
    • Let us reflect on the way we relate to power and make sure we do not confuse authority with any type of violence;
    • Let us reconsider the way each one of us relate with money, our financial priorities in the light of those who hardly live from hand to mouth;
    • Let our religious, NGOs, civil and political institutions reconsider their expenses without fear making sure the poorest in our communities are at the centre;
    • Let us not fall into the temptation of easily justifying our needs and attitudes. It will only make things worse.

On new year's eve Pope Francis said: “Even the year 2017, which God gave us whole and healthy, we human beings have in many ways wasted and wounded it with works of death, with lies and injustices. Wars are the flagrant sign of this backsliding and absurd pride. But so are all the small and great offenses against life, truth, and solidarity, which cause multiple forms of human, social and environmental degradation. We desire to and must assume fully, before God, our brothers and Creation, our own responsibility.

How would you like 2018 to be and what are you ready to do to make it possible?

May God bless us and lead us all.

Just a few days' ago Fr Giorgio Massa IMC celebrated his Golden Jubilee. He was ordained priest on 23 December 1967. After his ordination he was in London for a short time before arriving in Cape Town (South Africa) where he had been sent for further studies. In the mind of the superiors he would then be sent to Kenya or Tanzania. Just that, in 1971 the Consolata Missionaries started a pastoral presence in the country in what was then the "Prefecture of Volskrust" (became "Diocese of Dundee in 1983).

Between that time and 2011 he spent most of his time in the Diocese of Dundee: Piet Retief, - Pongola, Damesfontein, Embalenhle, Madadeni... He also served for a short time in Mamelodi (Archdiocese of Pretoria) and Daveyton (Archdiocese of Johannesburg). 

Back in Italy he was appointed to Plati in Calabria and ... in 2014 he was appointed to our Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland). As he sometimes jokingly says: "I divide my week between being a nanny to the bishop and serving the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows"

As we have known each other since 1994 when I arrived in South Africa, I was very much aware that "he would not allow me" to organize a celebration for his golden jubilee. That is why I did it without telling him. With the support (complicity?) of priests and religious sisters, we came together at Our Lady of Sorrows the day before the anniversary. 

He was busy confessing people for Christmas and therefore never saw us arriving. By the time he finished we were all there. He could not say no. It would be a simple and familiar celebration: Mass, few speeches by Fr Rocco Marra IMC in the name of the Consolata Missionaries, Fr Peter Ndwandwe in the name of the diocese and Sr Teresita Schiavon OSM in the name of the Mantellate Sisters at Our Lady of Sorrows. All followed by lunch. 

Below is part of the homily

"We are here to celebrate Fr Giorgio's call to the priesthood and these first 50 years of service... in Italy, the Republic of Cape Town (!), South Africa and Swaziland. 

We could not avoid celebrating this because the first thing we celebrate is God's call in him. We celebrate God. We praise God. The initiative was God's. It started in the diocesan seminary but then moved to the Consolata Missionaries and from there he spent most of his life away from “home” or finding himself at home in different parts of the world.

We also want to celebrate God's work through him. Each one of us  priests reveal something of God to the people we serve. In Giorgio's case we see:

  • the God that is the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep. Giorgio tries to know the people, to understand their situation, to help them find a way to move forward. He cares for each person and family. Few priests probably have visited each family three times in a short space of time as he has done;
  • the God that never gives up. On Sunday evenings when he is back in Manzini he shares with me about his weekend at the parish. A number of times he feels frustrated because some of the initiatives he takes do not produce fruit. He does not give up. He tries to find a different way to achieve his goal and a number of times he succeeds. Not always but he never gives up;
  • the God that comes to us with the truth. Giorgio has never been very diplomatic. He tells things the way he sees them. One might not like it but quite a number of times one has to agree that there is truth or some truth in what he says. Generally speaking people are aware he says it not to hurt anyone but to help others grow;
  • the God that reveals himself in his Word. Giorgio always cares about helping people come closer to the Word of God. He prepares. He reads. He tries to understand. He looks for examples. Sometimes he himself struggles with the Word and he has to negotiate his personal journey with the journey of the people. It is beautiful that 50 years of priesthood never made him a “professional” of the Word. He still feels challenged by the Word and helps the people to be challenged too.

Click below for photos of the event (Flickr)

OLOS: Fr Giorgio Massa 50*

December 26 is the feast of St Stephen. In some countries, like Swaziland, it happened to be a public holiday (though not because of the Saint). That gives a chance to the community of St Stephen to come together every year to celebrate their patronal feast. It is a day for the community and even non-Catholics join them for the celebration.

St Stephen's is an outstation of Our Lady of Assumption (Cathedral) and is just a few minutes' away from Manzini.

The feast included the celebration of baptisms and first communion of some of their children. Quite a number of children faithfully attend the celebration of Mass on Sundays. The catechists then prepare them for the celebration of the sacraments of initiation on this day.

Mass is then followed by a meal together. Everyone is invited. During the "Advent Season" a list of what is needed is presented and all the members of the community commit themselves to provide it. 

Once everyone had eaten, it was the turn for the choir to close the gathering with a few hymns they had prepared. 

Watch St Stephen's choir

At our Cathedral, together with the usual crib, this year we added a baby Jesus which was given to me by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 2008 when I was appointed bishop of Ingwavuma. They were aware I had taken the motto: The Word became flesh (John 1:14). 

We, in fact, placed this baby next to the place from where the Word is proclaimed at our celebrations.

Since September I am both bishop of this diocese and acting parish priest of the Cathedral so I divide my time as best as I can between both services.

The weekend was a good example of what this means.

Saturday morning I presided the funeral Mass of Mr Louis de Souza as part of my service at the Cathedral. Not sure I have ever met him. Still, hearing about his life was very touching. He died at 47. He was born with "a hole in his heart" as it is popularly said and was given a span life of 40 years. It seems this never stopped him from giving the best of himself all through his life. He studies at the Salesian school, got a job, got married and had three children. 

I was able to also lead the service at the cemetery but I was then late for a diocesan appointment... 

The Swaziland Council of Catholic Men (SCCM) had organized Mass and lunch with the priests (or those who would make it). Fr Mahazule (Vicar General) always ready to cover for the bishop, presided Mass in my place and I joined them as soon as I could.

From the Salesian Chapel (where Mass was celebrated) they moved to the bishop's house for some talks and lunch together. 

As I was asked to address them I entrusted them with a new service for 2018: "Who cares for our boys in the Church?". Our women and girls seem to be very well organized but not our boys. The concern is not just because of their presence in our church but because we live in a context where "gender based violence" is a daily talk. Unless we help our boys grow with a different mentality we will not be able to make an impact in our society. 

Sunday I presided the celebration of Confirmations at Regina Mundi (Piggs Peak). 

Whenever one of my priests asks me this service I might reply: "If you want me in your parish, you have to help me in mine". This was the case. Fr Khuluse (parish priest) then helped with some of the Masses in the Cathedral area. 

It is a great experience in many ways. The Cathedral welcomes a number of our priests during the year and our parishes must make sure they are ready to prepare everything for the bishop not relying on the parish priest on that Sunday.

Regina Mundi was up to the challenge and we had a very familiar and joyful celebration. 

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