The harvest is rich but the labourers are few

(This was written by our Consolata confrere, Samuel Francis IMC,
who was in the Vicariate this year and reflects on the recent priestly ordinations)
In his homily during the conclusion of the year for priests at St Peter’s Square, pope Benedict XVI stated that the priest is not a mere office-holder like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions. The priest, the pope said, does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way changes our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation-words which make Christ himself present, words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite the world to God. The priesthood, then, is not simply ‘office’ but sacrament.
Expressing his feelings after the ordinations of Frs Dominic Mhlongo and Sfiso Mchunu OSM, Bishop José Luis wrote on his blog that the ordination of a new priest is a very special moment in the life of a Bishop; particularly when this (or these priests in this case) belong to your Diocese (or Vicariate in our case).’ 

The gospel says in Mt 9:37 that ‘the harvest is rich but the labourers are few’ and so any addition of whatever number to the existing number of labourers calls for joy and celebration. I have been to the vicariate of Ingwavuma and know quite well what great a need there is of more personnel. The fact that Ingwavuma is a vicariate does not mean that it has less needs than those of a diocese, the missions in the vicariate are vast and the more priests there are the better. This is why the ordination of Frs Dominic Mhlongo and Sfiso Mchunu OSM is a joy to be celebrated.

Their ordination is not only important but also symbolic. From the fact that one is diocesan and the other religious and that they were both ordained together stresses the need for collaboration between the religious missionaries and the diocesan clergy. In addition, their ordination, gives a sign of hope to the vicariate since any community that has no young generation is a dying community.

St John Mary Vianney once noted that without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail; that it is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth. The priest, he stated, holds the key to the treasures of heaven; that it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods. The priest therefore, is not a priest for himself; he is a priest for others.
Between the months of January and February when I stayed in Ingwavuma, I had the opportunity of sharing some wonderful moments and experiences with the two newly ordained priests (by then they were still deacons). I may not have made it for their priestly ordination but I greatly rejoice with them as I pray that they may use their youthful energy for the service of God’s people and that they may find joy and fulfilment in their new ministry. CONGRATULATIONS to you Fr Mhlongo and Fr Sfiso!

Samuel – Francis IMC 

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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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