The Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland) celebrates every year the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady with a diocesan pilgrimage to Florence Mission.
Being the first year without their bishop (Bishop Ndlovu OSM died last year) I organise myself to be able to attend it. It was also a good opportunity to see how they do it. In fact, even two priests and a group of Catholic Teachers from the Vicariate of Ingwavuma "crossed the border" into Swaziland to be part of the pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage is held at night. We started at about 8 pm with the blessing of the water (a huge tank of thousands of litres of water) and a penitential service led by Fr Makama. All the priests and myself were available in different rooms to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. We did so for more than two hours while the people continued praying in the tent and listening to Fr Mkhize from the archdiocese of Durban who had been invited to preach in different moments of the night.
After midnight the rosary was prayed. The first two mysteries under the tent and the rest walking outside. It was very impressive to see this crowd of people in procession which extended for more than two hundred meters.
By 1 am we started the celebration of the Mass which I presided. It was probably my first time to preside a celebration with the whole diocese. At the beginning I remembered Bp Ndlovu OSM "who last August was with us bishops at the plenary session in Mariannhill, with you here in Florence for the pilgrimage and who the Lord called at the end of that month". Having been bishop of that diocese for nearly 27 years, he was the only Bishop many ever knew. We also prayed that the Lord will give this diocese a new bishop "to be with you all the time and not only for one week every month".
Mass was followed by different moments of prayer: adoration of the Cross (by Fr Mazibuko), Eucharistic adoration and blessing (by Fr Mafola), remembrance of those who died in the last year (by Fr Khuluse), prayer and anointing of the sick (by Fr Bhila). This one was the closing moment of the pilgrimage. The priests (and the bishop!) organised themselves in pairs so that one would lay hands on the people and the other one anoint them. Considering how long it took us I believe everyone came forward. By the time we finished... everyone was on their way home.
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