A letter to God's people in the Vicariate of Ingwavuma (South Africa)

Vicariate Apostolic of Ingwavuma
PO Box 23 – Mtubatuba 3935
South Africa

06 December 2013

The priests, religious
and all God's people
in the Vicariate of Ingwavuma

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
IZwi laba yinyama”
Soon after I arrived in the Vicariate, these words became our usual greeting. It started even before I was ordained bishop, on the day of the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral (Hlabisa) in April 2009 when Fr Mkhwanazi greeted the community with them.
As you all know by now, a week ago, Pope Francis appointed me Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland) where I have been Apostolic Administrator after the death of Bp Louis Ncamiso Ndlovu OSM (27 August 2012).
It was nearly five years’ ago when I arrived in the Vicariate having been appointed Bishop and Vicar Apostolic of Ingwavuma (November 2008).
These five years have been an intense time for us all. I am always touched by the faith you showed welcoming me, a complete stranger, as your Bishop and by accepting with open hearts someone who was arriving without any experience as Bishop or the area.
I still remember the day when at the end of a Mass at Our Lady of Ingwavuma someone wished that, like Bp O'Shea arrived a young priest and grew old in the Vicariate, me too could grow old among you.
In these five years I never managed to establish a permanent residence. Just a few weeks' ago our priests commented that: “We do not know where the Bishop lives...”. Visiting the communities as much as possible was my priority. Looking back I now realize there is a “bishop's room” in every parish! I want to thank all the priests for the way they welcomed me and for our morning or evening sharing on the joys and struggles of our pastoral service. Every place seems to have been home for me.
When I was being told I might be appointed to Manzini I always replied saying Bishops are married to a diocese (or Vicariate) and there is no divorce in the Catholic Church… Then the Lord calls and one is asked to be available …
You too are asked to be available, to show your faith once again and to give with joy to the Church in Manzini, remembering Jesus words that “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.” (Acts 20:35)
The Vicariate of Ingwavuma and the Diocese of Manzini have a long history of supporting each other. Hope this will continue even more in the coming future.
Pope Francis has appointed me apostolic administrator of the Vicariate. I will therefore remain among you until a new bishop is appointed.
I will be installed as bishop of the Diocese of Manzini on 26 January 2014 during the Bishops' plenary session and the centenary celebrations of the arrival of the first Catholic missionaries in Swaziland.
May God bless you all and let us start praying together for the one that will be appointed Shepherd of this Vicariate.
Yours in Christ and Our Lady “Consolata”,

+ José Luis

Bishop José Luis Ponce de León IMC


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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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