"I was your neighbour many years' ago" I told them at the beginning of the Mass. I cannot really say this is my first visit to them. Maybe I should say this was the first time I went after being appointed bishop of the Diocese of Manzini.
The first time I went to Lavumisa was nearly 20 years' ago. My first appointment in South Africa was to the mission of Piet Retief - Pongola on the border with Swaziland.
One day, I was driving in Pongola when I saw a Sister and I wondered... "where does she come from? The nearest convent in South Africa is more than 100 km away". I never thought of Swaziland. The Mantellate Sisters have a community in Hluthi and they used to go shopping to Pongola.
One day, when we finally met, they came to see me with the priest in charge of Hluthi, an Irish Salesian called Fr Declan. He asked me if I could help him with confessions before the Holy Week as he did not speak SiSwati or Zulu. Being close languages I could give him a hand.
The very first place was... Lavumisa! I remember him saying: "those who want to celebrate the sacrament in English come to me... and those who want to do it in SiSwati go to him".
I could never imagine I would be back in Lavumisa as their bishop...!