|Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS (SACBC Secretary General) and Fr Simon Donnelly|
The preparation of the "Ad Limina visit" started in August last year when the Bishops' Conference entrusted it to Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS and myself. We had just been informed that our "Ad Limina Visit" would take place immediately after Easter. None of us had any experience on how to prepare it...
|Fr Piero Trabucco IMC and Archbishop Stephen Brislin (SACBC president)|
Soon we realised that more help was needed as the appointments with the different offices in the Holy See would have to be done by phone. Fr Piero Trabucco IMC, former superior general of the Consolata Missionaries working in Rome came to our rescue. He patiently made all the contacts and kept on reporting back to us. It was a long process as not everyone replied immediately.
Fr Piero was also instrumental in securing a place for all of us to stay during the visit. This is not little considering that as soon as Pope Francis announced the canonisation of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II it became impossible to find a single room... much less the thirty places we needed!
(We were able to thank Fr Piero (in the photo above) during our plenary meeting just before he left Rome for some meetings in Asia.)
In the meantime each bishop had been asked to prepare a report about his diocese (or dioceses as two of us are at the service of two areas) which had to be ready by the middle of October 2013. We all did it! The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Mario Cassari forwarded all the documents to Rome.
We had been informed that Pope Francis had allocated three days to us and would receive us in groups of ten bishops for two hours. We organised the groups according to Metropolitan areas (1. Cape Town and Bloemfontein, 2. Durban, 3 Johannesburg and Pretoria) and sent that information too.
|Opening Mass at St Peter's|
Transport would be needed in order to make sure we would be everywhere on time. "The Work of the Church" offered us that service. While in Rome in February I met them to work on the details: which days, which places, number of bishops... They also helped us welcoming the bishops at the airport and bringing them to the lodge.
God's Providence made us book for 30 people when we were, in fact 29. At the beginning of February the diocese of Port Elizabeth got the good news of the appointment of their new bishop: Vincent Mduduzi Zungu OFM. Therefore... we were no longer 29 but 30!
In March we sent letters to all the offices we would be visiting confirming day, time and the names of the bishops going.
When the time of the "Ad Limina visit" arrived, another member was added to the team: Fr Simon Donnelly from the archdiocese of Johannesburg, working at the Vatican. He was of great help to us dealing with practical things daily like... which way do we go to meet Pope Francis!
I believe everything was pretty well prepared but, as usual, one needs to deal with the last minute problems. Arriving in Rome we got the news that the days and time meeting Pope Francis had changed. It would clash with other meetings but there was not much we could do at that point. We had to adapt.
The "ad limina visit" is now over. It all went pretty well. It was a very intense time and all the bishops were absolutely available to follow the program and adapt when needed. The weather was marvellous. We enjoyed sunny days. The spirit... joyful as usual! The team, of course, is grateful that it is now over!