As part of the centenary celebrations of St Joseph's Parish (Diocese of Manzini), Fr Angelo Ciccone OSM asked me to have a double celebration: the dedication of the Church at Maceleni (St Matthew's) and confirmations.
The weather had suddenly changed and it had become cloudy and cold but the church was packed to capacity and we did not feel it. It was probably those who could not make it inside and followed the celebration under a tent outside who felt cold.
The church had been beautifully prepared. I arrived early enough to make sure that everything was ready (these celebrations are not done often!). I believe I surprised some who expected me to see the church "after" the opening. "It was supposed to be a surprise" they said.
Fr Angelo Ciccone OSM shared, before Mass, the history of the building of the church. There was a particular element. Some years' ago, the son of one of his friends in Italy died in an accident. He was driving his car when someone threw a stone to the windscreen of the vehicle and lost control of it. His father gave him a donation asking to do something to remember his son. This church was being planned and his donation made it possible. A picture of his son was placed at the back of the church.
After Mass there was time for speeches and gifts for the bishop and priests (I got the red chair you see above among other things). What touched me more was the gift of three bags of maize. "Bishop, we know that people go to you asking for help. This maize is for you to help the people at the refugee centre". I believe it is the first time it happens to me since I became bishop in 2009. I must also confess I never thought of doing that when I was a priest and the bishop celebrated confirmations or visited the parish. Something we should think about.