Our diocesan pilgrimage to Florence

Many dioceses in Southern African celebrate their annual diocesan pilgrimage. The Diocese of Manzini is no exception. Being "Our Lady of Assumption" the patroness of the Diocese, we choose to meet close to the day of her feast. 

We gather at Florence Mission, at the church of the Annunciation. Our pilgrimage starts around 7 in the evening and finishes early in the morning. 

This year, I must confess, we started later than usual because someone got lost... the bishop! A wrong turn at night took me in the wrong direction and everyone had to wait for me to start as the very first prayer is the blessing of (thousands of litres) of water in a big tank. Deacons, priests and the bishop, together with altar servers go in procession to the tank and bless the water. 

I am told that it is not unusual that the evening of the pilgrimage would be cold and rainy. This year, at least, it was so. Still, when I arrived (and remember I arrived late) I was surprised at the number of people who were there. It seems to be growing year by year. Catholics and non-Catholics gather for the prayer.

The blessing and sprinkling with Holy Water is followed by the penitential service. Some of us helped people celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation for more than two hours. We then had to finish because it was time to start the celebration of the Mass. In fact, according to the program, we were already half an hour late. 

Fr Sabelo Mkhize from the archdiocese of Durban, who had been with us last year, was the preacher of the evening and before and after Mass he touched the hearts of the people with his words.

When the time of praying the Rosary arrives (the first photograph was taken during that moment), the image of Our Lady is loaded in a bakkie and we all leave the tent and walk around the mission. It is a very beautiful moment praying and walking in the dark while having the light of our candles (and our faith) in our hands. 

Other short but not less powerful moments were the prayer in front of the crucified (candles are lit all around the crucifix) thanking Jesus for his love for us, the remembrance of those who died (we remembered Fr Moses Lupupa among others, who died earlier this year) and finally, the prayer for the sick and the anointing with the "blessed oil" (usually called "oil of gladness").

All these moments of prayer are led by the priests of the diocese showing a great "team spirit", working together, supporting each other.

By 6 am, people were on their way home. Tired but with a great joy in their hearts and grateful to all those who worked so hard to make it possible.

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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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