Young Italian missionary pioneers in Swaziland

It all started at the beginning of this year. The Superior General of the Sisters of St Peter Claver wrote asking if I knew a place where a group of young people could go for a missionary experience for one month. I thought... "why not Swaziland?". After consulting in the diocese I suggested they come here.

I had to attend meetings in Italy twice this year and it was a good opportunity to meet some of them each time to start preparing everything.

The first time we sat down with two of the Sisters and talked about the idea. The fact is that... this would be the very first time a group of young people would come to the diocese not just to visit and to know about our joys and struggles but would also be available to give a hand, be with the people, play and pray with them!

The second time I was in Italy (for the meeting with Pope Francis) I decided to go and visit them in Nichelino. It would help me listen to their ideas, questions, fears, expectations... I was welcomed by them with a dance they had learnt when they were in Kenya for another missionary service. 

I believe their main concern was to make sure they would be "with the people".

It was then on us to prepare everything. Three parishes were chosen: Good Shepherd, St Peregine's and St Mary's. They would stay one week in each parish. Only now I realize there was an Italian speaking priest in each one of those parishes!

The first day they would stay in Manzini and we would introduce them on four important topics: Church (and churches), culture, political situation, HIV/Aids.

All the priests involved and myself then met two or three times to make sure everything would be ready.

They arrived on August 1 and left yesterday for Italy. I could not stay much with them. I only welcomed them in Manzini but already the following morning was on my way to Maputo. Still I could follow their daily experience in the "Diario dal Swaziland" ("Journal from Swaziland") which they daily wrote in Italian (and be read HERE).

Still, thinking of their time here I would say...
  • they had their eyes open to see, their ears and heart to listen, to be touched by the particular reality of the place and of each person;
  • they asked in order to understand better;
  • they were able to adapt! In fact, one organizes many things but it is not always possible "to do as planned". It was not a problem for them. They understood, adapted and saw that as an opportunity to learn something new;
  • they did not want to be seen as "Father Christmas" (or "Mother Christmas" for most of them). They brought gifts for the people but left them with me to be distributed. Their time with the people was just to be with them;
  • they had that kind of simplicity that made them welcomed in every place;
  • they were moved by their faith!
They were the first to come and we hope others will follow. We also hope... they will be back again!

Wednesday, they spent the day in St Lucia as I was in the Vicariate of Ingwavuma for a few days

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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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