Last week I phoned Fr Theodomir, priest-in-charge of Holy Rosary Parish (Mankayane), and told him I wanted to visit one of his outstations on Sunday. He said it would not be a problem. He indicated "Lushikishini" and told me he could find someone to go with me. As usual, I asked him to keep it as a secret. I must say he was really good because he did not tell even those going with me.
Arriving at the meeting point I asked him why he asked me to be there more than an hour before the Mass would start. "You have to take a dirt road for about 15 to 20 km" he said. He was right. Absolutely. It took me 40 minutes to do those 18 km from the tarred road to the church. Thank God I have a bakkie. I wouldn't have made it without it.
But, arriving there just a few minutes before Mass, I found no one in church. The weather was no good and started raining. No one in church... rain... would they come? how good is this road when it rains? I have not tried yet the bakkie on slippery roads and have no hurry to do it either!
Then... the first ones started to arrive with their umbrellas and soon after that all the others. One by one greeted me and asked me (as usual!): "Bishop, why didn't you tell us you were coming?" and (as usual!) I reminded them I said at the beginning of the year I would try to arrive to every single chapel we have in the diocese but "when I would do it" would be "a secret" between myself and the priest-in-charge of the place.
In a few minutes the small church was nearly full. The got the church ready, sang their prayers and we started the Mass.
On the way back I thanked Fr Theodomir for "helping me with the secret". It was good for him too as he remained "unannounced" in his parish and could see his parish community on a Sunday when they are not expecting the priest to be there.