It all started last year. The Jesuit Institute in Southern Africa had invited a well known Bible scholar, Fr Nicholas King SJ, for the 2015 "Living Winter Theology". Though I had never met Fr King, I had heard about him many times as he spent a number of years in South Africa teaching both in St John Vianney (Pretoria) and St Joseph's Institute (Cedara).
Every year, the diocese of Manzini organises a fundraising event to support the diocese with the school fees of our seminarians. A couple of years' ago archbishop Buti Thlagale OMI (archbishop of Johannesburg) was invited to talk about "The Catholic Church in the 21st century". It was a huge success.
So, when I heard about Fr King going back to South Africa I asked Fr Russell Pollit SJ (the new director) if Swaziland could be included in their plan of conferences.
In fact, though the "Living Winter Theology" has been around for many years, it had never come to Swaziland. For some reason, though we are a conference of three countries, it was always limited to South Africa.
Fr Russell (with whom we've known each other for some time) asked me: "are you serious?". I wondered why he asked me... I am always serious!
|Fr Russell Pollit SJ (left) and Fr Nicholas King SJ (right)|
The "fundraising committee" agreed it was a great opportunity that should not be missed and immediately started the preparations. Everyone was informed: our communities through the priests and the nation through the media. It would be a one day event at the George Hotel in Manzini on Saturday 20 June.
The week before the event I asked how many tickets had been sold. I was told "120". The number was good but we were hoping for more. By the end of the week the number had increased to 178 "and others will certainly buy them on the day of the conference".
It went beyond our expectations. Arriving to the Hotel on Saturday, there was a long queue of people buying tickets. The number reached 300.
Most of our priests were present together with many religious sisters. Our priests not only encourage the people to attend but they make sure they join their people too.
The "Catholic Nurses Guild" was supposed to have a gathering of nurses from Southern Africa on this same weekend but once they heard the diocese was planning this, they moved it to the following weekend to make sure they will support it fully.
|One of the two tables reserved for the priests of the diocese|
It is impossible not to be deeply touched by the enthusiasm of the people and their joy in coming together.
We are grateful to the media for covering the event both on the SwaziTV and the two newspapers: Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer.
What about next year? Well... maybe. In fact, we already know about a couple of people who would be in South Africa and would like to welcome in our Diocese.