At the beginning of the year I offered the priests of the Vicariate of Ingwavuma to celebrate confirmations on the Sunday I am in the Vicariate. Once a month I spend a week in the Vicariate and it always includes a Sunday.
Fr Sfiso Mchunu OSM was the first one to ask and we agreed to do it last Sunday at "Star of the Sea" gathering those being prepared in the different outstations.
As usual, I arrived the day before so that we could practice the celebration with the group.
He welcomed me and said: "Bishop, we have a problem. There are at least 100 people to be confirmed...". Honestly, I was not expecting it. Neither was he as only last month he became priest-in-charge of that parish.
"They are all here so that we are sure tomorrow we start on time. The parish is putting up a tent as our church is not big enough".
It was becoming late. The tent was already up but there was no electricity. We then placed three vehicles with the lights on so that we could somehow see each other and practice - in the place - the different moments of the celebration.
As we always ask a clear commitment at the time of confirmation, I asked them to meet their priest in the coming two weeks and tell him what service they plan to do in their communities.
Things seems to be pretty clear so I went back to the house. Fr Sfiso instead remained with them. "I would like to have a session with them and see how prepared they are to be confirmed".
Early in the morning he looked fresh as if the session was short. It was not. He stayed with them until midnight and then made himself available to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. One by one went to him for confession. He finished at 3.00 in the morning! He probably looked fresh not because he had slept enough but because he felt encouraged by the way they responded.
The celebration went well. As expected, it lasted just under 4 hours. Since I became bishop I always lay hands - together with the priest - over each one of those being confirmed. I make no exceptions. That must have taken us a long time.
During the homily and taking from the Gospel the image of being "fishers of people" I asked them how they planned to do that in their lives. Two asked to talk. The first one said she hopes that by the way she lives, people would ask themselves what leads her and she will then be able to witness to her faith. The second one underlined the importance of the "works of mercy". They were both very confident in the way they said it and prompted everyone to clap their hands.
Maybe as it is sometimes said, we did not have a problem, but an opportunity with the gift of those more than one hundred people who want to witness with their lives the presence of the Risen Lord among us.