'Dear bishop...'

Years' ago, when I was a priest in Madadeni (Diocese of Dundee, South Africa) we started asking those to be confirmed to clearly commit themselves to serve the community and the Church on the day of the celebration. 

As a bishop, I introduced that both in the Vicariate of Ingwavuma (South Africa) and in the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland). 

The interesting thing is that I only explained the idea to the priests and the catechists but never really said "how it was supposed to be done"

In some places they stand up one by one and tell the community what their commitment is. In other places they have prepared a text which they read and sign.

On Sunday I celebrated confirmations at "Our Lady of Sorrows" (Hluthi, Swaziland) where Fr George Massa IMC has been the parish priest since February last year. He divides his week staying with me in Manzini and serving that community which is 140 km away on the border with South Africa.

Having been called they stood up with their sponsors. Then, one by one, let me and the community know in a couple of words what their commitment would be. 

The difference with other communities was that before sitting down, each one of them handed on a letter they had prepared: "Dear bishop..."

I brought them home. It was lovely to take some time to read them.

Confirmations are always joyful celebrations. One, in fact, started saying: "I feel so delighted and thrilled to be confirmed in the Catholic Church..." 

Another one started by thanking God for all those who helped them during their journey and then added: "The journey never ends. Therefore, with fortitude I will overcome courageously all the assaults of the devil and all the dangers of the world which threaten my should. In a similar way, I will try to help other Christians..."

They committed themselves to serve in many different ways: being altar servers, members of the choir, joining the "children of Mary", teaching catechism, serving the poor and the orphans, visiting the sick and the elderly, encouraging the youth when they are not active members of the Church, helping the Church grow...

The Jubilee of Mercy has really touched their lives. "I also promise to bear patiently those who bear me ill. I will also comfort the afflicted". 

There is in them a sense of belonging for life and a commitment which goes beyond what they would do on a Sunday or a weekend:
  • I promise to pray for the Church whether in good or bad times...
  • I promise to stay committed to the Church until I die...
  • I promise to try to abstain until I get married...
  • I promise to forgive offences

Last but not least, someone added: "I promise to keep my promises"