Saturday morning was the "graduation and commission ceremony" at the end of the "6th Basic foundation course for Faith Community Nurses" at the Diocesan Catholic Centre in Manzini.
As Dr Thandiwe Dlamini shared with us: "It all started in July 2000 when Bishop Louis Ncamiso Ndlovu OSM came to Mater Dolorosa (Mbabane) and spoke about the need to become more involved as a Church in the fight against HIV/Aids. I had just retired from working at the Red Cross and was looking forward to a peaceful retirement...! He mentioned about registering and a training to be done in the USA but I honestly did not listen to what he said. It was not about me. I had retired."
Sixteen years' later she is still part of the team leading what is usually called "Parish nursing" but, as Fr M. Makama shared during the ceremony, it would be better to call it: "Faith communities nursing program".
The program was born in the USA and Swaziland was the first country in the African continent to implement it. From here it expanded to other countries. It works towards reclaiming the spiritual dimension of their service, holistic care, restoring the healing mission of the church and the integration of faith and health which is sometimes neglected in their training (as they themselves shared).
The ceremony started by remembering by name those nurses who had been part of the program and have passed away. It later acknowledged also the work done by some of them for so many years.
The training is always open to all the churches and this one included nurses from seven different denominations. Some of their pastors attended the ceremony. Rev. Constance Mamba from the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Mbabane) addressed them in the name of the different churches present.
I had been asked to preside the celebration of "Dedication of Parish nurses" which took place after presenting them with their certificates.
I chose the parable of the Good Samaritan as a picture of a nurse who, out of "compassion", does much more than the basics but also reminded them that this Good Samaritan is Jesus himself who comes to us to heal our broken humanity. In his image they too are called to be Jesus among us.
It was then their turn to share with all of us a biblical verse that is for them an expression of this call. It was a lovely moment as we heard familiar or not so familiar passages of the Old and the New Testament, sometimes written down, sometimes known by heart. Passages that spoke of compassion, love for one another, taking strength in God...
They were anointed in their hands as a sign of their total consecration to this service: "May you know the power of Christ's healing love!". They then replied together saying:
"With this dedication and anointing we pray that our hands and hearts
might be strengthened for the work that lies ahead.
We pray that we might be compassionate to human need,
tender and strong in our care for one another,
genuine in our friendship, faithful to the commitment to this special ministry
and faithful to You, O Lord, our Healer, Counsellor, Saviour and Friend.