Up to last Sunday the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland) had 15 parishes. It had been so for a number of years. That changed on Sunday 22 January 2017 when an outstation of our Cathedral became the 16th parish of the Diocese.
It all started last year when the diocesan priests presented the proposal of creating three new parishes in our diocese dividing some of present ones. They also indicated which ones of the outstations should then become a new parish.
Having considered the idea we then presented it to the people of two of the parishes to be divided. There are always mixed feelings. On one side, everyone is now used to the present structure and way of doing things. On the other side, there is also great excitement knowing they will be better served having more priests available and living among them.
We were also blessed by the commitment of two new religious communities coming to serve in our Diocese: the Consolata Missionaries and the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales.
The new "St Peter and Paul" parish (Kwaluseni) was officially erected on January 1 but being the people still on holidays I suggested postponing the celebration to last Sunday.
Three outstations of Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral became part of the new parish which was entrusted to the Consolata Missionaries.
We all gathered outside the Church. The door was locked. I then presented to the people the new parish priest: Fr Francis Onyango IMC. I handed over the keys to him and asked him to open the church for us and lead us into the church.
At the end of Mass, Fr Onyango shared his joy at being the first parish priest: "You will always remember in the future that Fr Francis was our first parish priest" but also the challenge ahead: "We will be learning together... you will be learning to be a parish and I will be learning to be a parish priest".
Fr Peterson Muritthi IMC and Fr Rocco Marra IMC will be the assistant priests. Unfortunately Fr Peterson could not be present as his brother and other relatives died and he had to be back home in Kenya. Fr Rocco will be helping both at the new parish but also in other areas of our diocese.
Before the final blessing I reminded the people that they were getting these priests "for free" as someone else had paid for their formation for many years. Whatever will now be needed to develop the parish should not be expected from the missionaries but should be provided by themselves. "The diocese has also provided two vehicles... it is on you to make sure they have fuel and are properly maintained". They all laughed at how clear I was and committed themselves to do so.
|From left: Fr James Githinji IMC (Consolata Missionaries Delegate Superior)|
and Fr Francis Onyango IMC (First parish priest)
There was great joy in everyone during the celebration but particularly during the speech of Fr Francis. During the homily I shared with everyone that I hoped the new priests would visit the families. All the families: those who are actively part of the community, those who for some reason no longer feel part of it and those who are not Catholics but would welcome God's blessing at home.
In his speech Fr Francis asked to "respond" to my words and announced that from the beginning of Lent they will, in fact, start visiting the families. It was a serious commitment and people clapped and celebrated at the good news.
In Sunday's gospel Jesus started preaching, teaching and healing but also calling some to follow Him. I asked the people not to leave the priests alone and rot emember we all are the Church! The future of the new St Peter & Paul parish is in the hands of all of us. God will certainly accompany with his blessing.