Swazi Council of Catholic Women

One of the many "unique" gifts I found in the diocese of Manzini (Swaziland) is what we call the "SCCW" or Swazi Council of Catholic Women. It is the umbrella body that gathers all the Catholic women in the diocese. All of them or at least all those who want to be part of it. It gathers those who belong to a sodality (like the Sacred Heart or the St Anne's) and those who do not. It gathers young women and... not so young ones! 

They are affiliated to WUCWO the "World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations". Their mission is to promote the presence, participation and co-responsibility of Catholic women in society and the Church, in order to enable them to fulfil their mission of evangelisation and to work for human development. (http://www.wucwo.org)

Every year they meet for a few days for their "annual conference". This year it was done from Thursday afternoon, a public holiday in Swaziland because of the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. It finished on Sunday after lunch. The place: the Catholic Centre of our Diocese.

They asked me to be with them whenever I would find some time during those days. I joined them on Saturday evening. We first celebrated Mass together and then they shared with me what they had been doing. The program was intense and impressive:

  • Economics
  • Skills share, hand work
  • Participation of the laity in the Church
  • Dental health
  • Eye health
  • Bone and joints health
  • Gender Based Violence
  • Child protection
  • Justice and Peace
  • Dialogue among Catholic women

The talks were given by some of the priests of the diocese, members of the Council of Swaziland Churches, doctors, members of the police...

After listening to them I said: "you are a clear picture of who we are as Catholic Church. We care about the whole person. As we usually say... body and soul! In fact, it was probably Bishop Zwane who decided to name this centre after Jesus words on the Gospel of John: 'that they may have life' (John 10:10). Your journey these days reflects this life at personal, family, society and Church level"

I was told a new element was added this year. It was decided to add a couple of sessions at the gym across the road. It seems they enjoyed it so much that they decided it should be part of the next annual conference not just for two days but every day!

Manual work presented during the annual conference
Sunday evening, on WhatsApp someone reported to the rest about their gathering: 
It went very well, Spiritually & mentally strengthening. The advice on the home financial management was very useful. A knowledgeable Catholic young man from the Council of Churches shocked bomama & gogos with the children's rights covered by the current Children's Protection & Welfare Act of 2012
It was probably part of the reporting I suggested they should do once back in their parishes. "Do not give a long homily... that is already done by the priests!!! Just share a bit with others so that they are encouraged to join you". For some reason I forgot to mention the use of social media. They did not!

They then invited me to join them for supper but suddenly remembered they had forgotten to let me know something else. 

"We have been asked both by Pope Francis and by WUCWO to care for the refugees. We do have refugees in our country and we also have a refugee centre. We would like to celebrate Mass with them on "refugee day" (June 20) and share with them what we will be collecting in the coming weeks. We would be happy if the bishop presides the celebration of the Mass" 

I promised to try my best to be there with them.

Manual work presented during the annual conference