Slowly, people start to accept that I appear anytime… anywhere… unannounced! It is something I learnt from another bishop many years’ ago. He had just been appointed bishop of the Diocese of San Martin (outskirts of Buenos Aires) where I was living. One day he told the people: “let me know when you will be having a meeting. I cannot promise to be there but if I can, I will visit you”. We did. We were having a meeting of young people on the missionary dimension of the Church and he just appeared for a short while, listened to what the young people were saying and then continued somewhere else. By the way, his name was Luis Villalba and he has just been named Cardinal by Pope Francis.
Last Saturday (January 17) there was a training session for the catechists of the Hhohho region (St Peregrine’s, Regina Mundi, Mater Dolorosa and St Mary’s parishes). It was the first of this year and also the first organised by Fr Ncamiso Vilakati since he was appointed catechetical coordinator.
I was busy in the morning but I made time to join them soon after lunch at Piggs Peak (90 kms away from Manzini).
On the way I was wondering how many catechists would have been there considering it is somehow “early” in the year and the training had just been announced. Picture my joy when I found 60 of them in a quite packed hall. As I wrote that day on the social media, the attendance and the spirit was excellent.
After a session on the catechist himself / herself (have a look at the picture above) the rest of the day was dedicated to the material to be used, ages for the celebration of the sacraments and practical problems (we now call them “challenges”!) being experienced in the different parishes and outstations.
I quietly sat down at the back of the hall listening to what they were saying. Any diocesan catechetical policy needs to deal with these practical situations and with the fact that it is not the same to do this journey in a rural area or in town, in a small or in a big community.
People at the back smiled at the unexpected visit of the bishop. Just before the end of the day I spoke briefly (yes, bishops can speak briefly!) sharing with them what the first bishop I worked with in South Africa (Michael Pascal Rowland OFM) used to tell his catechists: “you are the hands of the bishop”. I also thanked them for their presence, service and dedication.
There are four regions in Swaziland. The next three will be having their training sessions in the next month.