The diocese of Manzini is blessed with the presence of eight religious communities: four male and four female. Some time ago I suggested to their delegates in the diocese to come together once a year and thank God for their call.
Last January, delegates from the female communities asked me to invite all religious and the diocesan priests for a day of reflection and prayer. The day: 2 February. The place: the bishop’s house.
In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day; the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life is transferred to the following Sunday in order to highlight the gift of consecrated persons for the whole Church.” (USCCB)
Being the first meeting, it was decided to give each community a few minutes to introduce themselves. It could happen that serving in different parishes they do not really know each other’s history and charism. At the same time, while most of these communities have been serving for many years, two of them only arrived in 2016: the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales (MSFS) and the Consolata Missionaries (IMC)
Some of our communities have a common spirituality as they all belong to the Servite family: the Order of Servants of Mary, the Mantellate Sisters, the Servite Sisters of Swaziland. They have all been in our diocese for many decades and the Servants of Mary are our “founding fathers”.
After the talks and before the celebration of Mass at the Salesian chapel, flowers were given to the women and men who had celebrated a special jubilee in the last year. It was, somehow, the young generation of sisters celebrating the older one.
The Gospel presented the image of Simeon and Anna. I pointed out that we normally see Simeon as an old man probably because of the words that have become our prayer: “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.’
I then wondered if we are getting older and wiser, older and with a deeper hope or not.
“We live in a society were it is not easy to be hopeful. Archbishop Brislin was telling me about a visit to Palestine. The young people have no hope of a possible resolution to the conflict with Israel.
What about our young people? The day before yesterday I heard stories of lack of employment, little income selling vegies and firewood, parents separated, fathers and sometimes both parents abandoning their children, orphans… Things we will probably never experience ourselves. Our life has been secured (and sometimes we still feel it is not enough).
Hope do we help young and not so young remain hopeful and strong in the Lord?
Because religious life points to Jesus. We are the Simeon and Anna who tells the world: Jesus light and hope of the world is here.”
After Mass we were all back at the bishop’s house for a fraternal lunch. We hope and pray, our gathering is the first of many and the beginning of a new tradition in our diocese