Pope Francis’ has called the Church to celebrate an “extraordinary mission month” and revitalize our missionary spirit. The diocese of Manzini has chosen to extend it to the whole year October 2019 – October 2020
Below is my pastoral letter to the diocese.
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“Jesus is at the door and knocks”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Word became flesh! (John 1:14)
In 2013, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI the Cardinals being entrusted with the election of a new Pope came together in Rome to reflect on the life and mission of the Church in today’s world.
It is said that Cardinal Bergoglio (who later became Pope Francis) shared a very short reflection with them. He spoke about the familiar passage in Revelation 3:20 where we read: “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side.”
He surprised everyone by saying that “obviously the text refers to Jesus knocking from the outside in order to enter but I think about the times in which Jesus knocks from within so that we will let him come out”.
According to him, many times we keep Jesus Christ within ourselves and do not let him out.
Pope Francis is calling the Church all over the world to celebrate an “extraordinary mission month” this October 2019. The goal of this month is to “revive her missionary awareness and commitment” (Pope Francis). He has also given us a motto for the month:
The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”
This year will be an opportunity to deepen the missionary spirit that gave birth to our Church in the Kingdom of Eswatini when four members of the Order of the Servants of Mary arrived in Mbabane in 1914.
From that humble but passionate beginning, today we thank God for his abundant blessings seen in:
- our 17 parishes and 113 outstations,
- our commitment to health through Good Shepherd Hospital and College, clinics, Hope House among others;
- our commitment to education through 47 primary and 13 high schools,
- our service towards those with disabilities,
- our commitment to the building of peace and justice in our country.
In the same book of Revelation, we read: “I know your activities, your hard work and your perseverance… I know too that you have perseverance, and have suffered for my name without growing tired. Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make: you have less love now than formerly.” (Rev 2: 2 – 4)
Could it be that we have less love now?
It might be so when:
- a parish struggles to find catechists who would joyfully help others grown in faith;
- when families do not send their children to catechism or when those who have received the sacraments do not behave as members of the church that are alive;
- we do not think of those who no longer join us for our celebrations because they stay at home or look somewhere else for what they cannot find in our Church;
- we do not care to invite those children, young people or adults who just stay home because no one has invited them to join the Christian community as if one just thinks of “his” or “her” salvation and no one else’s;
- we do not witness to the God of mercy by caring for the poor, the sick, migrants and refugees, victims of human trafficking or any other type of abuse or violence.
In 2013 Pope Francis wrote: “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (EG 8)
A missionary conversion
I invite you all to accept Pope Francis’ challenge: “I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are” (EG 25)
Each parish, sodality and committee is called to identify the specific initiatives they would like to do during this special year of God’s grace in order to show the joy of the Gospel we have received, the joy of being a Christian, the joy of being Catholic.
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the Diocesan initiatives for this EMY:
- It will be opened with an all night vigil at Our Lady of the Assumption (Cathedral) on Friday 18 October 2019 from 6 pm. All the parishes are called to come together at our mother church;
- On that night the “Candle of the EMY” will be lit. This candle will then visit every parish for three weeks. Make sure the candle visits all the outstations giving light to our missionary commitment;
- On Sunday 20 October, it will be the turn of every parish to locally open the extraordinary mission year;
- Pope Francis’ prayer for this extraordinary missionary time is available in both Siswati and English. We are all called to pray with it as a community on Sundays and in our families during the week;
- From 21 to 23 November 2019, a “diocesan missionary congress” will be celebrated. It will help us all deepen on the theme of the year and identify challenges and initiatives to be taken in our personal, family, parish and diocesan life. Archbishop Wells (Apostolic Nuncio), Bishop Phalana (Diocese of Klerskdorp), Bishop Jwara CMM (Vicariate of Ingwavuma) and Sr Makoro (SACBC secretary general) will address us on those days. Every PPC executive and the executive of our diocesan sodalities should attend the congress on Saturday 23 November 2019. For this reason the last Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) meeting to be held in November is therefore cancelled.
Let Jesus out
Jesus is at the door and knocks. Let us open the doors of our hearts and let him out. Let us bless others with the good news we carry.
“We entrust the Church’s mission to Mary our Mother. In union with her Son, from the moment of the Incarnation the Blessed Virgin set out on her pilgrim way. She was fully involved in the mission of Jesus, a mission that became her own at the foot of the Cross: the mission of cooperating, as Mother of the Church, in bringing new sons and daughters of God to birth in the Spirit and in faith.” (Pope Francis)
+ José Luis Ponce de León IMC
Bishop of Manzini
01 October 2019
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus