by Fr Francis Onyango
On Friday 18th October 2019, the Extraordinary Missionary Year October 2019 – October 2020 was officially launched in Manzini diocese by Bishop Jose Luis at a night vigil at the Cathedral. Every parish received a missionary candle from the bishop, and now it was the turn of the parishes to organise and launch the year at parish level. Sts Peter and Paul Parish launched the Extraordinary Missionary Year on Mission Sunday in a colourful celebration full of symbols.
The celebration began in the usual way and after the gospel, the missionary candle was brought in procession with song and dance to the sanctuary where it was lit by a senior member of the community. Babe Solomon Mndzebele animated the process, explaining at every step what was being done and its symbolism. The missionary candle symbolises the presence of the light of Christ in our midst, the same light we received at baptism and the same light we are sent to take to the world.
After lighting the candle catechists came forward in procession waving flags of different countries; they pinned the flags around the missionary candle. The flags represented different nations where the word of God has been preached by missionaries who having been baptised, accepted the call to be sent to go to foreign lands and share the love of Christ with others. This was a moment to reflect on the missionary spirit of the church but also to remember the missionaries who have left their countries to go and serve in foreign nations. The catechists were chosen for this role since they too in a more special way participate in the teaching of faith.
It was through such missionaries that faith came to our diocese where the first mission was established in 1914 at Mater Dolorosa. From this first mission, we have since spread to seventeen parishes with over a hundred other smaller communities. In gratitude to how the gospel message has spread in our diocese through the sacrifices of those who having been baptised, willingly accepted to be sent. Sunday School children brought forward in procession with song and dance, seventeen candles representing the seventeen parishes already established in the diocese. They lit their candles from the missionary candle and arranged them in a descending order on either side of the missionary candle. It was a moment to make the Christians aware of the number of our parishes, where they are located and when they were established.
Highlighting on the theme of the Extraordinary Missionary Year ‘Baptised and Sent’ we were reminded that we are not just baptised and sent to go and do our business; we are baptised and sent to go and share the word of God and the love of Christ with others. Therefore, the word of God was also brought in procession by a family since it is in the family where faith is first taught; the family is our first mission land. We are therefore called to minister to our families before we can go out to minister to others. The bible was then placed in front of the missionary candle surrounded by the seventeen candles as a reminder that we are sent not to go and do anything else but to go and preach the word of God and share the love of Christ with others.
Finally, the whole congregation was blessed with the Holy water as a reminder of our baptism and the promises we made when we were baptised but also as a way of renewal of our baptismal promises with a call to go out and serve. Of importance to note was how the altar was adorn with the colours of the baptised and sent logo (red, white, yellow, green and blue). On this day many new faces took charge of the day’s liturgy; the church is not a members’ club, it’s a family, a place where each person has an opportunity to do something for God. It was beautiful to see new faces leading the community in worship and they did it so well as if they have been doing it all through; we have all been baptised and no one should sit back and fold their hands, we are all called to take an active role in the affairs of our church. The homily stressed on the need to come out of the ordinary and do something extraordinary for God at least within this year. Parents were asked not to stay at home with children who have no sacraments but to ensure that during this year all the children are on the path towards the sacraments; those who have not yet married in church were also encouraged to find the possibilities of how to solemnise their marriages. This is a year of grace and none of us should be left behind since we all have been baptised and sent!