By: Sibongile Hlatshwayo (Sts Peter and Paul Parish, Kwaluseni)
The Covid-19 Pandemic took away a number of our beloved family members and during the lockdown the church could not celebrate Mass for any of them because of the strict restrictions by the government. Gatherings of any sort were not allowed and so were the night vigils; the body of the deceased could be collected from the morgue straight to the burial site something that was very unusual to us since the tradition has always been that a Requiem Mass be celebrated for the deceased something that did not happen during lockdown.
It is because of this that Sts Peter and Paul Parish decided to set a day for a joint celebration in honour of all those who died during the lockdown. This was a moment for the families and the church community to come together and honour in a more descent way our departed parishioners. According to the Parish Death Register, a total of twenty two parishioners were recorded to have died between January 2020 to the time when the celebration was conducted on Saturday the 8th of May, 2021. All the families of the deceased were notified of the event and were requested to submit portraits of the deceased. The news was received with great joy by family members even as some mentioned how much they cursed the pandemic for robbing them of the possibility to accord their departed ones a proper and a descent sendoff.
On the day of the celebration, the parish was full to capacity as relatives of the deceased joined the parishioners in honouring the memories of the faithful departed. All this became possible after the government loosened some of the restrictions enforced during the lockdown.
On Friday evening, the portraits were displayed by the sanctuary as they came in different sizes and shapes. On Saturday morning as early as 9.00 am, families started arriving and had to go through the Covid19 protocols before they were ushered inside the church. As people entered the church, they were struck by the neatly arranged portraits of their loved ones. Next to each portrait was a candle which remained lit all through the celebration. At 10.30 am, the program began with the speeches from family members. At 11.00 am, Mass started with the choir at its usual top form rendering relevant soul touching hymns. The Parish Priest Fr Francis Onyango who was also the main celebrant, made eulogies for the deceased during his homily, sharing briefly about the unique contribution and personality of each of the deceased.
After the homily which was very touching and healing at the same time, three Sunday school kids, dressed in white, came forward in a procession carrying with them in a basket petals of roses and another carrying a pot of fuming incense. They marched majestically to the altar and with reverence dropped petals on each and every portrait and at the center a pot of fuming incense was placed as the Rest in Peace poem played on the background. This was to show the love for our departed as we normally do during funerals when relatives drop petals in the graves. This was a very emotional moment and it felt as though the real funeral was in progress. Many could not hold their tears and sobs were heard at every corner of the church.
At the entrance of the church was a poster with pictures of the deceased and their names inscribed underneath. This was a contribution by a parishioner who felt it would be nice to have a poster with all the departed family members of Sts Peter and Paul Parish. The celebration brought to reality our common slogan as a parish #Singumndeni. Indeed at Sts Peter and Paul Parish we are a family! May our departed parishioners forever find rest with the Lord!