Sunday 4th May
It was a big day for Monze yesterday. The Catholic Diocese of Monze celebrated to consecration of its new Bishop Moses Hamungole. I am sure that in the UK this would be a significant event purely for the Catholic church of that region, but here it is national news, broadcast on the national TV station.
I was told I should be at the ground where the event was being held at 9 hrs – an hour before the event was due to start. I suspected that as usual no one would arrive much before the start time and that we would br underway at 10.30 or 11 hrs.
Raymond called for me at about 8.30 and we sat drinking tea and coffee till about 9 hrs. The ground is very close to where I am living and we started to hear singing as buses and pick-ups passed by, while we were still in the house. When we emerged there was a steady flow of cars, buses, pick-ups etc. all heading for the ceremony. I haven't seen such traffic in Monze before!!
A large piece of ground was being used to stage the gathering. Several areas of seating were arranged – some under cover. I decided I needed to find shade since I expected the ceremony to be long. I therefore found myself a seat. Later it transpired that all the undercover seating was reserved, so I moved to the edge and stood where I could still get the benefit of some shelter from the sun.
It seemed that the organisers underestimated the crowd numbers – they catered for 4,000 wanting to receive the eucharist, but very many were disappointed. It's possible that there were close to 10,000 people attending the mass.
The consecration followed the form of a Catholic Mass with a few additional features – notably the ordination and consecration of the new bishop. The main celebrant for the mass was the outgoing Bishop of Monze Emilio Patriarca. He has been unwell during the past few months, having very recently returned from South Africa where he underwent surgery. He was not well enough to participate in the recent Easter services. It was therefore wonderful to see him take this major role – despite being a little unsteady.
In attendance were 11 bishops and the Apostilic Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi (who has the status of a cardinal) I couldn't count the number of priests!! Various dignatories attended including many politicians, though President Sata wasn't present.
There were a number of processions – starting with the priests, bishops and bishop elect. These were led by dancers in tradition fashion. I couldn't help comparing this entrance with what I would expect in the UK. The people of Monze certainly know how to give a rousing welcome. The drumming, singing, dancing and waving reaching a crescendo and then was raised to yet another level, this was repeated several times as the choir led the congregation in welcoming the new bishop.
The service included a brief history of the Diocese and the decree announcing the election of the bishop by Pope Francis, was read. I was moved by the fact that Pope Francis refers to himself as the servant of the servants of God and he spoke of the special place that Africa has in the heart of the church. I was also pleased that this document was also read in Chitonga, as were some of the other important texts of the service (including the homily!) even if it did add to the duration of the service.
The ordination and consecration were moving and dignified parts of the mass performed mainly by Bishop Emilio.
The service finished with words from several of the bishops, including a very moving speech from Bishop Emilio where he thanked the people of Monze for showing him their love. He has obviously become very attached to the people of this diocese and is much loved by them.
Bishop Moses thanked the people for the welcome and promised to work alongside the people to carry out God's work.
The final blessing was given at 15 hrs having started the service promplty promptly at 10 hrs. I think that for me this is a new record!
I decide not to stay to watch the presentation of gifts, but to retreat to my house with Jennipher who had joined us for this celebration, though like many others she does not attend the Catholic Church. It is always good to have the support of other denominations and faiths and this was acknowledged during the service.
I was glad to see Sr Christeta at the mass – she asked after Dilys who worked closely with her in 2011 and invited me to visit her where she now stays. I will have my work cut out to get everywhere that I have been invited, but I want to try!!
Jennipher left as Raymond joined me for a coffee and after he left Diven arrived in time for supper.
Sometimes people ask me whether I am lonely – as you can see I had almost consatnt company yesterday from 8.30 to 20.30! This might be rather more than usual, but it is rarer for me to have no visitors during a day!!
I did a bit of cleaning and washing before mass this morning. I usually wake at dawn 6 hrs! – possibly because Godfrey (night watchman) sweeps the yard at this time each morning!
After a short service (only 2 hrs!) Joseph caught me outside the church. He used to be the director of HHI in Monze and we met last year. He invited me to his village – Gwembe to look around and meet some of the people. It is a place where there is a significant group of people who have contracted leprosy – a disease that still is not entirely wiped out here in Zambia. Joseph has worked with HHI to establish some projects in this village, but says there is a lot more that needs to be done. I warned him that I was unlikely to be able to help but would be interested to vist what he describes as a forgotten part of Zambia.
I just had time for a couple of sandwiches before going to join St. Veronica's Small Christian Community for prayers. I didn't get a chance to arrange for someone to meet me and managed to get hopelessly lost. A guy with another prayer group called me over. He said he worked with Maluti – the man with the scales. He wanted to talk to me! I let him have my number and no doubt he will be in touch before long – I will listen but I am unlikely to go beyond that. He said that he had been trying to meet up with me and felt the Lord must have sent me – it was certainly a strange route I on which I had been led and I was about to give up and go home. I turned around and was greeted by friends from St. Veronica's on the way to the prayer meeting. They guided me nearby where 'section prayers' were about to take place.
I was keen to see the wife of a friend who is serving some time in prison. I am going to Mazabuka tomorrow to extend my visitors permit and hoped that I could pay a vist to Mazabuka prison while I was there. She was at the prayer meeting. I discussed this proposition and she will go along with me tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow Jennipher should receive the news about her visa – please pray that, if it is right, she will be given the chance to pay us a visit in the UK.
With much love and prayers,