Ordination to Deaconate: Last year was a year of particular grace for the Mission of Zimbabwe. Besides those who made first profession, we also had three final professions and one priestly ordination. This year too has got off to a good start. In the past few weeks, five Zimbabweans have begun their novitiate, three have made first profession and today, together with two Scholastics of the Natal Province and one from the Zambian delegation, our own Charles Nabwenje, Elphas Khoza and Jeffrey Madondo, are
ordained deacons at St. Joseph 's, Cedara. We congratulate our new deacons and wish them many graces for their ministry in the church.
Fr. Bafana Ndlovu has joined the Zimbabwe Mission and we welcome him heartily. On his arrival he already had an assignment, to offer Sunday Mass at two outstations on his way to St. Luke's. It was a matter of learning to swim in the deep end and Fr. Bafana proved quite able for the task. Together with Fr. Charles Rensburg and regent, Bro. Isaac Zandonda, they make up the Oblate community at St. Luke's.
Fr. Charles Rensburg has been appointed by the Provincial as member of the Mission Council to replace Fr. Zweli Mlotshwa, and in keeping with his style, Fr. Charles already has many exiting ideas and projects in the pipeline.
Regents Besides Bro Isaac at St. Luke's, Bro. Chikomborero has begun his missionary regency. He is presently at Mazenod House, participating in our ministry to the pre-novices as well as assisting Fr. Siyabonga in service to the people of Woodville. As mentioned in previous news items, our hope is that Chikomborero will be accepted by Fr. General to complete his initial formation at the International Scholasticate in Rome where he would join Patrick Mabhunu. Should he be accepted, he will go to Rome in April to begin language studies. In fact he is already hard at work trying to get the basics of the Italian language. These two scholastics renewed their temporary commitment. Claude and Donovan joined us at Mazenod House for a festive supper to mark the 181st anniversary of our congregation's approval in the church.
At Mazenod House, the Pre-Novitiate, we have begun our programme. We have ten prenovices, four doing their second year and six newcomers. The new men are: Owen Matyatya from Chitungwiza, Reuben Masese from Rusape, Elliot Mindu and Zwelihle Nyati from Bulawayo (Nketa and Pumula respectively) and finally, Peter Makuvaza and Collin Mugabe from Masvingo.
Mission Assembly: Another special grace at the beginning of this year was our Mission Assembly at the end of January. The evaluation indicated that all who participated experienced it as a graced event. Comments made appreciated that it was well prepared and focused, that the material for discussion was engaging and interesting and that, most of all, it proved to be a quality fraternal encounter that made participants feel like Oblates, responsible for the Mission and its future, contributing to and taking ownership of a common vision. The agenda for the assembly was focussed on two areas, the Mission Directory, a work still in progress, and Challenges in Initial Formation. Both received attention from all participants in a positive, open and constructive manner. Fr. Charles Rensburg and Bro Elphas Khoza were unfortunately unable to be present. Charles was down with malaria at St. Luke's and Elphas had not yet returned from the World Social Forum in Nairobi . Since the meeting was part of an ongoing process of planning and reflection, no specific resolutions were made only plans to continue the process.
In dealing with the Mission Directory, suggestions and amendments to the draft text were made, in the light of which a re-worked edition will be sent by email to each member for further comment and amendment before the Mission Council accepts a text to be passed on to the Provincial Council for approval.
Regarding aspects of initial formation, the assembly accepted as a positive development, the suggestion to shorten the overall length of the period of initial formation and to do part of the academic formation in Zimbabwe within the context of the pre-novitiate stage. The assembly mandated the Mission Superior to research the possibility of doing philosophy at Arrupe College in Harare and of then presenting a concrete re-structuring proposal to the provincial council.
Bro. Elphas returned enriched and enthusiastic from his experience at the World Social Forum in Nairobi but left a few days later for Cedara so there has not been an opportunity for much feedback as yet. He has a keen interest in issues relating to justice, peace and integrity of creation, particularly as they impact on the life of people in Zimbabwe. He has promised to send us a report of his experience together with proposals for his ministry in this field.
In Kumalo, a suburb in Bulawayo, Frs. Claude and Donovan continue their ministry without, this year, the help of a scholastic on regency. During the celebration Mass of the feast of the parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Frs. Claude, Donovan and Michael took a full hour during Mass for the anointing of the sick. This has become an annual event and is much appreciated by the people. Other news from Kumalo is that they have received, as donation to the parish, a second hand car, in good working condition, from a parishioner leaving Zimbabwe.
News from Cedara is that Bro. Chidochashe Nyere has been elected as community coordinator for the Scholasticate and Bro Ndodana Tshuma as coordinator of the Zimbabwean scholastics. This is a good opportunity for them to give expression to their leadership skills. Congratulations to both of them.
Patrick Mabhunu sent a message of solidarity for the feast and his greetings and best wishes extend to all. He renewed his temporary vows before Father General, together with three others from the International Scholasticate.
Besides his ministry to youth in Bulawayo and beyond, Fr. Siyabonga is doing wonderfully well in service to the people of Woodville and is much loved. This was in evidence on his birthday when besides receiving a large freshly baked cake from one zone of the parish, he was called urgently to the home of an elderly lady in another zone where he thought it was a sick call and took the holy oils and ritual with him. There were crowds gathered and he thought the worst - that he may be too late. However, it was simply a surprise birthday party to express appreciation and love. They also gave him two shirts and other gifts of eats to bring home.
All of this in a situation of extreme poverty and suffering one is constantly amazed at the generosity of the poor. With shortages of so many basic commodities, no sugar, mealie meal, cooking oil on the shelves in the shops, and yet in the offertory procession one will find that people who have struggled to obtain just a little of these things, generously give it over to the priest. Our little faith and generosity is constantly challenged and strengthened by the greater faith and generosity of the people we serve.