125 Years for East London’s Immaculate Conception Parish!
By Unity Jegels – Bishop Vincent Mduduzi Zungu of Port Elizabeth presided over the jubilee celebration attended by 30 priests from around the Eastern Cape and from as far as Durban and Johannesburg.
In his welcome address, Bishop Zungu said that the historic opening of the church in June 1894 was initiated and led by dedicated men and women of God who saw it necessary to build this church 125 years ago.
The bishop noted that the church, situated in the inner city, was characterised by a multicultural, multinational and multi-generational cohort of parishioners, united in a Christ-like spirit.
The theme of his homily was echoed in the words of the pilgrimage Psalm 122:1: “I rejoiced when I heard them say: Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Bishop Zungu said the 125th anniversary of the parish of Immaculate Conception was a significant moment of grace, in God’s perfect timing.
“The jubilee of Immaculate Conception marks ‘God’s year of favour’ which challenges all of us to rekindle the wonderful gift of faith, received through baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The bishop challenged the congregation to respond to God’s call as individuals and as a community, through three spiritual exercises:
Firstly, to remember, with profound gratitude, their past history of faith by discerning the tangible signs of God’s presence and work of salvation realised in the past 125 years.
Regarding recent incidents of violence directed at migrants and refugees, and the high rate of femicide and infanticide, Bishop Zungu observed that the “soul” of our nation is sick, and the healing power of God is much needed.
“The citizens of this country need to be exorcised of their deep-seated anger, resentment and violence that has been internalised and nurtured for so many years,” he said.
Secondly, to live the present times with renewed enthusiasm and commitment to God by listening attentively to the Holy Spirit and by living every single day to the full as if it was the last one.
“God is not ‘I was’ or ‘I will be’, but the ‘eternal I am’,” Bishop Zungu said. “Therefore, as People of God, we are called to awaken the world to God’s abiding presence.
Lastly, in crafting a legacy for future generations, the bishop said, “we are called to become prophets of hope and not doom”.
“The vision of our Immaculate Conception parish in the next five or 50 years from now is that of a beacon of hope as our country faces many challenges due to a crisis of leadership on all levels,” he added.
On the day, parishioners dressed according to their cultural heritage, liturgical dancers interpreted the lyrics of the hymn “Christ, Be our Light”, backed by the choir, and bidding prayers were offered in parishioners’ various languages.
A special 125th anniversary brochure, presenting a history of the church, was launched after Mass.
Crucifixes, bottled holy water and prayer cards were distributed to those in attendance as special souvenirs.
A parish banquet is scheduled to take place on Saturday November 23, to round off the church’s jubilee year celebrations.