Church in Eswatini Seeking Intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes in Fight against Covid-19
By Mercy Maina – ACI Africa–
The people of God in Eswatini’s only Catholic Diocese of Manzini have been invited to seek the intercession of our Lady of Lourdes in the fight against the second wave and new variant of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a Tuesday, February 2 message, Fr Ncamiso Vilakati who handles the Diocese’s Communications and Media docket invited Catholics in the landlocked country to pray the Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes in unison starting at 6 pm “seeking for solutions and guidance from the Lord, as to how we can combat this pandemic.”
“It is my pleasure that from this evening 2 February, the Diocese will engage herself in intensive prayer as a response to the Covid 19 pandemic,” Fr Vilakati announces in his message obtained by ACI Africa.
In the message also shared on Facebook by the Local Ordinary of Manzini, Bishop José Luís Ponce de León, the Eswatini Cleric further urges the faithful in their respective families to “find some sacred space within your house, and be conscious of the fellowship you have with other families.”
On February 10, members of the Clergy of the Diocese, which falls under the Ecclesiastical Province of South Africa’s Johannesburg Archdiocese, are set to lead the faithful in virtual Rosary Prayer via Facebook or Zoom, Fr Vilakati further announces in his February 2 message.
On the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes February 11, Bishop José Luís is expected to preside over Holy Eucharist “in honour” of St Bernadette, a patroness for the ill.
“May these nine (9) days be a moment of healing for us as a church in Eswatini, as we pray for our government and all those concerned with the quick solution to the pandemic,” Fr Vilakati says in his one-page message.
Eswatini, which borders Mozambique and South Africa, has reported at least 15,878 Covid-19 cases, 10,839 recoveries and 583 related deaths.
The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic featured in the Southern African nation towards the end of 2020 and has claimed the life of at least one Priest in the country.
India-born Fr. Alwyn Zothansanga, a member of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales (MSFS) succumbed to Covid-19-related complications on January 22, at the age of 38, Bishop José Luis announced the same day.
In his homily during the Requiem Mass of the Cleric January 28, Bishop José Luís reflected on the progression of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, noting that when it started, “it was a matter of statistics” for most of the people who only felt its “strength” when the infections hit the thousand mark.
“Still, it was just a number!” the member of the Consolata Missionaries (IMC) said referencing the initial 1,000 Covid-19 reported cases and added, “The second wave of the pandemic changed us. It was no longer just numbers. It became names. We know the people have been found positive and, much worse, those who died.”
With time, “Parishes began to celebrate funerals much more often than before,” the Argentinian-born Bishop recalled during the Requiem Mass held at St Joseph’s Mission, Mzimpofu.
With the death of Fr Zothansanga who arrived in Eswatini in 2018, the people of God in the Diocese felt “more vulnerable” as it was evident that the pandemic was with them, the 59-year-old Prelate noted in his January 28 homily.
He added that the death of the missionary Cleric “brought home the experience of so many people all over the world” who are unable to bury their loved ones and unable to mourn with the bereaved due to the pandemic.
“Fr Alwyn’s family is far away (in India) and cannot be physically here today, the members of his own community are not that far as some serve in South Africa but going through a lockdown, they have been unable to cross the border and be with us today as they wished they could,” Bishop José Luís explained January 28.
He added, “Fr Alwyn speaks to us both with his life and in his death. We are grateful to his family who gave him to us as a missionary in our land and to the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales who appointed him to our Diocese. May the God of all consolation give you and all of us His peace!”
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