Within the Consolata institute, the term brother is used in reference to those members of our institute who have consecrated their lives to God through their perpetual profession of the evangelical counsels but who are not in themselves members of the clergy. However, when one comes to South Africa the term brother assumes a different connotation. Brothers in South Africa are seminarians whether diocesan or religious missionaries. Sometimes we wonder how the Consolata Missionary brothers would be called if they were to be sent to South Africa.
It is in this respect that four brothers – Patrick Mrosso, Kidane Ashuro, Josephat Mwanake and Samuel-Francis Onyango were ordained to the order of deacons on 14/12/13. They were ordained by our very own bishop Jose Luis Ponce de Leon; the bishop of Manzini – Swaziland and the Apostolic Administrator of Ingwavuma. The ordination took place at St Martin de Porres parish – Woodlands, a parish run by the community of Merrivale. The four deacons form part of the pioneer group of students who were sent to the delegation of South Africa to begin a new theological seminary at Merrivale.
A day before their ordination, the four brothers took their final vows at Merrivale seminary in the presence of the delegate superior Fr James Mwigani. Also present were bishop Jose Luis, parishioners from St Martin de Porres parish, friends and members of the delegation who had travelled from their missions to come and witness this historic event. Historic in the sense that this was the first time the delegation was having an ordination since the first missionaries arrived in South Africa over 40 years ago. As the four brothers consecrated their lives to God for life, two others - Didier Sunda and Jasper Kirimi received their missionary mandate as they begin their year of service.
It happened that two days before the ordination, bishop Graham Rose – the bishop of Dundee diocese had visited the seminary and when the superior introduced us to him as the candidates for the deaconate, the bishop asked us a question that left us thinking; ‘are you weak enough to be ordained deacons?’
The bishop explained to us that there is a common tendency among the people to estimate a person’s aptitude by listing his strength. This according to him is disastrous because when we dwell so much on our strength, we block God’s grace since we feel that we are complete in ourselves with no need of God’s grace. The strength of our deaconate lies precisely in the weakness that seems to threaten it. Weakness relates us profoundly with other people. It allows us to feel with them the human condition, the human struggle and darkness and anguish that call out for salvation. Weakness more profoundly relates us to God, because it provides the arena in which his grace can be seen; because it is the experience of weakness that deepens both our sensitivity to human religious need and our experience in prayer.
In his sermon during the ordination bishop Jose Luis called upon the candidates to embrace the word of God and the Eucharist in order to give birth to charity. He reminded us that we should not see ordination as a promotion but rather as a demotion because we were being removed from our comfort zones and lowered to the service of the poorest of the poor. As deacons, the bishop reminded us that we are called to prepare food for the people food at the table of the Lord, and that we can only prepare good food if we put God at the centre of our lives. He warned us that should we take God out and instead put ourselves at the centre we fall in the danger of giving people bad food.
Of the newly ordained deacons Kidane and Patrick will be going to exercise their ministry back in their countries of Ethiopia and Tanzania respectively while Josephat and Francis will exercise their ministry within the delegation. Blessed are we who are ordained during this year of the founder because his spirit is alive more than ever.