Friday, October 5, 2012

Zimbabwe: With the Franciscans

These are some photos of Our Lady of the Angels Friary on the outskirts of Zimbabwe where I stayed with Fr. Liam (see previous post) and the student friars preparing for the priesthood. It is a beautiful, prayerful property. The OFMs in Zimbabwe are a distinct "custody" of the Irish Province to which Fr. Liam belongs.

The chapel (above and below) evokes a sense of similarity with the Portiuncula in the plain below Assisi, the small chapel St. Francis lived and prayed and eventually died. The inside is oramented with metal line sculptures depicting different scenes from St. Francis' life.

While in Zimbabwe I accompanied Fr. Liam on his very active rounds of responsibilities, helping out and supporting him as I was able. This included two back-to-back, two-hour Sunday Masses in Shona (the common language spoken in Harare) at St. Patrick's Church. There were approximately 1,000 people at the 7:00 a.m. Mass, so many that the Mass has to be celebrated outside. There was a squadron of altar servers, a team of dancers, and easily more than 100 men and women attired in the distinctive uniform of the sodality or parish group to which they belong. The Mass was very lively and devout, and no one seemed in a hurry to leave. The 9:00 am Mass took place in the church, which was packed with about 500 people, mostly young adults.

On the way back to the friary from St. Patrick's, we stopped at St. Francis Church, Waterfalls, also staffed by the friars. It's a large, beautiful church that also has a Poor Clare monastery on the grounds.

Other activities on which I accompanied Fr. Liam included visits to Holy Trinity College, the theological consortium for religious preparing for priesthood where Fr. Liam teaches Latin, a day of recollection for the faculty and staff of the national diocesan seminary, and a visit to Chisiwasha, a Jesuit mission more than 100 years old. On the grounds there is a cemetery housing many of the priests and religious that served the diocese, including the original missionary bishop and religious killed during the civil war in the 1970s. Among the graves is that of John Bradburne, a former British soldier become a lay Franciscan who served the lepers in Mutemwa and was also killed during the civil war. More on John Bradburne and Mutemwa in the next post.

The Cross at Chisiwasha mission. "Wakandida" means "He loved me," (cf. Gal 2:20).
The grave of John Bradburne, OFS.

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