Fr Ignatius Malwa, a Zambian SMA priest, was the Principal celebrant and homilist at the final Mass of the 2014 National Novena in honour of St Therese, Patroness of the Missions. He was assisted by Fr Maurice Henry, SMA Provincial Councillor. At the end of the Mass, in an echo of the ‘Departure Ceremony’ celebrated on 1 October every year, Fr Ignatius was ‘sent forth’ by the parish community to his parish in Kaduna, Nigeria. A prayer was recited by the entire congregation over Fr Ignatius before he concluded the Mass with the Blessing of Roses brought by members of the congregation to the celebration.
I am happy to be among you this evening and it’s my privilege to celebrate this Eucharist in honour of St Therese, the Patroness of the Missions, in this Church with its historical ties to the African Missions. It is part of the very close links between the SMA and the people of Cork.
Ireland’s first seminary for Africa was set up here at Blackrock Road in 1909. After their Ordination the new SMA priests had a special ceremony before going on mission to Africa. It was called the “Departure Ceremony.” It took place in this very Church when after Benediction and prayers, the newly-ordained priests were blessed by the Provincial Superior and seminary staff, to speed them on their way.
From 1925, when St. Therese, Patroness of the Missions, whose feast we commemorate today, was canonized a Saint, the Departure Ceremony took place at the end of the Novena in honour of the new Saint.
For the SMA, and for all our supporters, the last night of the Novena – the night of the Departure Ceremony – was the highlight of the year.
Tonight, I feel the atmosphere of the “Departure Ceremony” as a young priest going back to my mission in Nigeria tomorrow after this Novena to St. Therese.
In Ireland the SMA is no longer ordaining young priests as in the past, but the Society is growing faster than ever. This year there were eighteen (18) new priests ordained for the Society. You all should take great pride in this! Because none of this would have happened without the great support you and your forebears have given to the work of the SMA. It was the support of the People of Ireland which made it possible for the SMA to grow and flourish in Ireland and then in Africa. For it was those very priests who laid the foundation for today’s flourishing African Church. It is your faith, prayers and support – moral and financial – that made it possible for so many young Africans to reach the priesthood.
So it is a great privilege for me to be with you here today, the “fruit” of your support, to meet with you, and say ‘Thank You’ on behalf of all who have benefitted from your faith, kindness and generosity. And also to remember in my prayers all those generations of Irish people who have supported us down the years.
I am Fr. Ignatius Malwa from Zambia. I grew up in Kabwe, Zambia where the SMA have their seminary. I met Fathers Sexton Doran (who died recently, God rest him), Michael Igoe and John Horgan, (both living here in Blackrock Road). A local SMA, Fr Michael O’Shea, was in charge of my initial formation in Kabwe.
Twelve of us were ordained in 2008 and sent to different countries in Africa. I was appointed to Nigeria. I am now the Parish Priest of St Peter’s, one of the biggest parishes in Kaduna Archdiocese. We have more than ten thousand active Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday. To look after this huge number I have an Assistant priest, a Ghanaian SMA, and we have two churches. We have four masses every Sunday in the main church and one in the outstation, each taking about two hours. We celebrate Baptisms twice a month with about 50-60 baptisms per month.
Saturday morning and evening we have confessions which take up at least four hours. Weddings are also celebrated on Saturdays, usually two or three couples at the same time as there are so many who want to be married in the Church. And again I remind you that for all this population, we are only two priests in the parish. Please continue to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send more labourers into his harvest.
Regarding the wider situation in this part of Nigeria it is clear that the Islamo-Christian conflicts over the years has led to the mass exodus of Christians from the north of Kaduna state which is predominantly Muslim.
Despite the challenges that have ravaged our communities in Africa: wars, inter-religious conflicts, poverty, unemployment, pandemics, etc. there is a positive growth of the Church in Africa. And people in Africa are also supporting the training of priests and Mission. We have groups of faith-based well wishers who support the missions – by prayer and finance. We pray that such groups will grow to maturity in understanding their responsibilities towards the growing Church in Africa.
I have been in Ireland for six weeks, travelling all over the country meeting SMA sponsors and benefactors who are supporting the education of our SMA priests – from Africa, India, Philippines and Poland. I am representing all of them, but especially the eighteen ordained this year. You – the people who are here in this Church for the closing of this National Novena in honour of St Therese – represent not only yourselves but also the generations of Irish People who have remained faithful to God’s mission to ‘go forth and teach all nations’.
We SMA’s have given of our faith by going on mission and you have gone on mission by your giving to support us on the missions – by your faith, your moral support, your prayers and your financial support. For this, ‘God be Praised… and only God that sees what you have done in secret will reward you abundantly… And through the intercession on St Therese, the patroness of the Missions, may the Missions continue to flourish and draw many to Christ. Through the same Christ our Lord.
On behalf of my SMA confreres in Africa, I am thanking you, as representatives of the People of Ireland for making all this possible with the grace of God.