Fr. Innocent Shava, C.M.M.: Priest of God for the sake of mankind

Father Innocent Shava, C.M.M., a young missionary of Mariannhill, trained in our House in Salamanca, Spain, was ordained as a priest on July 29, 2017. The celebration took place in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where he comes from. Together with him two other Mariannhill missionaries of the Bulawayo province and a diocesan seminarian of the same Archdiocese were ordained priests. In the same celebration two other missionaries of Mariannhill and a Capuchin friar were also ordained deacons. The ordination liturgy took place in the spacious outdoor amphitheater on the grounds of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima, located in the Pumula South neighborhood of the city of Bulawayo. The archbishop of Bulawayo, Alexander Thomas Kaliyanil, S.V.D., presided over the solemn and at the same time festive celebration.

Saturday, July 29, dawned cold and unpleasant. During the morning there were even moments when a fine rain, aided by the wind, tried to wet the assembly. However, all those weather changes did not manage to dampen the joy of the more than 3,000 people who had gathered to attend the solemn liturgy of ordination. The many hymns that were sung in various parts of the celebration by a superb choir of over one hundred people, men and women, helped to sustain this joy as well. A large battery of marimbas and drums accompanied the choir. Although the songs were performed by the choir, the whole assembly spontaneously joined the singing.

It was past 9:00AM when the liturgical procession began to move towards the altar that was in the middle of the amphitheater. After the processional cross and the acolytes came those who were to be ordained and the nearly one hundred priests who took part in the celebration. The archbishop of Bulawayo, Archbishop Alexander Thomas Kaliyanil, S.V.D., missionary of the Divine and born in India, came last in the procession.

The language which was predominantly used throughout the celebration was siNdebele. Once the first rites of the Eucharistic celebration ended and the Liturgy of the Word was over, the rite of Ordination of the three deacons and the four priests began. At the beginning of the celebration the candidates to be ordained were scattered in diverse places among the assembly, wherever their families were located. When the priest who presented the candidates to the Bishop mentioned the name of Innocent Shava, he answered with a loud voice in Spanish, “Here I am.” That caused some surprise and happiness among the attendees. Once all to be ordained were called, they went to the altar accompanied by their parents, who led them by the arm. It was a beautiful and meaningful gesture by which the parents expressed their gift of their children to the Church so that they might become ministers.

Once at the altar before the Bishop, the three candidates to be ordained deacons and then the four to be ordained priests answered the ritual questions by the bishop. With the answers given by each of them, they publicly demonstrated their willingness to exercise the diaconal and presbyteral ministries in a free and voluntary way, accepting the commitments that this entails.

After the ritual scrutiny, the candidates to the diaconate made the promise of ecclesiastical celibacy and both they and those who were to be ordained as priests, one after another, made the promise of obedience to the bishop, his successors, and their legitimate religious superiors.

Then all who were to be ordained lay down on the ground before the altar and all the others, both ministers and assembly, knelt for the litany of the saints, which was sung by the choir.

Then the time came for the ordination itself. In silence the Bishop laid hands on the three young men who were to be ordained deacons and recited over them the beautiful prayer of ordination, and in this way they became deacons of the Church. Once clothed with the dalmatic, the liturgical vestment proper to deacons, the Bishop gave them the book of the Gospels. With the Bishop’s kiss of the new deacons and their introduction to the people, the ordination of deacons ended.

Then the four candidates who were to be ordained priests approached the Bishop. He laid hands on them in silence. All concelebrant priests did the same thing. With the prayer of ordination, recited by the Bishop, the four young men were ordained priests of the Church. Clothed with the chasuble, their hands were anointed with Holy Chrism and each of them was given the paten and the chalice by the Bishop. After receiving one by one the kiss of peace of the Bishop and each of the concelebrating priests, they were presented to the assembly, which received them with joy.

Once the new deacons prepared the offerings on the altar, the four new priests of Christ, among them Father Innocent Shava, together with all the other priests and the Bishop, consecrated for the first time the species of bread and wine, which became the Body and Blood of the Lord.

At the end of the celebration, after giving each one who was ordained his respective certificate of ordination, the Bishop knelt before the four new priests to receive from each of them their first priestly blessing. From that moment on they did not cease to give their blessing to all those who requested it personally.

The sun, which had remained clouded over during the whole of that joyous celebration, finally became visible. When the processional cross finally arrived back in the sacristy, four hours had passed, which, in the words of all those present, did not seem long.

The parish teams in charge of the kitchen began to distribute the meal they had been preparing since dawn: meat, vegetables and maize pasta.

In the late afternoon the family of Father Innocent offered a festive dinner for all their guests and friends in a tent which they had set up in front of their home. Afterwards, a spontaneous and lively dance began, in which everyone from children to grandparents took part.

The following day, on the morning of Sunday, 30 July 2017, Father Innocent celebrated the Eucharist in the church of his parish, with himself as main celebrant. That celebration had an undeniable family flavor, not only because his relatives and friends were present, but because that was where his religious, missionary and priestly vocation began to grow and mature. There were present the people and catechists who helped him grow in the Christian life; there were present the groups, in which the Christian life was maturing to fruitful in what he is now: religious, priest, and missionary of Mariannhill.

After the Eucharist and before the meal, a reception was held in the parish halls for all those who attended the celebration, in which the various groups of the parish, confraternities and apostolic movements approached the new priest, singing and dancing, to offer him their gifts. There were so many who wanted to do so that the reception had to be interrupted for lunch, continuing after the meal. The great number of people who came to congratulate the new priest was a clear and evident proof of the sympathy he enjoys between his own people, despite having been abroad in Spain for all his training during six years.

Coming from Spain, in order to accompany Father Innocent in these celebrations, a group of six people had traveled: Fr. Matías Prieto Espinosa, parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes [Salamanca], Fr. Jesús Vicente Sánchez, former parish priest of the same parish, Fr. José María Rodríguez-Veleiro Rodríguez, Delegate for Pontifical Missions Works of Ciudad Rodrigo [Salamanca], Maria del Mar Manzano Castro, helper of the Pontifical Missions Works Delegation of Ciudad Rodrigo [Salamanca], Mr. Antonio Ramos Blázquez, Antonio Sanz Madruga, friends of Father Innocent, and Father Lino Herrero Prieto CMM, regional superior of Mariannhill in Spain. All of them have felt privileged to be able to accompany Father Innocent in his priestly ordination and first Mass, living the unique experience of both celebrations. They are also grateful for the hospitality received at the provincial house of the Mariannhill Missionaries of Bulawayo and for the welcome of the Shava family. The group took advantage of the trip to visit some missions and parishes run by the Mariannhill Missionaries, as well as some of the country’s landmarks: Matopos National Park, Great Zimbabwe, Kami Ruins, Hwange Game Park, Victoria Falls.

The deacon Innocent Shava CMM a few moments before his priestly ordination.

The deacon Innocent Shava CMM, first in the picture, laid on the ground, during the singing of the Litanies.

The Bishop presents the title of the priestly ordination of Fr. Innocent Shava CMM.

The parents of Innocent Shava CMM present his son to the Bishop.

Members of the group which travelled from Spain to be present in those joyful celebrations.


Fr. Lino Herrero Prieto CMM