The Machavane Chichava family, the Missionaries of Mariannhill and the parish community of Saint Joseph (Ressano Garcia / Mozambique) were full of joy on the 11th of July 2015 when during the morning of that day at the Parish Church of Ressano Garcia Fr Rafael Manuel Machavane Chichava CMM was ordained priest by Archbishop Francisco Chimoio OFM Cap of the Archdiocese of Maputo. Fr Rafael was baptized at this very parish.
The day dawned with a mild and pleasant temperature which maintained throughout the day. From early morning the faithful began to arrive from the different communities which constitute this parish. Gradually the spacious church, clean and well decorated, was filled with the faithful, family and friends of Fr Rafael and of the Missionaries of Mariannhill who came to witness this occasion of blessings and also to support God’s work. Noticeable in this gathered community, donned in their white religious habits was a sizeable group of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood and the Missionaries of Mariannhill in their black cassocks with red cinctures.
The choir, composed of a balanced ratio of men and women, animated the Eucharistic celebration and the music was very uplifting. At nine o’clock the bells in the tower played the Ave Maria de Fatima. In a solemn, orderly and yet vibrant manner the entry procession started to make way into the church. In the lead were the dancing girls, gracefully performing ritual dances, followed by the readers and acolytes, the priests and the Archbishop. There were fifteen priests concelebrating with the Archbishop who was flanked by the parish priest, Fr Vicente Berenguer Llopis IEME and the Regional Superior of the Missionaries of Mariannhill in Spain, Fr Lino Herrero Prieto.
The liturgy and all the rites were celebrated faithfully in accordance with the prescribed norms. As the Gloria was sung, one could really feel that the gathered congregation genuinely gave glory to God and praised Him especially for the gift of the priest to be ordained. People were filled with jubilation and praise for God and this they expressed through the musical voices, instruments and dance.
After the Gospel was read, the candidate to be ordained was called from the faithful where he had been seated, to the sanctuary. His father accompanied by his sister took him by hand and brought him forward. His sister represented his mother who passed away just three weeks before this day. May she rest in peace!
The homily from the Archbishop helped the assembly to place the readings proclaimed in the context of the celebration. With skill, while he was expounding the doctrine of the Catholic Church on priesthood, he reminded the candidate of the practical implications of this teaching for his life.
After the questions of examination, the choir led the congregation in the singing of the Litany of the saints while all were kneeling and the candidate was prostrated on the floor.
After the Litany, the Bishop and the other concelebrants laid hands on the candidate. This was followed by the solemn prayer of ordination.
Through the ordination prayer he was consecrated a priest and therefore as a priest now he had to exchange his diaconate stole for a priestly stole and over it the chasuble. The Bishop then anointed the hands of the newly ordained, consecrating them for the sacred priestly responsibilities and duties. After the anointing, at the request of the Bishop, the newly ordained walked down the main aisle of the church showing his hands to the people who had come to witness this sacred event. The assembly acknowledged the anointing by singing, ululating, drumming and praising with great joy. The newly ordained was then presented with the chalice with the wine and bread, symbols for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. With the embracing of the Bishop and the other priests the newly ordained was incorporated into the college of priests.
During the offertory, together with the Bishop, Fr Rafael received the gifts from the faithful and Holy Mass proceeded as usual, with Fr Rafael concelebrating for the very first time.
Time for communion was as usual and afterwards a brief period of silence was observed. After the silence, the choir animated the congregation in gratitude and jubilation. The whole assembly stood up to sing and dance in thanksgiving.
Before the final blessing the new priest expressed his joy and gratitude to all who had made this day possible, thanking his family, the Missionaries of Mariannhill, the Bishop and indeed all those who had contributed to his vocation in one way or the other.
At the end of the blessing with hearts full of joy and gratitude we left the church in procession.
People gathered around him to congratulate him and wish him well and many asked for his blessing. This was then followed by a festive meal in the multipurpose hall of the school of Ressano Garcia.
The next day, Sunday July 12th, Fr Rafael presided over the Eucharist for the first time, with a sizeable number of priests concelebrating with him. The assembly seemed to be even bigger than the day before at the ordination.
The Eucharist went well, again with joy and jubilation and afterwards people still congratulated him and he blessed them.
The parish invited everybody to lunch under a huge tree in the courtyard of the parish house. All had something to eat and none went away hungry. The atmosphere was great, enjoying a meal in the shade of a big tree with a gentle breeze soothing us from the warm weather.
Fr Rafael will work in one of the parishes of the Diocese of Salamanca in Spain.
Fr Lino Herrero Prieto CMM