Every year the Consolata Missionaries gather together in different communities around the whole globe to celebrate the feast of our Lady Consolata. This feast has a historical significance with the richness of how the institute was founded. The congregation of the Consolata was founded on 29th January 1901 in Turin Italy by Blessed Joseph Allamano. The founder gives the credit of the foundation to Mary Consolata whom he calls the Foundress. This feast which is marked annually on 20th June, brings a different experience in all the regions where the missionaries are working. This year 2020 brings a new experience where there has been the spread of the novel Corona virus pandemic. In view of the same, I present the setup of this year's celebration in the context of lockdown in the south Africa-Eswatini delegation.
The Feast celebrated indoors amidst quarantine
This year starting from March, South Africa was put under lockdown by the President of the Republic in order to contain the spreading of the Corona virus. Government Institutions were closed down, as well as, the churches. This meant that every celebration was now limited to a specific number of people under tough restrictions. Usually the feast of Consolata is celebrated in our parishes with involvement of all parishioners in order to honor our Lady Mary who is the Queen of the universe. Due to his pandemic the usual had to become unusual and this feast had to be celebrated with a limited group. In the seminary at Merryville the celebration had to be done in our community.
Although every year we gather together at our parish in St Martin De Porres, this year we had to do it in our small chapel. This does not mean that the feast was insignificant or ‘smallirised’. Since the regulations that were set by government on social distancing were to be followed; the feast had to be done contrary to the 'normal' which is a big gathering of our Christians. In the seminary, during the Eucharistic prayer, we presented our petitions for our families, friends, benefactors and all the intentions of our general superior with a reflection of those who had succumbed to this pandemic.
The Feast is not a sorrowful celebration
Although many may try to reflect that this feast was celebrated at a time of sorrow, it does not qualify being a sorrowful feast. We know that this pandemic has claimed many lives of our loved ones, members of our institute and even close friends but it was not a feast of sorrowing. Our founder in the book This I Want You to Be says that, 'our Lady is the queen of all missionaries. To speak about her is a blessing – we collaborate with her in carrying out her prophecy.' This gives us a hope and joy which surpasses what we may view as a punishment of the pandemic. We should understand the opportunity of celebrating this feast comes with a blessing which is too abundant to opt for sorrow.
Mary Consolata is the mother of all Christians. She intercedes for us just like how she interceded for the people at the wedding at Cana. This signifies that she is always accompanying us in all tribulations even at the crossroads of this pandemic. So despite celebrating the Consolata Feast inside the doors of the seminary, without the community of our parish, the feast still brings the joy of her being with us of not being null and void and not a moment of sorrows.
The Feast is a climax of all our hope as we start the Jubilee preparations
We are all aware across the delegation that the name Consolata is our mark in South Africa and Eswatini. When we celebrate this great name, as we honor Mary, we are filled with joy and laughter. Since we are all graced by Mary Consolata in our missions, then the feast should be a reflection of how we will celebrate our Jubilee of being in the 'Mzansi' mission. Our founder used to urge all missionaries to be devoted to Mary and celebrate her in all their dimensions. Then we should feel privileged to start the 'tour' of our Jubilee under this big feast in our delegation. The Consolata Feast, although celebrated with few individuals in our respective communities, gave us a 'definite moment' of meditation and reflection with 'no noises' on how we will present God's graces vested in us at our time in 'Mzansi.'
We should then grace our Jubilee with a dedication to this great Lady. Mary is and will always be there for us as challenges pass our ways. In the seminary when we started the Novena, Fr Rocco our delegate superior was in our midst at Merrivale. In his homily, he said we cannot Honor Mary enough since she has been with us in the journey of our mission. He added, the Jubilee is a reflection of how we have influenced the change of many in our missions where today we are working and even where we were before. So we cannot thank and give enough credit to what Mary Consolata has done for our Institute especially the South Africa- Eswatini Delegation. Mary then is our model to emulate as we journey towards our jubilee.
Conclusively, the Consolata feast is our feast as the founder used to remind us. We should feel honored to be named under her. She is our protector. Blessed founder called her our mother. Her graces cannot be counted for they are unimaginable. The feast of 2020 which has a different state in its celebration brings also a change in what we are doing. May be this pandemic has brought a new way to honor Mary our Lady with a change in mentality. It brings our minds to think of a great change and moving from the 'OLD MENTALITY' to a new way.