A personal view of a childcare training project for a Children’s Centre in Blantyre, part of the Krizevac Project.
The Blessing of JP11LITA
Yesterday began early. As official (???) photographer for Beehive I wanted to be at the site early to catch some of the preparations, and people as they arrived. It was a beautiful morning with that low, warm, morning light bathing the township in a glow that reminded me of ripe apricots. There was activity everywhere, last minute preparations included: cleaning, sweeping, preparing altars, swathing structures in special commemorative chitenge material, clearing away the stray bits of glass left by the glaziers, towing away a broken down dump truck, setting up a stall to sell rosaries and little clear plastic crosses with flashing lights in them, building fires, preparing a vast vat of soup, peeling potatoes, preparing veg, frying chicken. Everyone was smiling and pleased to see me as I wandered about with the camera poking my nose into corners and looking behind buildings to see what I could see! My favourites were the altar boys, and the catering team, but everyone welcomed me and everyone wanted to be photographed.
The Mass was scheduled for 9.00 am, but members of the congregation were asked to be seated by 8.30 am. Lots happened before 9.00 am. I stayed for some time in the covered area, like a huge marquee without sides, where the Mass was to take place and people-watched for a while. People were dressed up for the occasion in their best. There were many traditional dresses, shirts and zitenge in commemorative materials for a variety of Catholic occasions and institutions including John Paul’s visit to Malawi in 1989, the Catholic Women’s Organisation, St James’ Parish Church and many others, not least the bright green, blue and white material created especially for the day. All the staff of JP11LITA and many supporters and members of St James’ had had shirts and dresses made especially for the occasion. An incident occurred when one of the poles supporting the roof fell over into an area at the front of the marquee where the children were sitting, but fortunately there did not appear to be any serious injuries, and the pole was quickly replaced and made secure.
On this day when John Paul 11 was beatified in Rome, the IT training college in Chilomoni which is named after him was blessed by the Archbishop, with at least two other bishops and several priests in attendance, including Father Remy from Rwanda, representing the area in which Krizevac plans to place its second cross on an African mountain. Apparently the plan is to erect 14 such crosses in 14 African countries by 2033, and to improve standards of living for those people resident in the areas surrounding the crosses. I followed the group participating in the ceremony of blessing the building as they moved from room to room. As they left the college building, they paused for a few moments for the Archbishop to unveil a plaque commemorating the occasion, and then returned to the steps of the admin building which was doing service as a robing room.
The green-clad part of the group separated from the bright, white group of clergy and altar boys, and slipped down the back steps to find their seats for the Mass. The Archbishop’s group processed down the central aisle of the Marquee, and the Mass began. The service lasted a couple of hours and was followed by speeches. The choir made a lovely joyful sound. The offertory caught my attention as I had not anticipated that a large proportion of it would be offerings in kind. There were bags of rice, all kinds of fruits and vegetables, chickens, trays and trays of eggs, cooking oil, wrapped parcels, even a suitcase. I would be interested to know what happens to all of these things? How are they distributed and to whom? The Mass was mostly in Chichewa and lasted a couple of hours. Speeches in English and Chichewa took up a further hour and a half or so. The time passed amazingly quickly and by the time we rose and began to file out of the covered area it was already nearly one o’clock and as the celebratory meal was scheduled for 12.30pm we moved towards the college building where the huge second floor library had been transformed into a light, airy dining room, decorated with white and gold balloons, white tablecloths and many more yards of the fabric of the day. The catering ladies had done a wonderful job and the meal was well-cooked, well-served and tasty.