By Bishop Neil Frank, OMI (Diocese of Marianhill, South Africa)
OMI bishops from South Africa began their pilgrimage by spending a few days at the General House where they met the Superior General.
The pilgrimage to Rome for the SACBC (Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference) Ad Limina visit for the 5 OMI bishops from South Africa began with a few days spent at the General House. It was a spontaneous agreement among us to plan this prelude to the Ad Limina. It reflects the Oblate connectedness we have deep in our hearts; and the gratitude we feel for all that the congregations has given to us, making us who we are today in the Church.
The founder was appointed a bishop and his charism still inspires us in our episcopal ministry. It was meaningful to spend an evening with the Superior General and some members of the general council. It was a moment of fraternal sharing and mutual appreciation for our vocations in the Church. We expressed our desires to gather all the OMI Bishops for an event, maybe in 2026 when the congregation celebrates the 200th anniversary of papal approbation.
Our Ad Limina visit had a very compact programme of meetings with the dicasteries and other Vatican entities. We remembered that Ad Limina is essentially a spiritual pilgrimage; not meetings. The Masses and visits to the tomb to St Peter and to St Paul were the most meaningful. Our episcopal ministry draws its strength from the heart of these two apostles. To think of ourselves in the line of succession, with the same mission is both humbling and energising. We could lay the concerns for our local churches and the prayers for our personal strength at the mercy of their intercession.
The highlight of the visit was our hoped-for but unexpected meeting with the Holy Father, the living ‘Peter’ at the head of the earthly church. This gift was granted to us only a few hours after the Holy Father was discharged from hospital. The informally arranged meeting took place in the chapel of Domus Santa Marta and signified for us the unity we have with the Holy Father in the leadership of service to all. It gave fulfilment to our spiritual pilgrimage to Rome. He spoke to us about being close to God in deep prayer, being close to one another in the episcopal fraternity, being close to our priests in our dioceses and being close the people.
It was a tiring week, with much walking and listening and discussion. We enjoyed being together as the SACBC bishops. Our bond of friendship was deepened during this time. As Oblates, we missed not saying “Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate” after singing the Salve Regina and other common prayers.
( Photos courtesy of Bishop Stanislaw Dziuba)