If you happen to find yourself at the shrine of the Mother of Mercy you are still in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg even though you may see a lot of cars with the North West Province number plate. It was at that shrine on the 17th of October 2023 that the Dean of the West Deanary, Fr. Emmanuel Wafula, welcomed the Archbishop of Johannesburg, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, and the priests who are working in parishes in the Archdiocese.
Fr. Wafula thanked the Archbishop for deciding to have a meeting of priests in the West Deanary, especially at the Shrine, which some priests were seeing for the first time. The meeting started with a praying together of the morning prayer, which was followed by the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. During that adoration the new episcopal vicar for liturgy Fr. Tshepo Duik, who was leading the adoration, gave a short reflection on the synod after praying the prayer for the synod.
After the adoration and benediction Archbishop Tlhagale gave a short talk on the purpose of meeting at the shrine. That talk was preceded by something he said on Mary role in redemption of humanity and her role in the lives of the faithful. In talking about Mary’s role the Archbishop decried the lack of proper language that he could use to describe the role of Mary as a co-redemptorist. He said not that without her God would not have found a way for redemption, but now that God has chosen a way that involves her there’s a need to highlight her importance. He emphasized again the problem of the limitedness of the language in describing the role of Mary in that one runs a risk of making her a god, a 4th God, or understating her importance in the history of salvation.
Continuing on Mary Archbishop Tlhagale said the second thing that makes Mary outstanding for him is that he has been to Lourdes once, and saw sick people on stretchers all over the place, in all shapes and forms. “I don’t think you have seen human pain until you have seen those faces, twisted all around but still having this faith that by going to Lourdes they will drink the water there and be healed,” said the Archbishop. So much faith that if you are not moved by it you will never be moved by anything. He noted that if you are not moved by that sight of so many people in pain nothing will ever move you. “That’s when you realise that many believe strongly in the intervention of Mary,” added that archbishop as he commented to the faith of friends and family that take their sick loved ones to Lourdes. Talking about the pain he saw he added that pain is always an individual pain, even though others may share and sympathise. “So when many people believe the intervention of this Lady in that particular moment of their lives there’s nothing better than that.”
The prelate said he understand himself that in many shrines around the world where people go they are driven by their faith in this one lady. Archbishop Tlhagale said people understand that in someway or another Mary keeps the company kings, the company of God, has access to kings, she has access to God. “And that’s why people believe in her that she can whisper a word and things will be done. And for some people it has happened just like that” noted the Archbishop. He stated that people go to shrines to pray for her intervention in their own lives, “and so this explains the role of a Shrines in a community, in a diocese.”
Archbishop Tlhagale said in almost every diocese there a shrine, and in Johannesburg there was no shrine and that is why they thought it might be good to bring the people of the diocese together to realise the intervention of Mary and the role of Mary in their lives. “And so a shrine does not need a miracle to happen before. There is no miracle here, that is not why we are building a shrine,” cautioned the Archbishop adding that the shrine is being built because a miracle will happen to somebody there.
“We are appealing to your own fidelity to Mary that together we can encourage people in our diocese,” urged the Archbishop. He said it is a tradition in the Catholic Church that people go in pilgrimage to ask Mary’s intervention, even though they go to Mass every Sunday. “I hope that this place will achieve that, for ourselves as priests and the people of the diocese.”
This is the third year since the building started even though the project was born in 2010 with a search for a place to build a shrine. The Archbishop is hoping that by end of December the shrine will be finish. He took a walk around the place with the priests so they can see the progress made so far and what is still left to be done.