Despite his passing away a century ago, the vision of one of the greatest missionaries, Abbot Francis lives on.
On Saturday, March 1, 2008, all roads led to Emmaus Mission in Umzimkulu, for the official opening of a new retreat centre at Abbot Francis’ last mission station.
The occasion was graced by the presence of His Eminence Cardinal Wilfred Napier, the Bishop of Mariannhill Diocese, Pius Dlungwane, the outgoing Bishop of Umtata Diocese, Oswald Hirmer and a multitude of priests and sisters from different congregations.
Addressing those gathered to witness the official opening of the 24-bed retreat centre, Fr Damian Weber, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill, CMM, reminded those gathered, particularly members of his congregation as well as those of the Congregation of the Missionaries Sisters of the Precious Blood, CPS, that Marianhill still had a mission to undertake and that its works were still incomplete.
Weber said that the Mission, where Abbot Francis spent his last days, was established by a pioneer of God who could not be held back by anything in whatever he wanted to achieve.
Abbot Francis is affectionately remembered for his saying: “If no one goes, I will go”, which marked the genesis of the Monastery of Marianhill and the subsequent diocese.
“The Retreat Centre that we are opening today, should not only be seen as a symbol to keep the spirit of Abbot Francis alive, but also to make the spirit fruitful,” said the charismatic Weber.
Cardinal Napier said any celebration was an opportunity to remember the past with gratitude for what God had done for us and at the same time focussing on the present.  He said it was also time to renew our commitments with enthusiasm and look forward to a bright future.
“Today’s celebrations remind us of the call that Abbot Francis had, to continue spreading the message of the gospel in our very places,” said Napier.
Sister Ingeborg Muller, the Superior General of CPS, said Emaus was not only the place where Abbot Francis spent the last years of his life but also it was the place where God moulded and purified him to become a saintly man whom the members of Mariannhill loved and respected very much.
‘What a place could be more fitting for us CPS sisters and CMM brothers to renew our commitment and our dedication to our missionary calling, our re-commitment to our missionary service and availability for God and his kingdom, than Emaus Retreat Centre” said Muller.
While for some, the official opening of Emaus meant the emergence of another spiritual and retreat centre in this poverty-stricken area, for local people the occasion was a confirmation of one of the greatest achievements of Emaus as far as infrastructure development and job creation opportunities were concerned.
The people from the area said the opening of Emaus Retreat Centre area was a sign that the spirit of Abbot Francis was still alive. They said the centre would also help attract tourism as visitors would now have a place to call home away from home.
“We the people of Emmaus Mission are very pleased and happy with the development because since its inception the project has offered job opportunities to many unemployed residents of this area,” said Mbuyiselo Miya, a member of Emaus parish council.
Miya said the official opening of the centre was a challenge to the government to live up to its promises of providing better life for all through the provision of necessary infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Lawton, the Director of MJL Projects, the company responsible for the building of the heritage centre, said the construction of Emaus Mission was a wonderful development that would be remembered for many years to come.
Lawton said besides the Emaus Retreat Centre other projects, including the revamping of the water supply system, the building of a new parish house and the conversion of the current parish house were also being carried out.

Veröffentlicht: 02.03.2008