By Fr. Matthew Madziva
These were the priests of Gweru with two of them ending up being raised to the office of the bishop. The three of them, however, had their origins in the now Masvingo Diocese. All of them had different gifts and charisma. This writing is coming up mainly because of the writer’s stay with the one who never became a bishop but was a real pastor whose name was Xavier Seremani this prompted this writer to take interest in the other priests who have departed who shared the same name with Xavier Seremani. It was then that the other two names who pastured the Diocese of Gweru came in. The contribution of these two as shepherds is invaluable so too is the contribution of Fr Xavier Seremani Marimazhira. I will start with Bishop Francis Xavier Mugadzi followed by Sekuru Xavier JM Munyongani and Fr Xavier Seremani Marimazhira last.
What’s in a Name?
When we come across two or three people walking in one direction, agreeing on most things and having the same mannerisms we are mesmerized and perturbed at the same time. If things such as these can be a surprise and be considered miraculous, what about people with the same name, same vocation, and in the same diocese coming from the same region? These are the people this piece of work sets to present as a celebration to the Diocese of Gweru. This also will help us to get a feel of the glorious past as we celebrate the present with the hope of a more glorious future both in the militant or pilgrim and in the triumphant Church. One thing that we cannot miss is the nagging question of what’s in a name. This brings us to the idea that when you are just reflecting upon your names especially the first and the middle ones if you happen to have them. Ask yourself what each means and finally what they mean when brought together on you as your identity. From there you can move to ask yourself who gave them to you. It is from there that you will have a glimpse of despair, hope, aspiration, and/or the burden bestowed on you by the one who gave the name. You may discover that you are a love letter to someone or mobile anger of someone. Anger incarnate. In families, the mother has every reason to be worried when the husband insists on giving a girl child a name that has no connection with any of the family members’ names. This could be an opportunity for him to bring back a girlfriend lost, through the back door. The child becomes the darling of the husband the same as the mother insisting on giving a boy child a name. A name, therefore, is a crystallization of an idea. Any idea or a universal essence or subtonic or nature takes local habitation through a name. To know it is to have control over it, as it were. Is this not what God meant when He asked Adam to name the animals (cf. Genesis 2:20). This is not meant to be a heavy reading but a celebration of some of our cherished early pillars in terms of building the local Church in the Catholic Diocese of Gweru. Zita ndiro munhu, hence, it is unfortunate to hold like the nominalists that names are mere words that have no living connection to universal ideas.
Who is this Saint Xavier in the history of the Church?
There is no doubt that these three’s name was influenced either by a priest or brother or a saint whom the parents never knew but were told about. The other way to look at it could be that these names were given at baptism. Among the big names of saints is Francis Xavier. He was a Navarrese Catholic Missionary and a saint who was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He is renowned as the most prolific missionary in Roman Catholic history. He was instrumental in the establishment of Christianity in India, the Malay Archipelago, and Japan. He is estimated to have baptized 30 000 converts in his lifetime. Miracles attributed to him among them are raising a dead person to life and exorcism. He converted around 100 Japanese to Christianity by discovering points of convergence between Christian teaching and Buddhism. Converting Japanese is not a mean fit even now most of them are following what is traditionally theirs.
Sekuru Francis Xavier Mugadzi
A man born in the Renco Mine area. He was soft-spoken and had mastered the English language so well. Sekuru Xavier Mugadzi liked jokes so much. He enjoyed telling these jokes at the table. Sekuru Xavier used to play chess and draft.
He became bishop after the demise of Right Reverend Bishop Tobias Wunganai Chiginya in a car accident. Bishop Chiginya had founded the congregation of Saint Paul Brothers. Bishop Mugadzi, according to Father Mashonganyika, assumed the role of Superior General and also acted as the co-founder of the congregation. His main focus was to promote the vocation of the brothers and to give it a new status. Sekuru Mugadzi as Fr Mashonganyika attests, “a vocation to brotherhood is a unique calling whose expression is neither above nor below any other ministry in the Church.”
Today, the vision of the brothers is to equip the brothers with relevant skills that will enable them to make a contribution to the universal mission of the Church. If you look without good glasses, you will judge otherwise, but thanks to the vision of their founders, in the spirit of value creation, they aim at strengthening their spiritual base, while at the same time recognizing the value of education, as they move with the signs of the times. That indeed is the new way of being Church.
He was described by his Vicar General, Fr Alphonce Mapfumo, at his funeral as a “man who over-consulted.” He used to boast of his skills in administration. He was humble enough to acknowledge his weakness on the pastoral side in comparison to suchlike Fr Regis Rubaya. He used to vocalize it quite a lot. This man was the first to the Diocese of Gweru through a diocesan synod, which articulated the achievements and gave a big nod in the area of inculturation in the light of the Church in Africa (Ecclesia in Africae). He worked very closely with Fr Peter Mashokoawanda Chapwanya to achieve this. It was a good achievement but it did not help the Diocese of Gweru much, because Sekuru Mugadzi did not live long after that. The achievement was not owned by the diocese as a whole and the transition was not handled well. It should have been raised to a rite, canonically so as to be binding.
Sekuru Xavier Munyongani
Sekuru Xavier Munyongani was born in the Gutu area, went to Serima for his secondary studies, and went to the Regional Seminary Chishawasha for his priestly training. He was ordained after completing his studies and went for the pastoral experience. He worked briefly in the Diocese of Gweru before it was later divided to form the Diocese of Masvingo. Sekuru Munyongani worked as a director of Saint Paul Brothers(SPB) from 1983-1985. He went for further studies in Rome and Germany.
He was a man of many talents, he would preach and sing at mass. He was a man of little diplomacy, though, as far as those issues concerning priests. He did not choose a private place to point out that something was wrong. He would just burst it out, he, however, did not keep grudges and was quick to ask for forgiveness. He was a jovial man and was a darling of the faithful. He was so humorous that his homilies were littered with jokes, and as soon as people finished laughing he would bring his point home and it would sink immediately.
History, Fr Xavier Seremani Marimazhira
Fr. Xavier Marimazhira was born on 17 February 1936. He was ordained on 28 August 1966. He died on 4 September 2004.
All his saying depicted deep thinking and even African Philosophy which remains untapped because people still believe that there is no depth in anything African. Josef Schmidlin in Missiologist in Muster did not see anything good in the dark African continent. For him, those of a fairer complexion in Africa especially those in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya were better than those in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Those of SSA were cultureless, therefore, incapable of religion. They knew no love and their children are there to be sold as goods under the wider banner of slavery. This is an outright shift of blame from the perpetrator of slavery to the victim. Hence, could not be considered human but goods. This was all prejudice written by a veteran missiologist but a novice in African soil issues. African philosophy is enshrined in the literature of African writers like Chinua Achebe, Soyinka, Dambudzo Marechera, Patrick Chakaipa, and others. This philosophy, however, is also found in the economy of African adages, proverbs, idioms, and sayings. Fr Xavier is in the same class as those authors mentioned above but more so as a pragmatist than a writer. He, however, authored the script of Vakapfuura Nepano Co Vadis which he presented as a short film, and the booklet entitled Tsanga yeMastadhi (Masterd Seed) which he authored to assist the associations and guilds, especially the Mbuya Anna association. Fr Xavier lived with and tried to mould and animate others through these sayings. These sayings are in his mother tongue, no effort was put to look for their English equivalent, and this is deliberate.
Muvhimi haazezi mumwe muvhimi
In this, is hidden the idea that people should continue to try even if the idea has been tried before, the same way a hunter should not say, is not going to hunt because another hunter has been in the same bush hunting before him or her. On this earth, everyone is a hunter and should continue to hunt for survival in this garden of life bestowed on us by the Good Lord.
Zvinodya shiri zvizhinji
This is quite deep for this writer. It is not quite clear what Fr Xavier meant. Did he mean that there is plenty of food for the birds or there are many creatures that feed on birds? Whatever he meant the baseline was he was talking about people, not birds. This could, therefore, mean that there are many things that may preoccupy a person. It is not in place, therefore to think ill of a person who did not turn up for a function. The truth is that we do not know what made them fail to make it. The principle is not to blame in ignorance. Do not blame anyone if not privy to their situation. Get all the facts to arm yourself enough to blame someone, failure to do so the blamer will shoulder the blame when the truth presents itself. This could point to issues of survival or cases that can run down or ruin someone.
Anotengesa shambo anotodzishambadza
Shambo is a grass wristlet or bangle. This fits in a business sphere and environment. The one who is selling shambo has to advertise and market it to get a buyer. Selling comes together with advertising. If there is no marketing, there is no selling and eventually no buyer. One has to advertise and market whatever one is selling even the word of God. Jesus sent his disciples into the whole world to market his product of salvation, “Go ye into the world (Mark 16:15). If one wants people to accept it one should be able to package it well and make a sale. Marketing cannot be left to a third party, an illustrative but weird example is of sex workers, they do not take it for granted that clients should discover them by chance, but they go all out to market their product. They do that with a straight face, they are not ashamed. Why not learn from the sons of darkness Jesus may ask us (cf. Luke 16:8)?
Ndodzokono ndoti hakasi kokutanga
Fr Xavier was always skeptical when one had done something unusual, say stealing. It would take a person unprecedented defense to convince him that it was the first time the person is doing that. for him, things would not just start from the blue, a child gives birth to an adult. Father Andrews Thekekara SJ would say to us in class “in the lost boyhood of Judas, Jesus was betrayed.” Does this mean that the crime which manifests itself in the adult Pasi was committed in his childhood? Food for thought. Does this have a history? The correctional measures would not mean much if that background is not put to the table. He was not interested in curing symptoms but in the root cause. I want to think that Fr Marimazhira meant there is a strong reason that learned habits that are bad have the tendency to recur.
Kana wakura uchaona zvandakaona
There are things young people take for granted because they are young/of their age. Adults do many things that the young ones look down upon because they consider them archaic or ignoble, which, they will only be able to appreciate when they are adults as well. It is like a person on a journey that has already been covered by someone who can only appreciate the distance between points A and B.
This sounds like corruption or a tip in modern business trends, but in this case, it is a token of appreciation given to a person after a service, which involves mediation. It is in his culture to give a token of appreciation when someone does something for another. Vana mbuya / bogogo would give a handful of peanuts after shelling them as an incentive not to eat during the process, they called this manongora nzara (literally, healing or pricking or removing dirt from the nails). When something good has been done for one, one has to show some appreciation. It is some kind of commission allotted to the one who markets something.
For there was some behavior expected of one given responsibility over children, clan, or even Diocese in the event of the death of a mother, father, chief, or bishop. This person is also expected to be available for his/her charges in a manner of responsibility befitting the office of the deceased. This was done in a way that does not allow the family to feel the gap left by the deceased. He would expect some level of behavior commensurate with the office, if a priest, brother, or sister then behave like one. Every office has its expectations.
He is saying sit on two, and these two figuratively, are what Fr. Peter Chapwanya would call maturo, buttocks. Sitting on one implies that one is still going further and is in some kind of a lay-by. Pamusasa, temporary pitched shelter. Hence, this would mean that one should behave not as a stranger who is passing by but as a person who is at home. The person who is sitting on two would strive to make his/her place livable, doing all the chores necessary to improve the situation, a thing that cannot be done by a passerby.
He (Fr X Marimazhira) is said to have gone with a seminarian to an outstation for pastoral work, then on their way back decided to have a stopover at one of the local townships. They bought some drinks, Fr Xavier took down his drink very fast, and the seminarian too followed the speed. Fr Xavier instructed him to reduce the speed since he intended to take another one. In Shona it comes out clearly, “Imwa zvako zvakanaka ini ndichapamha rimwe”. It was in line with his philosophy, imitate only what is good, do not take everything from your model, hook, line, and sinker. Some prudence is necessary when dealing with or even eating with elders. There is no organization of equals no matter how much we may try to be liberal and say ordination equalizes the ordained. Sit on your chair.
Taking a braai with the old Mujamba shortcut for Mujambajecha (his nickname), he would say out of the blue “vakomana munodhuva kutedzvemukira pamunobhasvopa.” Kana makanditarira munoti ndabva kuchigayo here, when there was a case of suicide by a priest in Chinhoyi he said Baba kana ndaiti ndikatadza ndozvisungirira ndingadai ndakafa kangani? (meaning– suicide is not a panacea for the challenges of life). There is a way or solution to every problem, and taking one’s life is not one of them. Handina kuzvarwa nezuro elders have the wisdom that emanates from their experiences. No wonder why people say ‘experience is a great teacher.’ When elders observe that you are too argumentative, they say une nharo rukonyo, hence the person could get their advice after getting into trouble, they say benzi ritsiudze rodzoka richaenda rinoti ishaisano. A highly polemical or disputatious figure or individual has to be given a warning afterward because they do not believe unless they experience it, but the results may be disastrous, to say the least. In other words, he was saying it is more beneficial to listen to your elders than to wantonly oppose them.
Baba munoziva ndino ndinozivisa vanenge vatishanyira
If I don’t, don’t then say Baba hamuna kundizivisa kuti avo ndiyani. I introduce every visitor who comes here if I do not do that know that there is a reason I am not doing it. Prudence should then be your guide. In the name of chizvino zvino we want to pry and poke our noses into other people’s privacy. A right to privacy is enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013, section no.57. The Church recognizes the freedom of conscience which the same Constitution of Zimbabwe embraces under Freedom of Conscience in the same chapter as above part 2, no.60.
He was so particular about how people ‘view us’ in a community. When the visitors had gone he would point out what he would view to be inconsistent with our call in the face of the visitors, Baba hatinyarari kana pauya vaenzi, chero tanga takatsamwisana tinotaura kana vaenda togona kuenderera mberi zvedu. We do not do anything that will be interpreted by our guests as bad blood between us. We preach peace, friendliness, and fraternity even if we know that we are at war with each other. Hospitality calls for guests to go out with a pleasant picture and be ambassadors of goodwill. Put a good portrait in your picture frame.
This was in line with the way he would dress whenever he was doing his official duty as a priest he would put on a cassock and would not visit a public office without a clerical shirt. He would say munhu ngaakurambire zvawafambira asi iwe uri in full combat. Let them say no or turn down your request in the full knowledge of who you are and what you stand for, was one of his main dish mottos.
His Relations workmates
Fr Xavier would say to his fellow workmates and associates “this is our home and our work; let us try to make it better every day.” His approach was more communal than individualistic. It pleased him to say that “our work should be our witness when we are gone.” On seeing “our signature others should say they passed this way, the Vakapfuura Napano notion co vadice.”
His relations with Priests in Diocese
He was a real consulter of the bishop for most of his time as a priest. He had a sharp mind and yet remained very simple and pragmatic. He had a functional Church at heart. Fr Xavier would always cooperate with the bishop and tried to assist wherever and whenever he could. He was always positive. He would give constructive criticism where necessary, and was never cynical.
Priests were brothers and friends to him. He would do his best to make a fellow priest comfortable. Fr Xavier was not in the business of talking ill about a fellow priest. He would defend a priest to the teeth in public no matter whether he was wrong or right, but if something were wrong, he would later go and talk to the priest concerned about the challenges observed about him by the people. He could fit all ages without losing himself. Fr Xavier associated well with others regardless of age. He had words of wisdom whenever you met him.
His Relations with Priests in the Country
Fr Xavier would not rest after learning that his fellow priest was struggling with something in any given area in the country. He would mobilize his own resources, pay a visit to that priest regardless of age, and try his best to leave him comfortable to carry out his priestly duties. If it meant talking to that priest’s local ordinary for him to serve the Church free of disturbance he would do.
For him, a priest was ordained for the Church though he has not to be a vagabond priest. A priest was a priest for all times, people, and places. He would attend to non-Catholics if they needed his hand as though his life depended on it. He would never neglect his flock. His heart was ever with them and would give them instructions that would carry them through and through. His homilies were never short of catechetical instructions. His belief was that faith should go together with understanding, though finally, faith should have an upper hand. He discouraged blind faith, hence his emphasis on catechesis.
His Relations with Sisters
Sisters who stayed with him were his ‘blood sisters’ and friends. He stayed with them as family and insisted that they (the sister and himself together) be an exemplary family in the parish for the faithful to emulate. He believed what Ecclesia in Africa and Africae Munus teach us seeing the Church as a Family of God. Fr Xavier strongly believed that their peaceful stay and where possible their prayers and other celebrations would give testimony to their beliefs more than pulpit witness. Witness is not simply a dimension of the church but an expression of evangelization. This would qualify him as an effective minister of religion who was both efficient and relevant.
His Relations with Seminarians
Giving a retreat at Chishawasha Major Seminary he found out that one of the toilets was blocked and people were shunning from using that toilet. He called a few of the seminarians on retreat and went with them to the toilet. On arrival, he folded the long sleeves of his white shirt and cassock and he dipped his bare hand into the chamber and unblocked the toilet. He washed his hand and came back to the retreat room to talk about the temporal goods of the Church and their care. That was a powerful example which never left my mind, it left a deep impression in me which no lecture could ever give no matter how well researched it was.
His Relations with the laity
Fr Xavier had a clear role of the laity in the church. He would explain it with an amazing clarity. The model of the Church that he had was that of the People of God. The vibrant laity would mean a living Church for him but at parish council meetings he insisted that the laity had a consultative vote and voice. For him any other understanding would lead into chaos. The laity could contribute and debate issues freely in the spirit of prayer and offer recommendations as experts in their own fields but they should know that theirs was a consultative vote. By hindsight, is this in line with the spirit of synod on Synodality?
His Relations with the Church
He loved the church so much that, he would always be looking for ways that would improve it without compromising the Church teaching and doctrines. For him good preparation for catechumen, the guilds, associations, and those preparing for the sacrament of marriage would result in a living green Church.
Vakapfuura Napano, a video and the Tsanga yeMastard and he was also known for building or improving grotto wherever he went or was assigned to by the bishop. His interest in building grotto could point to his relationship with our Mother Mary. He was instrumental in the building of guilds and associates both in the Diocese of Gweru and at national level.
Fr Xavier like any other priests had his challenges but he would make sure that a priest assigned to him for pastoral experience would get the best he could offer and so prepared for the time he would stay alone. He would have his assistant in all meetings and in many occasions invite the assistant priest to come in on the issue at table. The assistant priest would then get his genuine feedback after the meeting concerning his contribution. He would never attend a parish meeting without a cassock or visit a secular office without a clerical shirt.
He had a passion for Mai Maria (Our Mother Mary) exemplified and evidenced by his passion for grottos in all the places of assignment and appointment. He would go for beautiful plans of grotto and beautiful flowers surrounding the statue.