By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
Fr. Fradereck Chiromba bids farewell as the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference after having been at its helm for 19 years. Fr. Chiromba who was described by many as a bumble man, a visionary and a voice of reason was appointed to the post of ZCBC Secretary General in 2004.
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference Secretariat on 16 December 2022, honoured him with a heart renting farewell that was attended by the Papal representative to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Paolo Rudelli, ZCBC President Rt. Rev Paul Horan, Bishop Raymond Mupandasekwa of Chinhoyi, Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Gweru, Archbishop Alex Thomas of Bulawayo, Bishop Emeritus Angelo Floro and the former ZCBC Secretary General, Fr. Walter Nyatsanza. Representatives of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS) in Zimbabwe, led by Sr. Madeline Chapisa also attended the occasion as well as the Heads of Christian Denominations ZHOCD, Fr. Chiromba’s family members, Seminary rectors, priests and religious and the leadership of the laity.
Speaker after speaker showered Fr. Chiromba with praises for shaping the ZCBC Secretariat and for his contribution to the development of the church in Zimbabwe. He was also commented for creating a platform for dialogue between the Church and the government leadership in an effort to find solutions to the country’s problems. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) General Secretary, Pastor Travor Masuku, stressed that Fr. Chiromba was the voice of reason who participated and guided the formation of the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations.
“Fr. Chiromba was a voice of reason for ZHOCD as he gently guided the organization’s initiatives. He united the churches, making sure that Church bodies remained pastorally focused in their engagement with the government,” said Pastor Masuku.
His words were also echoed by UDACIZA Secretary General Rev Innocent Chitanda who pointed out that Fr. Chiromba promoted ecumenism among the Churches in the country.
The former ZCBC Secretary General Fr. Walter Nyatsanza described Fr. Chiromba as an obedient and hardworking man who stood his ground in defending the mind of the Church. Fr. Nyatsanza stated that the role of the ZCBC Secretary General is to be the mouth piece of the bishops and to represent the Church locally, regionally and internationally. According to Fr. Nyatsanza, Fr. Chiromba coordinated the local church’s vision and mission and communicated it through publication of pastoral letters that articulate the mind of the church in promoting and defending human rights.
“His legacy is the manner in which he implemented the proclamations of the bishops. He is an intelligent and obedient man and his obedience landed him in the post of Secretary General for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference,” said Fr. Nyatsanza
The Papal Nuncio praised Fr. Chiromba for being alive to the needs of the Church and for being a conduit between the local Church and the universal Church. The Nuncio said Fr. Chiromba promoted communion and friendships in the Church. He also said Fr. Chiromba was instrumental in following events unfolding in the country and always kept the bishops and the entire Church informed about the changing political, economic and pastoral trends. He wished him well and asked him to continue serving the church in his new assignment.
Bishop Paul Horan thanked Fr. Chiromba for being faithful in serving the Church as the Secretary General. He also expressed gratitude to the ZCBC staff for being supportive to Fr. Chiromba and to the work of the Church.
Fr. Chiromba expressed gratitude to the ZCBC Secretariat staff, national Coordinators and the funding partners and all bishops for the cordial relationships and collaboration during his tenure.
“I thank all the funding partners we have worked with over the years and have supported the local Church. I thank the Secretariat Staff for the wonderful collaboration over the years. It will not be easy to forget some of insights and jokes we shared even through very hard times. The initial years were not easy as we worked on the structures and systems for the Secretariat,” Fr. Chiromba said.
He also acknowledged other church bodies in Zimbabwe for the ecumenical partnerships that strengthened the role of the Church and its relationship with civil society.
He said: “I thank all our ecumenical partners and members of the interreligious council present here today. The pastoral focus of the Catholic Church has been supported by the Synodal process, which concludes in 2024 but hopefully will become the way of life of the Church.”
Fr. Chiromba worked tirelessly with other Church leaders in engaging with civil society and the diplomatic community in working towards the Zimbabwe We Want and fostering international relationships. Through it all, Fr. Chiromba said, we were not hesitant in expressing our Catholic faith and the Social Teaching of the Church.
He wished his successor, Fr. Tryvis Moyo the best in undertaking the duties assigned to him by ZCBC.
“We are not equal nor can we compare ourselves to these great men but Moses handed over leadership to Joshua, Isaiah to Jeremiah, Elijah to Elisha and so on. The harvest is rich but the labourers are few. I wish Fr. Tryvis Moyo and all the ZCBC Staff every blessing and success,” he said.
For the full version of Fr. Fradereck Chiromba’s Farewell Speech, please see below;
All Protocol observed.
Someone reminded me recently that farewell moments are bitter/sweet moments. Today I face such a moment in my 19th year at the Secretariat. I thank the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference for granting me three maximum terms as Secretary General. Each maximum term for a Secretary General is six years.
When I was appointed in 2004 I thought I would only be here for six months. I thought of all the good students I had trained at Chishawasha the previous 14 years and I said, couldn’t the Bishops choose one of them to be Secretary General. However, once I was in the post I realized why the Bishops wanted someone more mature as Secretary General. The work of the Secretary General stretches from the Secretariat to the whole universe. Over the years we have collaborated with Government in humanitarian work, education, health, accountability, gender justice, peace work and so on. We have engaged with civil society and the diplomatic community in working towards the Zimbabwe We Want and fostering international relationships. Through it all, we were not hesitant in expressing our Catholic faith and the Social Teaching of the Church.
Most of my early years were taken up in trying to analyze the political situation for the Conference. I suspect it was because of this that the Conference kept me so long as they wanted some continuity.
In recent years the priority of the Conference has become more pastoral. What with the diminishing numbers of Catholics and the emergence of numerous Pentecostal and indigenous Churches. I thank all our ecumenical partners and members of the interreligious council present here today. The pastoral focus of the Catholic Church has been supported by the Synodal process, which concludes in 2024 but hopefully will become the way of life of the Church.
I thank all the funding partners we have worked with over the years and have supported the local Church.
I thank the Secretariat Staff for the wonderful collaboration over the years. It will not be easy to forget some of insights and jokes we shared even through very hard times. The initial years were not easy as we worked on the structures and systems for the Secretariat. Thank God no-one died in the process. Any change always brings its own challenges. It was not easy to get everyone to embrace the Caritas Management standards, to foster transparency and accountability. Nevertheless, we got through the process and today many funding partners appreciate the structures and systems at the Secretariat and are willing to fund our projects. For the first time this year I saw an auditor return an audit report that said we did not find any negative issues at the Secretariat. I thank all the National Coordinators, Human Resources and the Finance Department for the good work, some of which is done well beyond working hours, without asking for overtime payment. At the Secretariat, we have long since understood that work is about results and not about the ticking clock. A number of faithful clock watchers will keep gazing at the clock as it ticks, looking forward to bolting out at knock off time. Work has since changed from being a clock watching affair to being value that you deliver. For this reason, I did not complain when some commissions would wake me up at midnight to sign some documents electronically. I am glad that we have delivered over the past years.
I thank the ancillary staff for their dedication, sense of duty and punctuality. I would always find them at work when I arrived for work. I like to be first to arrive. The Parishes where I worked, Braeside, St. Martin’s, St. Agnes, St. Theresa can bear testimony that most of the time I would be waiting for the Parishioners to arrive. Some of them beat me though occasionally. Thank you for being here today and the wonderful singing. But the ancillary staff at Synod House always beat me. I must mention in a special way our maid at Chikore house who worked behind the scenes most of the time, making sure that we were well fed and presentable. Thank you. Br. Anthony Saga, my personal assistant, has excelled in his duties, putting himself at the service of the whole Church. He is one man who serves everyone, including women with due respect. Thank you.
I am grateful to the Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Paolo Rudelli and all Nuncios I have worked with over the years and have been very supportive. So too other Conferences both continental and international, who were ever conscious of our predicament and were always ready to assist both spiritually and financially.
As I conclude let me acknowledge that it has not been possible to thank everyone in this short speech. On many occasions I had to delegate my work to various individuals and groups and they were always very supportive. Special mention needs to be made of the Catholic Professionals. I thank you all as I thank our Bishops for accepting professional advice and guidance.
Once again, I am grateful to the Conference for granting me a very long tenure. I thank Fr. Walter Nyatsanza, my predecessor as Secretary General, who introduced me to the office. I wish all the best for my successor, Fr. Tryvis Moyo. We are not equal nor can we compare ourselves to these great men but Moses handed over to Joshua, Isaiah to Jeremiah, Elijah to Elisha and so on. The harvest is rich but the labourers are few. I wish Fr. Tryvis Moyo and all the ZCBC Staff every blessing and success in the coming years.
I thank you.