The Archbishop of Harare, Robert Christopher Ndlovu officially launched the new liturgical “Year of Consecrated Life” in a packed Sacred Heart Cathedral in Harare on the 5th of December 2014.

The Year of Consecrated Life was proclaimed by Pope Francis and started on 30 November 2014  and will stretch for 14 months to the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, 2 February 2016, which is the World Day of Consecrated Life.

There is a three pronged focus to the celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life as pointed in the letter written by the Pope to the universal Church:  “renewal for men and women in consecrated life, thanksgiving among the faithful for the service of sisters, brothers, priests, and nuns and an invitation to young Catholics to consider a religious vocation.”

In his homily at the launch in Harare, Archbishop Ndlovu hailed the work done by the religious and remembered the words of his predecessor and former Hwange Bishop, Ignatius Praetor SMI, who once said, “a diocese without the Religious is like a train without a locomotives.”

He acknowledged the great works done by the religious from the 19th century in this country, when the first 11 Jesuits – five priests and six brothers first arrived in Zimbabwe.

He spoke of one particular missionary, who used to cycle for 230kms to serve Archbishop’s community in the olden days, the same priest who actually baptised his mother. “Sometimes you wonder if those Religious were made by of the same substance that makes you and me today.

“The Year of Consecrated Life offers us an opportunity to honour such heroes and heroines of our local Church and we should also feel challenged and inspired by the zeal they had in making Christ present in the communities through preaching the word and by the example of their lives as Religious”, said the Archbishop.

He encouraged the Religious congregations – 42 of them in Zimbabwe today – to re-look at their recruitment and formation programmes, saying mistakes in these processes create time bombs not only for the Religious congregation that wrongly recruited, but for the whole Church.

“I believe that every Religious congregation should seriously examine its recruitment policy and formation programme during this year with the view to ensure that it prepares itself to meet both the challenges of the present and the future.

“Most problems in the Church today come from accepting men who are unsuitable for Priesthood. There is a temptation to take a candidate without proper discernment…the scramble for vocations among the religious orders has come to resemble a fishing competition. It is at times without discernment.”

“We have to be careful because when we get ourselves unsuitable people, they are simply ticking time bombs. They are an accident waiting to happen, and unfortunately the damage will injure the whole Church, the whole body of Christ.”

Archbishop Ndlovu also shared on modern threats to religious vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, saying contrary to media reports on the rise in sex scandals in the Church, the most difficult vow to keep now for most consecrated people is the vow of obedience. He said, people are misunderstanding the concept of freedom in their religious life, extending it to choosing which of the three vows to keep. The second most abused vow is the vow of poverty, and he said it is common to see religious people with private bank accounts and owning property.

In his concluding remarks, the Archbishop praised the work of the Religious men and women in the Zimbabwean schools, hospitals, child care homes and parishes and said that work must be further consolidated in the Year of Consecrated Life.

Acting Secretary for Conference of Major Religious Congregations in Zimbabwe, Fr Brian Enright SJ, said there are a number of events and programmes lined up for the year, aiming at bringing unity of purpose among the Religious Congregations, and with the diocesean clergy.