Catholics on Likoma and Chizumulu islands were on Thursday overjoyed with the first ever visit by a Catholic Bishop to Likoma District.
Defying all odds and phobia for sea travel, Bishop John Ryan of Mzuzu Diocese arrived at Mbamba on Likoma Island around 11:30 am aboard MV Chambo with a mission to preside over confirmation for 27 boys and girls at St. Matthews Catholic Church.
In the spirit of unity between the Catholic and Anglican churches, Dean for Anglican Diocese Father Peter Binga led a group of Catholic women, men, youths and Sunday school children who gathered at the docking site to welcome Bishop Ryan.
After exchanging handshakes with most of them, Bishop Ryan accompanied by Father Mark Mkandawire and Father Archangel Nkhata proceeded to the Anglican Bishop’s House where they were to stay until Saturday.
Ryan, who was consecrated Bishop of Mzuzu Diocese in August 2016, made history as the first Catholic Bishop to visit the island district which has two churches still under St. Joseph Parish of Nkhata Bay District.
Likoma District has a comparatively small population of Catholics largely because most people are Anglican owing to the early missionaries that settled on the island in 1890s under the University Churches of Central Africa (UMCA).
Though small in numbers, the Likoma Catholic Church has grown from two people in 1971 to over 100 members.
The first Christians to be baptized into the Catholic Church on the island were Montfort Pheluka and Luka Mkongola in 1971.
In his sermon during the ceremony, which coincided with the birthday of the Virgin Mary, Bishop Ryan emphasized the need for Christians to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in their lives.
“Mary cooperated with the spirit to bring forth Jesus our savior. We, too, at diocese level need to cooperate with the spirit.
“Similarly, you here at church level also need to cooperate with the Spirit. And also, most importantly, in your families as a nuclear unit, you need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit,” Ryan said.
He explained that the sacrament of confirmation is significant because the faithful receive all gifts of the Holy Spirit just as did the apostles; therefore, resisting the Spirit is counterproductive.
The bishop thanked the Anglican Diocese of Northern Malawi for always working together with the Catholic Church in pastoral work and provision of social services in the areas of education and health, among others.
“We the Catholics and Anglicans are one in Christ. We work together in many areas. I’m happy that during the Joint Way of the Cross on Good Friday every year my brother Bishop Magangani of the Anglican Diocese is always with you,” he said.
The bishop was given a map of Likoma drawn on canvass as a symbolic gift by St. Matthews Catholic Church to always remind him of his visit to Likoma.
The church’s executive committee chairperson Scholastica Dodoma Horowanya said she was awed by the bishop’s gesture of physically stepping on Likoma soil to celebrate mass with them.
“I am speechless your Lordship; but suffice to say, we feel blessed and encouraged to have you in our midst.
“Bishop Magangani of Anglican Church is always with us on Good Fridays. It is our sincere hope that in the near future you will also join us for the Way of the Cross on Good Friday,” she said.
Among the guests at the ceremony were District Commissioner Charles Mwawembe, Traditional Authority Mkumpha, Officers- in-Charge for Likoma Police and Immigration and other government officials. (By Patrick Botha, Mana)