Bishop Elect Of Chinhoyi believes poverty of the diocese is not a weakness but a strength.
Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The Bishop Elect of Chinhoyi has said the joy of his appointment lies in the different religious colours decorating the diocese. For him, different religious congregations and guilds in the diocese serve as a source of strength and hope to keep the diocese running and for this, he vowed to promote the good of each guild and religious institute for the good of the church. Monsignor Raymond Tapiwa Mupandasekwa believes that it is not all gloom and doom but joy lies ahead. Having been appointed by the Holy Father on 30 December 2017 , the Bishop elect leaves his position as the Redemptorist Regional Superior to be the Shepherd of Chinhoyi Diocese where he hopes to break new grounds in relationships and evangelization.
“It is always a joy to find a Diocese with many colours, congregations and guilds with a diverse number of spiritualities. This adds to the richness of the Church. The many the different religious flowers and guilds in the diocese the richer we are and the more we are able to witness not only to the diversity in God but also through our common witness to the unity of the church and the Godhead. As a bishop it is important to promote the good of each guild and each congregation for the greater good of the Church. We do not want these different flowers to wither and die but to flourish,” Monsignor Mupandasekwa said.
The Bishop Elect said he is excited to go and preach beyond the boundaries he had known and expects the cooperation of all so that the work of evangelization may bear fruit in the Diocese of Chinhoyi. Monsigor Mupandasekwa expressed that he expects to share this ministry with all priests, sisters of the various congregations and lay people already in Chinhoyi. For him, the vision of the diocese will be defined by the cooperation and participation of all, the old and young. But at the center of his heart lies the zeal to open new grounds by reaching out to the most poor.
He said: “I know they will teach me a lot and bring a new joy to my life. The vision of the diocese will be defined by not just myself but by all of us together. What I know as of now is that that vision will be guided by the greater vision of the Holy Father, of going to the peripheries in order to bring to the people of God the joy of the gospel. The Diocese of Chinhoyi has to continue to grow in line with what the Holy Father said the church ought to be namely a field hospital where the broken and the weak are treated and restored to full spiritual health and sent back into battle.”
While the Diocese of Chinhoyi is characteristically rural, there is joy in ministering to the local people who are full of love and faith. In as much as rural dioceses are seen as disadvantaged in terms of resources, Monsignor Mupandasekwa argued that this was not a weakness when people are willing to share what they have. He said priests and sisters of the diocese have experienced the many challenges the diocese and its people faces.
“This rural identity is not a weakness but a strength. The Holy Father has already spoken of the church of the poor and for the poor. The priests and sisters working in Chinhoyi will be called to share in the poverty of the Nazareth of Chinhoyi and through it experience the joy of the gospel.”
“Most of our priests and religious sisters already share the same conditions as the poor as part and parcel of their mission and voluntary witness. In so doing, they affirm the dignity of the poor who often are treated as non persons or people without dignity on account of their poverty. In doing so, the church through its ministers brings about an essential change of mindset which becomes inevitably the catalyst to change in the poor themselves as they are encouraged by this to appreciate their own worth. Again this witness by church ministers challenges the ‘haves’ to value the ‘have nots’ as their equals created like them in the image and likeness of God,” said the Bishop Elect.
Chinhoyi Diocese covers Mashonaland West and the province is a political landmine with political stalwarts coming from the area. The political situation in the diocese more often than not interferes with church business thereby affecting the mission of evangelization and sometimes threatening missionary work. In most cases Christians prefer to leave politics to politicians and have nothing whatsoever to do with it for fear of reprisals. But for Monsignor Mupandasekwa politics is life for everyone. He encouraged Christians to get involved in political affairs so as to influence democratic processes in the church and society.
Monsignor Mupandasekwa said: “Socio-political or even economic sanity is always an achievement of a community than an individual. If everyone does his or her part and reach out to the other in gospel charity we will always be able to bridge our socio- economic, religious and political differences. Politics ought to be about good governance. A government listens to its people and never tries to force them to follow. Unfortunately politics has been used to sow seeds of division and hatred. It is possible to disagree on how we should be governed and still be brothers and sisters to each other. The government has to see to it that the right of every citizen to think differently, to oppose or to hold a divergent opinion is protected. It is only when this right is protected by law that we can speak of a new dispensation.”
“The just ordering of society is a central responsibility of politics. People living in society must therefore be involved in politics to ensure the formation of just structures through politics. Hence it is not wrong for the people of the diocese to involve themselves in politics. What would be wrong would be to impose one’s political views or one’s political agenda on the other. Catholics involved in politics are there to ensure the creation of a just society. When Catholics join political parties they should always know why they are there. It’s to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The ‘laity must be motivated by Christian charity in their political activity . Where this is lacking divisions appear and the church in Chinhoyi has to continue informing them and their role in the creation of a just social structure.”
Monsignor Mupandasekwa, challenged the church in Zimbabwe to open up new ways of reaching out to the people in a missionary spirit of evangelization. He said evangelization was at the center of the church as stressed by various popes such as Pope Paul VI in Evangeli Nunciandi, Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio, Pope Benedict and recently Pope Francis in Evangeli Gaudium. According to Monsignor Mupandasekwa, evangelization defines the missionary mandate of the church as given in Matthew 28 by the Lord himself.
“My wish, which has been the wish of bishops who came before me and of our Holy Father is that we renew our commitment to preaching the Gospel. With Saint Paul each one of us has to say ‘I am ruined if I do not preach the Gospel”. The challenge before us is to find new ways of evangelization which are consistent with the signs of times. While we search for the new ways, we also have to appreciate our old ways of bringing the Gospel to others that have served us so well namely evangelization through our schools, hospitals and other church institutions. Perhaps our challenge will be to grow more of these church institutions and add forms of evangelization to them,” he said.
He complimented the Bishops of Zimbabwe for their support of evangelization at all levels of the church and society. The Bishop Elect said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference has worked tremendously well under very difficult circumstances as a beacon of hope for the nation and a star leading the people of God.
“I go to the conference to learn from those who bear the wounds of battle,” said Monsignor Mupandasekwa.
Bishop Elect Mupandasekwa is of the Vahera Tribe and born on 28 April 1970 at Masvingo General Hospital, to Roswitta Madzima and Fabian Pamhi Tamirepi Mupandasekwa. He is the second born in a family of seven, 3 boys and 4 girls. He did his grade 1-3 at Mabvuku primary school, 4-6 at Tomlinson Deport primary and Vainona primary school for his grade 7. For his secondary education, he went to Vainona High School. Monsignor Mupandasekwa holds an Honours degree in Religious Studies from the university of Zimbabwe, a Masters in philosophy: Canon Law from Saint Augustine College South Africa, Masters in Moral Theology from Collegio Alphonsiana Italy. His desire to be a Religious was born very early in his life when he was nine years old.
Monsignor Mupandasekwa first joined the seminary under the Archdiocese of Harare in 1990 after he had been told that the Redemptorists were reopening their formation program in 1992 having shut it down in 1989. He later joined the Redemptorist Congregation in 1996 having done his philosophy studies and the first year of his theology studies. The young Mupandasekwa was invited to join the novitiate in 1997 and this took place in Begville South Africa. He made his first profession as a Redemptorist on 21 February 1998 at Alphonsus House in Tafara and his final profession on 2 December 2000 at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Mabvuku. He was ordained to priesthood at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Hatcliffe on 4 August 2001. Monsignor Mupandasekwa, whose consecration is on 7 April 2018, fills the position left by Bishop Dieter Scholz who resigned in 2016.