By Sithokozile Ndebele, Thabani Phiri and Fr. Limukani Ndlovu
After celebrating 2020 International Year for the Nurse and Midwife in honor of the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale at Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre on the 22nd February 2020 the Catholic Nurses’ Guild of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo (CNGB) converged at St. Mary Cathedral Basilica on November 21, 2020 for a colorful thanksgiving Holy Mass and the launch of the constitution.
About sixty nurses in active ministry and those retired attended the Eucharistic celebration which was presided over by the Most Reverend Archbishop Alex Thomas the head of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Bulawayo. The nurses were grateful for the protective power of God in the midst of the daunting effects of COVID 19 world over. Participants converged from the 27 town parishes as well as from the 21 rural Mission stations. The group comprised of nurses from government and Mission hospitals, Council health centers and from private hospitals.
Two nurses led the entrance and recessional processions holding the traditional nurses’ pledge burning lamps. During his passionate homily, the Archbishop emphasized that the nurse’s lamp symbolizes that the Catholic nurse is the light of the world and should shine to all people regardless of race, creed, color, politics or social status. He highlighted that the lamp oil traditionally symbolizes the Holy Spirit who gives the ability to carry out the nurse’s duties with respect of the patience and moral values according to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church. He urged Catholic nurses to be true disciples despite the myriad of challenges which affect every nurse in Zimbabwe such as poor working conditions, meagre salaries and stigmatization by some members of society. The Archbishop noted that the second gathering of Catholic nurses this year was historic since it occurred after Pope Francis declared this year for nurses and midwives under the theme; “A Voice to Lead Nursing the World to Health”. The Archbishop reiterated the words of Pope Francis that, nurses are the largest group of health care workers and they are close to the patient all the time.
Archbishop Alex challenged Catholic nurses to constantly revive and renew their faith if they are to sufficiently provide Compassion, Care and Consolation to the patients as did Florence Nightingale.
“The work of a nurse is paramount. Without the nurse, there cannot be a teacher, a soldier, the president and even health care specialists cannot render their services in the absence of a nurse. Nurses emulate God’s love to nurture and preserve life,” said Archbishop Alex.
He urged nurses to be selfless, to do good and never to deliberately harm life despite lack of resources and many more challenges.
The Archbishop was flanked by the Spiritual Director Fr. Limukani Ndlovu and the seminarian Minister Mthulisi Bernard Nkomo who is due for deaconate ordination on 6 December this year. Archbishop Alex praised the stirring committee for organizing the event that drew hundreds of nurses together although many could not attend due to transport problems. He also thanked the organizing committee for drafting the constitution which will guide the life and operation of the Guild.
“You are reminded that nursing is not a profession but a vocation to save lives,” He said.
Hence the axiom, “Once a nurse always a nurse!” According to CNGB constitution the objectives of the Guild are: To promote spiritual, moral and professional growth of nurses; to foster active participation in the issues affecting Health; to strengthen relationships among Catholic nurses; to help nurses to apply their knowledge and skills in the pastoral needs of the Church and finally to update each other on the current trends and practices within the health system.
Archbishop Alex encouraged the nurses to follow in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale and to keep their lamps burning by being at the service of humanity with passion and not for any profit. “Ukhulu”, as he is usually addressed, went on to say; “I am delighted and wish all Catholics were nurses. Knowing that the Archdiocese of Bulawayo has so many of you planted in so many health centers and positions consoles me because I know I will access quality care whenever I fall sick”.
After the Homily, the nurses arose and solemnly lit their candles from the altar candle and recited the International Nurses’ Pledge in unison led by the interim chairlady Addis Hlomani who is the Provincial Coordinator for Bulawayo at Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP). The nurses then received an episcopal blessing from Archbishop Alex.
The Archbishop encouraged the health workers to support the recently graduated nurses most of whom are still not employed and frustrated. To the unemployed young nurses, the words of Pope Francis which he recently tweeted would be a source of hope. They should not give up on great dream. The Lord does not want them to narrow their horizons but to race boldly and joyfully towards lofty goals (#takeupthecrossvatican.va/content/France…)
Among those who attended the inspiring thanksgiving Mass were Sisters in charge; Matrons; Tutors; Principal Nursing Officers and Chief Nursing Officers, Provincial Nursing Officers and many others.
In her vote of thanks, Sithokozile Hove who is the Chief Nursing Officer for Bulawayo City Health singled out Molly Gabela the principal tutor at St. Luke’s hospital for courageously taking up the initiative to resuscitate the Catholic Nurses’ Guild which had died a natural death decades ago.