“While Fr. Francis was out of it pretty quickly, it was clear that Fr. Alwyn (Zothansanga) had been more affected but the signs were good. We had all the support and advice we needed. We knew he was in good hands and was improving. We surrounded him and the health team with our prayers,” the Bishop further recalled.
Fr. Zothansanga’s situation “suddenly changed” and he was admitted in the hospital and even then, it was being hoped that “it was just a matter of days” and the Cleric would be back on his fit, Bishop Jose Luis recalled in his January 28 homily.
“Next – though - things changed in a short space of time and there was nothing that could be done. The Father of mercies had called Fr. Alwyn home and we were not ready,” the Bishop said and added, “We had not prepared ourselves for this possibility. We never thought it could happen.”
With Fr. Zothansanga being the first Priest to succumb to COVID-19 in the country, the Church in Swaziland “felt more vulnerable,” the Bishop of Manzini said and explained, “Now it is one of us. We had heard it happening in other countries, like in South Africa: Catholic bishops, priests, religious sisters, seminarians... but not here.”
“We also felt more vulnerable because the one called home was one of the youngest among us: in age, in ordination, in the time of his missionary service, in the time he had spent among us,” the Bishop said referencing the late Indian missionary ordained a Priest in January 2016 under the theme, “to be with him and to be sent out.”
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The death of Fr. Zothansanga who arrived in Swaziland in 2018 “brought home the experience of so many people all over the world” who are unable to bury their loved ones and unable to mourn with the bereaved due to the pandemic, Bishop Jose Luis noted.
He explained, “Fr. Alwyn's family is far away (in India) and cannot be physically here today, the members of his own community are not that far as some serve in South Africa but going through a lockdown, they have been unable to cross the border and be with us today as they wished they could.”
“The one who prayed for so many at their funerals is the one who is now being prayed. Our priests who are God's tender hands of consolation to so many families, are the ones asking to be consoled,” the Bishop mourned Fr. Zothansanga.
Though “many times we count the years in our life when we are supposed to count the life of our years, his (Fr. Zothansanga) years, certainly, did not lack life!” he remarked.
“Fr. Alwyn speaks to us both with his life and in his death. We are grateful to his family who gave him to us as a missionary in our land and to the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales who appointed him to our Diocese. May the God of all consolation give you and all of us His peace!” the Bishop of Manzini implored in his homily January 28.