The couple later recruited their former Parish Priest, the late Fr. Michele D'Annucci to also attend ME weekend. They all became passionate about the need to safeguard Holy Matrimony and chose to start off with a better preparation of those who were engaged.
They enrolled with the Catholic Engaged Encounter (CEE) and in 1981, started CEE weekends at Holy Redeemer Vocational Centre in Mmakau.
In an interview with ACI Africa, the Spiritual Animator of CEE, Fr. Patrick Rakeketsi described Mr. and Mrs. Vilakazi as a very dedicated and committed couple.
Fr. Rakeketsi recalled how he facilitated the Papal award for the South African couple, beginning with a letter to Archbishop William Slattery, then Local Ordinary of Pretoria.
“It took us three years from 2013 to 2015 to establish all the facts, through the Nuncio and the Vatican Congregation for the Laity,” the member of the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata (Stigmatines - CSS) told ACI Africa Thursday, July 29.
The native of Lesotho added, “The process was eventually completed in 2015, and on 1 May 2015, Mr. and Mrs. Vilakazi were presented the “Benemerenti” medal by Archbishop Emeritus William Slattery at their home parish Holy Cross Catholic Church in Ga-Rankuwa.”
In 1980, after 20 years of marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Vilakazi were invited to attend a Marriage Encounter weekend in Victory Park, Johannesburg, a weekend that marked a turning point in their devotion to the institution of marriage.
Since then, they have helped counsel and prepare over 2,000 couples for the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, mentoring a comparatively young and very dynamic team of couples as Engaged Encounter Counsellors.