“We hope he takes them”: Nun Behind Liturgical Vestments of Pope Francis in Mozambique

Mitre and Altar cloth for Maputo Papal Mass
Credit: ACI Africa

Just a couple of days before Pope Francis begins his fourth African trip, the religious sisters who have made ready the liturgical vestments for the Public Papal Mass in Mozambique are hoping that he will bring back to the Vatican the vestments and continue using them in memory of his pastoral trip to the Southern Africa country.

“We are hoping that the Holy Father will be happy to wear these vestments, which represent our culture and our joy of receiving him,” Mozambican Sr. Alzira Macuacua who coordinated the project of sewing the vestments has told ACI Africa.

“We hope Pope (Francis) takes these vestments and uses them in memory of his visit to Mozambique,” she emphasized taking the vestments out of a dark blue suitcase where they have been carefully folded to keep them wrinkle-free.

She identified the liturgical vestments she expects the Holy Father to take home as “an alb, a stole, a chasuble, and a mitre.”

Color of liturgical vestments

The white liturgical vestments have a brown decoration with the map of Mozambique.

“We were happy to make the vestments of the Pope with our traditional colors that speak to us as Mozambicans, that is, brown,” Sr. Macuacua said.

According to various online sources, brown is a natural color evoking a sense of strength and reliability, which is also associated with qualities such as resilience, safety, and dependability.

“We used brown color that means to us power, strength, authority,” Sr. Macuacua has told ACi Africa, explaining that the Holy Father “represents the authority of God for us (Catholics) and his coming to Mozambique is a celebration of the strength and resilience of the inhabitants of Africa in general and Mozambique in particular.”

“We are looking at Pope Francis as our Father, our reference as far as our faith matters are concerned and therefore with authority and power,” she explained in an effort to underline the choice of the brown color to decorate the white vestments to be used on Friday in Maputo.

“The colour (brown) without the map of Mozambique does not bring out the meaning of the Pope’s visit to our country,” Sr. Macuacua who is a missionary in South Africa explained.

“I was invited to come to Mozambique for the preparation of Pope’s visit,” she recalled the request made to her by her leaders from South Africa and Mozambique and added, “I have been involved in making of the (liturgical) vestments for the Pope, for the Bishops, and for all the priests who will be part of the Pope’s Mass in Maputo.”

The numbers

Sr. Macuacua who is a member of the Franciscan Missionary of Mary (FMM) coordinated a 15-person team to make the vestments, among them six nuns and nine lay persons drawn from various parishes within the country.

Beside the papal vestments, Sr. Macuacua’s team has made ready 30 chasubles and 50 albs for the bishops and 400 stoles for the priests who are expected to be part of the Friday, September 6 Mass in Maputo.

The 400 stoles have the theme of the Pope’s visit to Mozambique, name of Pope Francis and the year he is visiting the Southern Africa country.

“The material used to make the Holy Father’s vestments is a mixture of cotton and polyester while the one for the priests is polyester.

“We wish that the clergy take home with them the vestments that they will use since that is why we prepared them,” she said.

Challenges

Asked about the challenges she faced in making the vestments, she shared, “In the beginning, it was a challenge because there was no money. I heard that all the dioceses were asked to contribute toward this, but some did not.”

According to her, the realization of the project involved the local Church in Mozambique and some benefactors under the leadership of the Auxiliary Bishop of Maputo, Antonio Juliasse.

“We did not involve the government,” she noted and added, “I know if we had said our limitations to them, they would have helped for they have shown openness toward this visit.”

Looking back, the 67-year-old nun also said the time given was a cause of concern since the exercise only started mid-June.

For her, however, the difficulty was not in the ability of the 15-person team to work together but rather in the directives to make changes to the vestments, which she did not consider being “very gentle with (them).”

“Three times, we were told, we don’t want this, we want this, we don’t accept this for the Pope,” she narrated and concluded that the team maintained the colors and decorations because they were convinced about the taste of “the people of Africa and Mozambique.”

“We resisted the suggested changes because from the onset, we had been asked to use our creativity,” Sr. Macuacua who will celebrate 45 years as a religious sister in December emphasized and disclosed, “We were a team of three (religious) sisters who identified the colour having considered its relevance for us in this part of Africa.”

Opportunity

“It was very hard for us because this was the first time we were coming together to work,” Sr. Macuacua recalled and added, “We also came to understand and appreciate each other, coming together for the very first time.”

“Three of us sisters were from the same congregation but had never worked together,” she disclosed, recalling how the slightly over two months apostolate has created a bond of unity in the 15-person team.

“This was for me a great opportunity, because I have done something very important for my country,” she said.

“We cannot claim that we were paid for the service of preparing the vestments,” Sr. Macuacua disclosed and acknowledged the token of appreciation that was given to the 15-person team.

“The Holy Father is coming to Mozambique to encourage us to work toward peace,” she said and added, “we have tried to be instruments of peace in Mozambique, but the coming of the Pope motivates us more to live reconciliation, and to manage conflicts.”

Gratitude

Sr. Macuacua expressed gratitude to all who facilitated the making of the vestments, mentioning the 15 co-workers that has become “a family and a group of friends” and her Provincial who reached out to her from her tailoring apostolate in South Africa.

On her part, the FMM Provincial in Mozambique, Sr. Rosa Xavier told ACI Africa that she was “happy and privileged that our house and sisters were selected to prepare the vestments, and my sisters are equally happy as I have observed."

“We look at this as lending a hand to our Church, we are daughters of our Church, so it is just that we give our kind assistance when required,” the Provincial Superior said.

 


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]