My dear Confreres
Those of you who were not able to come for the funeral due to various reasons would want to know what transpired these days. Well these were tough days for each one of us here. This was the first death of an SVD in Zambia. The death occurred on a Sunday and it was difficult to get confreres since it was a Sunday. On behalf of each one of you out there we tried to do the best we can. I think we can say that we gave late Fr Simon Nyirenda SVD a dignified send off.
Fr Simon Nyrenda’s passing away was indeed a shock to all of us. He was in Zambia for holidays. He attended the first mass of Fr Maxmillian Kolbe Bwalya svd, the newly ordained at Chililabombwe. He also traveled to visit some of his relatives. It was in such a visit to Ndola he fell ill and was admitted at the hospital there. It was suspected to be Jaundice. He spoke over the phone that the tests are being done and results are awaited. I had mentioned to him to get transferred to Lusaka. He insisted that he remains there until the results came out. Francis, Theophan and Proper Mukula (pastoral student) are the ones who went to Ndola to visit Simon. He requested for money to meet the expenses of the medical tests and was duly sent. However as the days passed, the condition of Simon worsened. He send me a message that the doctor told him to try somewhere else. It is at this point that Francis went to Ndola and brought him to Lusaka on 1 Sep. The message was already given at Egyptian Coptic Hospital at Lusaka, since it was Saturday and many doctors were not working, with an idea that if there be a need the experts will be alerted. Providentially we were able to tell the top most doctors about Fr Simon’s arrival and the medical condition of suspected Hepatitis B on Saturday morning itself. He said that he will come back to the hospital in the afternoon and will attend to Simon. He assured that there was a doctor on call. Peter Madden and I went to visit Simon in the after noon again. You probably read what Peter wrote about that part of our visit.
He passed on 11:45 am on Sunday. Peter came back from the hospital and we went back together to the hospital, because we had to move the body to the mortuary as soon as possible. The religious we consulted advised us to get the service of a particular funeral home that is not too expensive at the same time gave very good service. They arrived rather fast. We cleared all the bills of the hospital and accompanied the body to the mortuary. After all the initial formalities at the mortuary, Peter and I met the priest in charge of the Kasisi Cemetery, where all the priest and religious are buried. He agreed to our request, contacted those who normally dig the grave and identified the place for us. Indeed he was very helpful.
Since the confreres were not around on Monday, we went around to put in place a few things needed like consulting the diocesan authorities, contacting the Archbishop, printing the memorial card, stitching the alb, chasuble and stole, developing the photo, purchasing the mission cross etc. We visited the uncle of Simon at Kafuwe to discuss with him the date of burial and some other logistics. He wanted the burial to take place on Tuesday itself. But we could not agree to it knowing that confreres from Botswana and South Africa would need time to reach and not knowing who would want to come. On Tuesday morning we met with all the confreres who have come and prepared a programme and made committees to be in charge of different things. I must say that they did an excellent job. This was evident at the end of the funeral. Thanks to all of them for the hard work and sacrifices that they put in.
After almost 12 hours of continuous driving, Frs Shiju Paul, Marek, Bros. Lutwin and Jan arrived on Tuesday. On Wed 15:30, Fr Gabriel Afagbage came with two of the parishnors from Lumko. All the confreres from Zambia were present together with SSpS sisters who came from Livingstone.
You must have noticed that you were informed different things about the place of vigil etc. When we talked to the uncle at first, he said that since Simon’s parent’s death, he was the parent to Simon. So he cannot go with out coming home. So our initial reaction was that we cannot over rule his desire being a parent. We thought that could be done. Since the priest’s mortal remains do not usually remain out side at a home but in a church, the possibilities were, after taking the body to his uncle’s home in Kafuwe for an hour also on the Wednesday evening, bring the body to Philosophy house for wake keeping or to go to the nearby parish (Kafiwe estate Parish) even for the family members to have a chance to keep vigil with the body rather than they coming to Lusaka town etc. Since Archbishop was the main celebrant for the funeral mass on Thursday, we had to have it in the Cathedral on Thursday. We were aware that there was going to be a lot of moving around which may not be good for the body. However, later on Simon’s uncle changed his mind to bring the body to his home saying that he had offered the Simon to the congregation and the body of Simon need not come to his home. He came across to be a very broad minded man, though he is not a catholic. Then there was no point in taking the body to Kafuwe. Looking at the space, facilities of Cathedral parish in Lusaka, we decided to have the whole function there. That is how we came to the conclusion that the Vigil Mass and the Funeral Mass will be at the Cathedral in Lusaka. There was body viewing at the Vigil mass and the funeral mass.
Body arrived at the Cathedral at 18:30. The vigil mass was celebrated by Fr Theophan. Fr Gabriel Afagbage preached. After the mass the relatives others kept vigil with the body recalling the memories about Simon, prayers and singing etc under the guidance of Francis Allah. From the Holy Rosary Parish Mukobeko, Kabwe parishnors had arrived in a big bus on Wednesday evening itself. Simon served this parish from 2003 to 2007. They sang and prayed whole night. There was coffee and tea arranged for those who wanted to keep the sleep away. I must say that it was done really well. SSpS sisters were a great help in looking after some of these arrangements. In the morning the Pauline Sisters’ community made available their guest house for us to fresh up and prepared breakfast. Thanks for their generosity. The Funeral mass began on time participated by many priests from Lusaka, Kabwe, Livingstone, Mongu, religious and lay people traveling as far as Kabwe. It was really a solemn celebration. Fr Provincial Superior gave homily.
After the mass we proceeded to cemetery in Kasisi. The burial rite at the grave site was taken by the provincial superior. Simon was laid to rest at around 12:30 pm. Everything finished by 14:00 hours.
Confreres did an excellent job in organizing this funeral. A lot of running around had to be done. I am sure all are tired but job well done. On Sunday superiors together with a diocesan priest plan to meet the family eleder, to thank him and the family and also discuss some of the things as it usually happen after a funeral.
To conclude it all, on Thursday evening all the SVDs and SSpS, together with the delegates of the parish in Lumko gathered together for a meal. That was a sign of appreciation to each other. Most of the confreres left on Friday.