Many people are aware that near Blantyre there are fifteen Stations of the Cross winding up Mirichu Mountain with a large cross on the summit. Groups and individuals can be seen every day quietly making their way up the mountain, stopping at each station and praying before the cross or meditating the scene depicted on a beautiful bronze plaque beside each cross.
Others can be found at the top, sitting at the foot of the main cross deep in prayer. Few people are aware of how it all came about and who initiated this great and beautiful gift to Malawi.
Mrs Gay Russell, an Australian who has lived in Malawi for many years and who has frequently been on pilgrimage to Medjugorje, is the brainchild behind the replica of Medjugorje in Malawi. From the year 2001 – 2006 she collaborated with people within and outside the country, the Church, Malawian Government officials, Department of Forestry and a Construction Company. The first task was to find a suitable site. Following much prayer and discussion Michiru Mountain, in Chilomoni, was chosen. Permission had then to be sought from the Archbishop of Blantyre whose response was negative. Three months later he prematurely retired from his position. His successor Bishop Tarcisio Ziyaye, when approached, was delighted with the idea and promptly accepted to bless the foundations of the cross! For almost a year there was a struggle with the Department of Forestry (land in Malawi, just as in most countries, is scarce and precious) before permission was given to go ahead. Interesting to note that the Constitution of the Department of Forestry has a clause stating that ‘forestry is not only for education and appreciation of nature but also for spiritual and uplifting purposes.’
In our parish, Konzalendo, ‘pilgrimage’ is not a word commonly known or used, so when the idea of pilgrimage to Michiru Mountain was maturing, much discussion was required to explain what it entailed. Eventually it was agreed that on the 2nd September all those parishioners who wished would make a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Michiru Mountain, near Blantyre. Transport or how to get there posed no problem as lorries are available for hire. On the date stated, the people, young and not so young, one hundred and thirty, assembled at three different locations and eventually set out on two lorries and a minibus.
On arrival at Mirichu there was opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation and familiarisation of the Centre. When all had arrived, we set out on the Way of the Cross, slowly winding our way up the mountain until we reached the summit. There was great satisfaction and joy by all as everybody managed the climb. When all were assembled, Fr Hanock prayed and blessed all the pilgrims. After a short rest all set out to descend the mountain which was even more of a challenge than the upward climb.
When we reached the Centre all enjoyed refreshments while sitting in welcome shade under the trees. All then participated in Mass, which was the culmination of the day. Thank God everybody reached home gratified that they had had such a wonderful experience. We hope that this pilgrimage will be an annual event in the parish.