Is Ngome approved by the Church?
During 1989, Bishop Mansuet Biyase (the local Bishop of Eshowe – the diocese in which Ngome is situated) and Fr. Michael Mayer O.S.B. met with Fr. Paul B. Decock O.M.I., the chairperson of the TAC (Theological Advisory Commission of the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference), to discuss the Ngome Affair. At their request, Fr. Paul B. Decock compiled a statement about Ngome in which he said: “There is nothing objectionable in this (the promotion of the sanctuary at Ngome and the veneration of Our Lady under the name of Tabernacle of the Most High). One does not need divine sanction to start a sanctuary and venerate Our Lady. Pilgrimages could be allowed even if we are not sure of the ‘authenticity’ of the visions…The content of the visions is doctrinally acceptable. These views can be put forward in sermons and leaflets.” (Cf. Paul B. Decock, The Ngome Visions, 07-05-90; Ngome File).
On November 13, 1990, Fr. Michael Mayer published a circular in which he wrote: “The Marian Shrine at Ngome is a sign of the presence of Our Lady in the life of the local Church…Devotion to Our Lady at Ngome will be an opportunity to work and pray for peace in our country…The story of Ngome began thirty-five years ago. Many believe that the Marian shrine at Ngome is the work of Our Lady.” This was followed by several similar letters, announcing various activities and events taking place at Ngome. (Cf. circular letters of 22-08-92; 01-09-92; 02-02-93; 25-04-93). In the meanwhile, the significance of Ngome as a shrine of Our Lady and a special place of prayer in the Diocese of Eshowe was further underlined by decisions and steps taken by the bishop. In December 1991, he incorporated Ngome into the sacred Heart Parish of Inkamana. Fr. Michael Mayer, the parish priest of Inkamana, now acted as the custodian of the shrine.
A very important day in the annals of Ngome was Saturday, October 3, 1992, when Bishop Mansuet Biyase blessed the open-air altar. It was built on a platform attached to the southern front of the church. The bishop celebrated Holy Mass with several hundred pilgrims who had come from the Diocese of Eshowe and from farther away. He used this opportunity to declare the Marian Shrine at Ngome a place of prayer. Ngome had thus became, to all intents an purposes, a sanctuary of Our Lady which has the approval of the Church. It meant that pilgrimages to Ngome were no longer merely condoned but could now be actively promoted. Fr. Michael rightly calls this a historic day, saying: “Our Lady and Mother, the Tabernacle of the Most High, has worked wonders. We thank her. We ask her to show many people the way which leads to her at Ngome…to make her shrine known in our beloved country” (cf. Fr. Michael’s circular letter, 22-08-92).
Bishop Mansuet Biyase of Eshowe took part in three major pilgrimages to Ngome in 1993. Each time between three hundred and five hundred people gathered around the shrine. Bishop Hubert Bucher of Bethlehem (South Africa), South Africa’s national delegate to the Eucharistic Congress in Seville 1993, was the main celebrant at a “Eucharistic Pilgrimage to Ngome” on Saturday, October 30, 1993. A Mass of thanksgiving was held at Ngome on May 31, 1994, after the first free general election had been conducted peacefully in the country.
The 8th of December 1994 was a day of special significance for Ngome. Besides being the feast of the Immaculate Conception it was also the 40th anniversary of the first mystical experience of Sister Reinolda May. Bishop Pascal Rowland, of the neighbouring diocese of Dundee, celebrated Holy Mass and benediction at Ngome. He delivered a moving homily in which he presented a challenging message on the need for Eucharistic devotion. Following this, Bishop Rowland blessed a statue of Our Lady, Tabernacle of the Most High, which was to find a home at the place of the springs. The Bishop then blessed the new crucifix as well as a new painting of Our Lady, both of which would be displayed in the small shrine.
In June 1996 hundreds of Plgrims made their way to Ngome for the blessing of the new Pilgrims Rest Centre by Bishop Biyase. On this day the Bishop also blessed a new grotto and statue of Our Lady that had been built alongside the Pilgrims Rest as well as the corpus that had been donated for the cross beside the small shrine. In 1997 the Southern Cross Catholic newspaper featued various articles on Ngome and the new video documentaries that had been produced on the Shrine.
In December 1997 Benedictine Nuns from Twasana moved into their new convent that had been built alongside the Ngome Shrine. As a “community of adoration” their main apostolate was to become prayer (with a special focus on adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) and care of the Pilgrims. The sisters took sharge of the running of the Ngome Pilgrims Rest Centre.
In 1998 Ngome featured on national television in South Africa (SABC) on at least six seperate occassions. Each of these programs portrayed Ngome in a very positive light. The most notable of these was a half hour documentary screened at evening prime time. This program was also rebroadcast on the following day. On the Feast of the Queeenship of Mary (22nd August) in 1998 Bishop Biyase came to Ngome especially to bless the Benedictine sisters in their new apostolate as caretakers of the pilgrims.
In 1999 the Diocesan Pilgrimage for the Diocese of Eshowe was held at Ngome. Bishop Biyase was present and many others who were present spoke of this day with its various liturgical celebrations as having been a truly remarkable day. All these events clearly indicate that the Ngome Shrine in honour of Our Lady has become a genuine place of pilgrimage for the Catholics in the Diocese of Eshowe and for many others in South Africa.
Custodians of the Shrine at Ngome:
Fr. Albert Herold OSB Aug. 1985 – Jan. 1988
Fr. Joseph Rosa-Gomes Jan. 1988 – Oct. 1991
Fr. Victor Makhetha Oct. 1991 – Dec. 1991
Fr. Michael Mayer OSB Dec. 1991 – 2009
In his book Discernment of Apparitions. Marian Apparitions Today. Why So Many?, by Fr. Edward D. O’Connor, C.S.C., Fr. O’Connor states that: “Some people refuse to give any consideration whatsoever to a reported apparition until it has been officially approved. This is not the attitude which the Church asks of us, and it can deprive us of the graces brought by the apparition. The Church normally waits a long time before issuing a pronouncement about a particular apparition, and about most of them it says nothing. If we refuse to pay any heed to one until it has been approved, the chances are we will never have that opportunity… Moreover, this would actually hinder the action of the Church, which looks especially at the fruits when evaluating such phenomenon. If everyone waited for the Church to make a pronouncement, there would be no fruits, and in fact no occasion for the Church to make any judgment at all. If people had waited until the Church pronounced on Lourdes or Fatima, we would not have heard of either of them today. Respect for the pastoral authority of the bishop does not mean denying to lay people any judgment whatsoever, but giving to each the due measure of respect.”
pages 106-107 (Queenship Publishing Company)