The History of Ngome

The History of Ngome

This history was carefully researched and compiled in 2007 by Mrs Rose-marie Foxon of Durban, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

Please click on a 'Chapter' button to read each specific chapter in turn.

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  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8
  9. Chapter 9
  10. Chapter 10
  11. Chapter 11

Chapter 1

From the cross Christ gave Mary, as mother, to his disciple John and to all his followers.
Our Saviour says to us, “Take my mother as your mother”, thus entrusting to her care and love the whole of the human race.

The humble handmaid of the Lord points towards the Son of the Most High. The power of the Most High came upon her at the Annunciation. Mary became the first Christ-bearer, she is his tabernacle. The tabernacle is the place where the Most High dwells among his people. The son of the Most High dwells in our midst through Mary. The Mother of God is empty of self and pregnant with Christ.

In the 19th and 20th centuries there have been remarkable apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which have been recognized by the church. These places have now become Marian shrines where our Blessed Mother is invoked and venerated and are a sign of her maternal presence in the midst of Christ’s disciples. Some examples of these shrines and their established dates are: 1830 - Paris, France, 1846 - La Salette, France, 1858 - Lourdes, France, 1917 - Fatima, Portugal, 1933 - Banneux, Belgium, 1968 - Zeitoun, Egypt and 1982 - Kibeho, Rwanda.

They are a great gift given to us by our loving Father where we feel that he is especially close to us. They are “milestones that guide the journey of the children of God on earth.”

In 1830 the Most Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Catherine Laboure, in Paris. She blessed the world, her hands radiating streams of light, symbolizing the graces she would distribute to all who called upon her with confidence.

In 1846 the Mother of the Lord visited La Salette, high in the Alps. Two children saw a wonderful lady sitting on a stone. She was bathed in light and was weeping. Mary wanted her tears to move the world to repentance and conversion.

In 1858 the Mother of God came to the grotto in Lourdes. In eighteen appearances she revealed her great desire to little Bernadette Soubirous: prayer and penance in order to save the world.

In 1917 Mary revealed herself at Fatima to the children Lucia, Jacinta and Francesco. In six appearances she asked them to do penance and reparation and exhorted the world to seek peace. She asked people to consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart and to pray the rosary.

In 1933 Mary revealed herself at Banneux as the Virgin of the Poor. Eight times she appeared to a poor girl, one of the many children of a workman’s family, a family estranged from religion. The Mother of the Lord urged ‘Pray, pray much.’

Besides these there have been other apparitions of Our Lady in the life of the church.

Mary is especially predisposed to co-operation with Christ, the one mediator of human salvation. Jesus Christ prepared her even more completely to become for all people their ‘mother in the order of grace’. The Mother co-operates in the saving work of the Son, the Redeemer of the world. Mary’s mediation continues in the history of the church and the world.

She is present in the pilgrim church from generation to generation through faith. In the presence of the Mother of Christ we feel that we are true brothers and sisters.

Chapter 2

Sister Reinolda May the youngest of nine children was born on 21st October 1901, into a deeply religious family at Pfalheim in the diocese of Rottenburg in the south-western part of Germany. Ten kilometers away from Pfalheim a wonderful Marian shrine called Schoenenberg crowned the top of a hill.

The day after the infant’s birth she was baptized and given the name Franziska. The father of this baby girl was a master shoemaker and small farmer.

After Franziska completed her primary education she helped with work at home. Later she attended the domestic school of the Franciscan sisters in Hochaltingen.

The village of Pfalheim had a very active priest, Father Eugene Adis, and he made every effort to get his parishioners actively involved in one or another of the many Catholic sodalities. Young and old, men and women, the married and the unmarried were constantly encouraged to practice their faith and to fulfil their duties to the church conscientiously. Each group had a special Sunday set aside when its members would go together to the altar to receive Holy Communion. Devotion to the Eucharist, especially in the form of the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, was implanted into the soul of Franziska while she was still young.

In her youth Franziska learned to love Mary, the Mother of God and to consider Mary her mother and example. She joined the parish sodality of our Lady, which had more than one hundred members. The sodality awakened in the hearts of the members a real love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It fostered and protected this love. The members were guided to live as children of Mary and to serve God through a Christian life. They were encouraged to fight together against the enemy of their faith and chastity and to support the work of Jesus and his church.

In the parish church of Saint Nicolaus, devotion to the Eucharist in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to Our Lady formed the most visible aspect of Catholic practice in the village.

It is not surprising that such an environment produced a good number of religious vocations. Although there were only about one thousand Catholics in the village of Pfalheim at the turn of the 20th Century, about three dozen girls entered the convent while Father Eugene Adis was the parish priest from 1910 to 1928. One of them was Franziska May.

Franziska showed a keen interest in the missions so Father Adis advised her to join the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing. At her first attempt she was told that she was not healthy enough to go to the missions. The verdict seems to have been caused by a heart condition although it could not have been all that serious in view of the fact that she was able to work hard all her life, and that she died at the age of eighty as a result of an illness unrelated to her heart condition. On being refused admission to the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, Franziska returned to Pfalheim where she was frequently seen praying in the parish church during the day. This must have struck the villagers as somewhat unusual otherwise they would not have taken much notice.

Franzciska’s father was not at all sad about this turn of events. He liked the idea of his youngest daughter remaining at home but Franziska was a very determined person and her thoughts were firmly fixed on becoming a missionary, so she travelled once more to Tutzing and this time she was accepted.

On March 1, 1922, she entered the convent of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters at Tutzing and her religious profession took place on February 10, 1925 taking the religious name of Sister Reinolda. A few months later she received the missionary cross and left for South Africa on June 21, 1925. There she pronounced her final vows on February 12, 1928, working for the next ten years as a seamstress at the stations of Entabeni and Mbongolwane. During this time she made great efforts to learn the difficult Zulu language. As much as time permitted she visited the people in their homes on foot and on horseback.

Chapter 3

At the beginning of the 20th century, the area around Ngome, about thirty kilometres northwest of Nongoma was set aside for commercial farming. As a result, white farmers purchased land and used it mainly for cattle ranching and timber production. Black families were allowed to live on these farms as tenants, providing the white farmers with an abundant labour force. Missionary work among these black families could only be done with the permission of the white farmers on whose property they lived.

After the Benedictines had opened a mission station at Nongoma in 1926, they began to establish a string of out-stations in the district in order to win new converts and form them into communities. In 1944 they bought a 338 hectare farm at Ngome that was intended as a source of income for the mission station at Nongoma with its school and hospital. The Benedictines used the farm mainly for cattle ranching. A small school was erected on the farm to enable the children in the area to get a basic education. It became known as the Mayime School. The classroom was used as a chapel where the Catholics came together on Sundays to celebrate Holy Mass or to participate in a service conducted by a catechist.

Bishop Thomas Spreiter at that time was convinced of the great importance of indirect mission work in schools and hospitals for the spreading of the faith in a difficult mission territory like South Africa. With great vision and courage he worked to obtain permission from Rome that Benedictine Sisters could be trained in midwifery. After years of persistent effort this permission was obtained from Rome and from Tutzing in 1936.

After Rome allowed the Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing to assist women in childbirth, Sister Reinolda became the first sister in Zululand to take a course in midwifery. She had been asked by her superiors if she wanted to take this kind of training. In spite of her hesitation, on account of her age, she was in her mid thirties and lacked a secondary education and had scant knowledge of the English language, the Benedictine Sister who had up till then only been a seamstress agreed, trusting in God’s help, and in view of the personnel needs of the hospital which was under construction. Her decision was entirely borne by her spirit of faith. Sister Reinolda studied hard but not through many nights, in order not to neglect her spiritual life. She relied completely on God and in prayer, a spirit of faith and trust in God. She received a diploma as a midwife from Greys hospital in Pietermaritzburg in May of 1938. In June of the same year the Benedictine Mission Hospital opened in Nongoma and the newly qualified Sister Reinolda was put in charge of the maternity department.

The Benedictine Hospital had a chapel where mass was celebrated. Although Sister Reinolda was devoted to Our Lady, she had not been excessively so before the 22nd of August 1955. She was however known for having a special devotion to the Eucharistic presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

At the beginning the early years were difficult. There was great poverty and also distrust amongst the population, and quarrels with the district surgeon who did all he could to harm his competitor as he perceived it. In those years Sister Reinolda’s great union with God and her deep spirit of faith became evident. She spent many an hour of the night in prayer in order to be able to handle these difficulties. She won the hearts of the Zulus by her kindness and generous readiness to help. Her expertise as a midwife attracted expectant mothers from afar.

Soon Sister Reinolda began to train midwives. In 1941 the first group took their exams. Hundreds of young Zulu girls, black and white religious sisters of various congregations and a number of her own fellow sisters were her pupils. She worked well with the doctors who appreciated her knowledge and skills.

Sister Reinolda never saw her homeland again. She deliberately denied herself holiday leave in Germany, and except for her time of training to be a midwife in Pietermaritzburg, she never left the district she had been sent to as a missionary. However on one occasion a nephew of hers who had become a priest came to visit her, and she allowed herself to spend some time with him.

She was not only a midwife but also a great missionary. She longed to bring the love of Christ to his people in Zululand and so on many Sundays she went with the priest to the outstations, and invited the people to come to Mass. She cared for the sick and dying and would try to rectify marriages.

“Mashiane” as the Zulus called her on account of her thick eyebrows, was known and loved everywhere in the Nongoma region. Men and women are said to have gone to confession to her for trial, and when one man in hospital was asked for his religious affiliation he replied: “I believe in Mashiane”. Even the Zulu King, who was born in her department, came occasionally to her small office for advice.

She helped the poor, distributed food and clothing and did not stop even if her kindness was occasionally misused.

The pastor of Nongoma described Sister Reinolda as a very solid missionary sister in the truest sense of the word and of inestimable help to him in his pastoral work. As a responsible and efficient midwife she came in contact with many people, women and men from near and far, and she enjoyed their complete confidence. Her friendly manner combined with zeal for souls had a great moral influence on those who sought her help. Through the help she offered them, many non practising Christians found their way back to the church.

She made every effort to track down children who had received emergency Baptism in her maternity department, and admonished the parents to have this baptized child educated in a Catholic school once it was of school age. She kept a careful record of every child who had received emergency baptism among the thousands of newborns.

In marriage situations where the Catholic man or catechumen lived together with several wives, she managed to convince the man to enter a church marriage with one of his wives, and separate without harshness from the others, and thus start a Christian family.

Through her nursing and her pastoral visits she could point out to the missionaries the families which needed pastoral assistance. Her heart suffered with the physically and spiritually sick. She wanted to alleviate their suffering.

Chapter 4

On the 8th of December 1954 Sister Reinolda saw two figures next to the altar in the hospital chapel, before Holy Mass started. A monk with raised hands from which incense was rising and a veiled woman, showing something veiled. During Holy Communion Sister Reinolda was enlightened that it was a veiled monstrance.

Eight months later on the 22nd of August 1955 Sister Reinolda had her first encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Blessed Mother had chosen this date, which at the time was celebrated as the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Sister Reinolda describes her encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Benedictine Hospital, Nongoma as follows:

“Shortly after receiving Holy Communion Mary stood before me, very close by. (Everything was seen in spirit). I was drawn into another atmosphere. Mary showed herself in a wonderful light, more beautiful than the sun.

She was robed all in white – flowing veil from top to toe. Upon her breast rested a big host, surrounded by a brilliant corona, radiating life. She was a ‘living monstrance’. Mary stood upon the globe, hands and feet invisible.

It felt like entering a cloud, drawn by Mary away from the earth. I had my eyes closed, but I saw so much light that I was very much dazzled for several days by the beauty and the light I had seen.”

Mary said:

“Call me Tabernacle of the Most High. You too are such a tabernacle, believe it!
I wish to be called upon by this title for the glory of my Son.
I wish that more such tabernacles be prepared.
I wish that the altars be surrounded by praying people more frequently.
Don’t be afraid, make it known.”

Q: “To whom?”

A: “Don’t be afraid, tell your priest.”

Sister Reinolda had a second and a third encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary two months later on the 20th of October 1955 and on the 22nd of October 1955.

“It happened immediately after Holy Mass. It was the same figure, the same place. The same requests were repeated, but the following was added:

“Make these words known to everybody. Don’t be afraid, you are God’s tool.”

Then Christ came out of this big host and was in union with me.”

Sister Reinolda informed Bishop Aurelian Bilgeri about her encounters, as Our Lady had asked.

Four months later on the 15th of March 1956 Sister Reinolda had her fourth encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“After Holy Mass Mary stood before me (serious).
She said:

“My Child, I know about your anxiety.”

She bent down and drew me to herself.

“You asked for a sign?”

“Not for me, for the others so that they may believe, they do not believe me.”

“I wish that a shrine be erected for me in the place where seven springs come together. There I let my graces flow in abundance. Many people shall turn to God.”

When I asked, “where is the place”, without words, she made a movement of the hand. The left hand pointed majestically upwards in a certain direction. This made me very happy and I felt great assurance.

“Don’t be afraid, make it known, it is my work. I shall see you again.”

Three months later on the 5th of June 1956, a fifth encounter took place during Benediction. It was the feast of the Sacred Heart.

“She came out of the monstrance and approached me as a living monstrance.”

Five days after this apparition at a retreat on the 10th of June 1956 the following prayer was written by Sister Reinolda;

Prayer to the Tabernacle of the most High

Tabernacle of the Most High, in humility I beseech you, let me recognize the mystery of being a tabernacle. You were and you are the true Tabernacle not only of the child growing in your womb, but you are the Christ-Bearer, living monstrance, totally one with your Son in the Host, as you were one with him under the cross. Responding to your petition: ‘Form more human souls into tabernacles.’ You alone can do it. Show your motherly power! Let flow the streams of grace! Prepare souls who will understand it and be totally enraptured by the firebrand of love from the Host in the Sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist. Save our world through the Host.

Mary, my beloved Mother, help me and those entrusted to me to reveal your mystery.

Chapter 5

Sister Reinolda conscientiously informed Bishop Bilgeri of these encounters. After careful consideration the Bishop’s reply to Sister Reinolda on the fourteenth of November 1956 was as follows:

“If the matter is genuine, the Blessed Mother will see to its success. Preserve in your heart your great love and your secret; then you will derive a great spiritual profit from it. Since you revealed this matter to your spiritual director and to me, you have done your part and can lay all else into the hands of Mary.”

Sister Reinolda wrote the following to Bishop Aurelian Bilgari on the 18 of January 1957:

“Pardon me, please, if I am not silent but speak about my secret again. How can the mouth and pen be silent if the heart is full to overflowing? Everything is as clear and alive before me as on the first day. This experience and impact on my spiritual life cannot be wiped away anymore. Should I want to forget it, I would have to give up praying. At each Holy Mass, Communion, and dozens of times at work, I am captured and my soul wants to shout and make the wish of Mary known to the whole world. The fact that I am supposed to be silent while my task is not yet done causes me very often pain and my tears flow secretly. I pray every day that you might understand the meaning of the message and not say it is nothing new. If you could only see Mary just once! She as the living tabernacle. She wants to give Jesus in the Host to the blind world. She only asks for souls who will receive the host, not only for some moments but take it along into their daily life, without separation, just like a living tabernacle.”

In her obedience to the Bishop’s wishes Sister Reinolda patiently endured great sorrow and suffering on this her way of the cross, almost unable to do what Our Lady was asking of her to make her message known to the world. As love for the Lord in the Holy Eucharist and veneration of the Mother Of God were outstanding character traits in Sister Reinolda’s spiritual life, she was the instrument chosen by Mary to spread her message to mankind despite having to overcome what seemed almost insurmountable difficulties in making this message known.

Nine months after her fifth encounter with Mary, on the 15th of March 1957 Sister Reinolda had a sixth encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“I come to strengthen you. I make use of your nothingness. Be totally humble.”

“Pausing - she drew me to herself and said;”

“I want to save the world through the host, my fruit. I am completely one with the host as I was one with Jesus under the cross.” “Fearful things are in store for you unless you convert.”

Q: “We?”

A: “Yes, if the religious do not convert and if the world does not convert.”

“Mother, just give me a sign!”

“You be all love and readiness. All people who hear and believe these, my words, are going to receive a sign from me. Make all these words known!”

Two months later on the 24th May 1957 Sister Reinolda had a seventh encounter. The following words were clearly heard:

“Don’t lose heart.”

Seven months later on the 8th of December 1957 the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Sister Reinolda made a journey for the first time to the Ngome area to visit a sick person. She had never previously been to Ngome.

During her time at Ngome she felt the certainty within her heart that this was the place where the shrine the Blessed Virgin had requested should be built. After consulting with Father Ignatius Jutz, the parish priest of Nongoma, a number of wells were found in the forest below the Ngome school.

Four months later Sister Reinolda had an eighth encounter with the Blessed Virgin.

It was the 17th of April 1958.

“Like a command!”

“Go to your place. Hurry up, - the hour is advanced. I must keep back the streams of grace with force because you do not make any effort to help me. I am asking for help from you my chosen ones”.

Q: “What are we supposed to do?”

A: “Be hosts! Prepare hosts for me, hosts who put themselves completely at my disposal. Only a flaming sea of hosts can drive back the hate of the godless world and restrain the angry hand of the Father. Don’t get tired. I find consolation in revealing myself to you. I shall never abandon you.”

Q: “Where is the place of the springs?”

A: “On your property on the mountain.”

With a movement of the hand she indicated a second time the very same direction!

“Don’t be afraid; make haste to make it known.”

Sister Reinolda began to feel the need for a picture of “Our Lady, the Tabernacle of the Most High”. With the consent of Bishop Aurelian Bilgeri of Eshowe and the support of Archabbot Suso Brechter of Saint Ottilien, a Munich artist Joseph Aman painted the picture according to the instructions given to him by Sister Reinolda. The painting was taken to Ngome on the 1st of May 1963.

Urged by Father Ignatius Jutz, Bishop Aurelian Bilgeri allowed Brother Jacob Riedmann to build a small chapel on the Ngome farm in the area where seven springs were situated. Father Ignatius blessed the chapel on Pentecost Sunday in May 1966. The picture of “Our Lady, the Tabernacle of the Most High”, which had originally been put up in the Ngome school, now found a permanent place in the little chapel.

Sister Reinolda kept on asking the Bishop to believe in her encounters with Our Lady and to give permission “to tell all the world” about the message she had received. The Bishop remained cautious and did not want the “Ngome Affair” to become public.

In Sister Reinolda’s diary the following entry is found:

“In the intervening years I have very frequently experienced Mary’s protection. I was not idle, and Mary lavishly distributed graces. Ever since my encounters with Mary I have to this day the urge to prepare tabernacles. Thus I began work with fallen-away Catholics. Where years ago I failed, Mary’s help was victorious. A great number of marriages were blessed and many have returned to the church after twenty to twenty-five years. Mary is active”.

Sister Reinolda asked her Superior for permission to spend her holidays in Ngome so she could do missionary work among the relatively few people there.

When Sister Reinolda and Sister Klara Woelfle OSB went to Ngome for a fortnight they slept in the small school. They had been allowed to take the Blessed Sacrament, and towards evening when they had completed their pastoral visits to the surrounding people, they had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. At the end of their missionary endeavour they also had the joy of seeing Father Ignatz baptize fourteen catechumens.

Chapter 6

Sister Reinolda conscientiously informed Bishop Bilgeri of these encounters. After careful consideration the Bishop’s reply to Sister Reinolda on the fourteenth of November 1956 was as follows:

In a letter to Father Ignatius Jutz dated the 30th August 1964 Sister Reinolda describes the first miraculous cure which happened through the help of Mary, Tabernacle of the Most High on Good Friday 1956.

She writes:

“Perhaps you recall this skeleton of a person which you yourself baptized on Good Friday; I still remember your words when you said: In this case one no longer needs to ask if she will die before baptism. This case was a caesarian. She came much too late and was already septic. The wound did not heal. She was operated on a second time and on Good Friday a non-Catholic nurse came to me and said: Sister I can no longer nurse Monica. We have just removed the clamps and it is again gaping open. Can’t you do anything else for Monica? I went to the doctor. His answer was: “It is abdominal tuberculosis and this infection on top of it. She is lost”.

Now I thought again of my “Tabernacle of the Most High”.
At that time we did not have water from Ngome. I went to Monica with the sketched picture of the Mother of God. I spoke about the “Tabernacle of the Most High”. Monica spoke her own prayer to the picture as if to a living being. After a short time Monica said: I shall not die. This lady will heal me. Next day the same nurse came again and said: Come with me and see what has happened. I went along and what did we see: the wound had healed. All the nurses wept. A few weeks later Doctor Koehler said to me: Tell me when did this woman die? I said: “She is alive.” Doctor Koehler replied: So, one should not give up on anybody as long as the heart has not stopped beating. My response to the doctor was that she was healed by a miracle.”

Sister Reinolda’s faith in Jesus was deep and her love for her brothers and sisters was sincere. In union with Jesus Christ she made her whole life a sacrifice. Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, His Sacred Heart, was the centre of her life and the source of her human and heartfelt approach. Sister Reinolda made Christ visible to her brothers and sisters, but she had to suffer humiliations, the attack of the evil one, sickness and the darkness which God leads his beloved ones into.

On the 23rd of March 1970, eleven years after her 8th encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sister Reinolda had a ninth encounter with the Blessed Virgin.

“It was the second night after a horrible appearance of the devil. I was woken from my sleep. All around me was light. Mary, the Tabernacle of the Most High stood beside me. She took me into her arms and consoled me.

She said:

“I know about your anxiety, I stand by you, I shall not abandon you.”

Before she disappeared she said:

“Look to the other side.”

There stood Michael in armour and a lance in his hands. On his right stood a cherubim robed in white, his arms folded. After about two minutes they disappeared and so did the brilliant light. This was a great consolation for me.”

Sister Reinolda often prayed in the little chapel at Ngome and it was there at the Ngome chapel, on the 2nd of May 1971, that her tenth encounter with Our Lady took place.

“Shortly before I left, I went again to the chapel with a small group of women. A catechumen had complained that she is in trouble because she wants to believe. One of her neighbours called her names and they were quarrelling. I prayed aloud with the women and asked Mary to help this woman and to convert this troublemaker.

Suddenly I noticed that the picture was very much alive. She stepped forward and her face was immensely beautiful.

In my excitement I shouted: “Look at Mary!”

I am convinced that the women too saw Mary. I personally was so moved that I walked away silently. The same troublesome man asked the priest for pardon and since then there is peace.”

Chapter 7

In the early seventies a large tea plantation was established right next to the Ngome farm and a village was built to house the workers. The Ngome Tea Estate employed a labour force of approximately one thousand four hundred people (by 1994) but there were only a few Catholics among them. Ngome remained a tiny outstation, quite insignificant as far as size of its congregation was concerned and the future of Ngome would have been bleak indeed had it not been for the development that focussed the attention of many Catholics in Zululand, and far beyond its borders, on the little outstation hidden away in the Ngome Forest.

The change came when it became known that Sister Reinolda May who had worked at Nongoma from 1938 to 1980 allegedly had apparitions of Our Lady during this time.

In was in the early 1970’s that the International Link (President) of the co-workers of Mother Teresa, Mrs Margaret Cullis, who travelled constantly around the world to encourage Mother Teresa’s co-workers to live the “love life” which starts in the home and branches out from there to the world, first heard of Our Lady’s encounters with a German nun, Sister Reinolda May. Margaret Cullis a secular Franciscan was leaving the Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban after mass when Mrs Ada Isaacs another secular Franciscan informed her almost in a whisper of the details saying the subject was forbidden and was not to be repeated to anyone. Mrs Cullis, a pilgrimage leader who had had the privilege of arranging and often leading pilgrimages for decades to Israel, Lourdes, Fatima, the Holy Land, etc, respected this confidence and kept silent on the matter.

Bishop Bilgeri never allowed the “Ngome Affair” to become public during his life time and died in 1973. After his death the “Ngome Affair” gained more publicity and was fairly freely discussed by priests and religious in the Diocese of Eshowe. Quite a few of the priests were inclined to see the matter in a much more positive light than Bishop Bilgeri. Priests, sisters and lay people alike began to travel to Ngome to pray at the chapel of Our Lady, and a commission was established to investigate the matter.

The commission stated:

“It is the opinion of this commission that there are some facts that speak in favour of the Ngome story, for example the personality of the seer and the fact that the message is theologically sound. Not only do these facts not allow us to suppress the whole affair but they also carry a special appeal. We think that Ngome could, without too great a risk be developed into a spiritual centre which could influence and shape people’s devotion to the Holy Eucharist and their devotion to Our Lady. A first step towards this goal would be to allow the veneration of Our Lady, the Tabernacle of the Most High and to permit pilgrimages to that place.”

When the priest’s council met on May the 12th in 1976 they were not prepared to endorse the findings of the Commission. Bishop Mansuet Biyase of Eshowe was of the same opinion and therefore did not allow any organized group pilgrimages to be undertaken at Ngome.

In the late 1970’s Mrs Rose-Marie Foxon heard about Ngome from her parish priest Father Felix Bauermeister, a Benedictine monk. Father Felix informed her so cautiously that it sounded mediocre and uninteresting. Father Felix encouraged Mrs Foxon to visit the shrine but furnished her with minimum information and as a result Rose-Marie was not very interested in the matter. What she understood from Father Felix was that a nun had had a sort of dream of Our Lady.

Rose-Marie asked Father Felix whether Sister Reinolda had ever been to Mtunzini to take a holiday at the accommodation for the Benedictines which was in the grounds of the Catholic Church in Mtunzini, as it was the place where many religious sisters and priests took their holidays. Father Felix replied that Sister Reinolda had never taken a holiday break or rest at the Benedictine accommodation in Mtunzini. He also added “You have never met her”.

Chapter 8

Sister Reinolda remained head of the maternity section at the Benediction Hospital for thirty-eight years until June 1976 when the South African government took over the hospital. When she retired from the hospital in 1976 from her position as matron of the maternity section at the age of seventy four, the statistics showed that since the opening of the hospital twenty eight thousand children were born in her department.

During her years of placing herself completely at the service of others she became one of the best known and loved Catholic missionaries in the area. She now moved to Saint Alban’s convent, about one kilometre away from the hospital. Even then she walked daily to the hospital to visit the sick, the terminally ill and those who were dying. Sister Reinolda baptized many children and prepared adults for Baptism and death.

In June of 1980 it became apparent that Sister Reinolda, great and much loved missionary, and yet humble tool in the hand of God, who had endured much suffering on being unable under obedience to make Our Lady’s message to the world known, was slowly dying. In August of 1980 she was transferred to the infirmary of the convent at Inkamana.

There Sister Maria Froning OSB spent time with her in the infirmary. What deeply touched Sister Maria in her frequent meetings with Sister Reinolda was the fact that the humble Sister never made the least remark about her meetings with the Mother of God.

On her last day on earth she lay very quietly in her bed and at 10.45 on April the first 1981 she passed peacefully into eternal life.

Shortly after her death a short notice of the death of the missionary Benedictine Sister Reinolda May appeared in the Southern Cross.

Some three weeks after Sister’s death Rose-Marie Foxon was speaking to Father Felix and Benedictine Father Norbert after morning mass outside the parish chapel in Mtunzini. Mentioning the nun who had died and the short article in the Southern Cross she asked the two priests whether this was the sister who had had the visions or dreams of Our Lady. Both priests seemed surprised but said yes this was the same sister. Rose-Marie asked Father Norbert if he had more information, and whether Our Lady had given a message, as she would be interested to know more. “yes, there was a message. I have a copy of the message but it is in German” replied Father Norbert. Rose-Marie asked Father Norbert to translate it into English and to post her a copy.

In due course Rose-Marie Foxon received a copy and became terribly excited and dumbfounded as she read the message. The importance struck her, the fact that Our Lady had actually appeared to a sister in South Africa Rose-Marie’s country of birth. She could not contain her excitement and noticed that Our Lady had told Sister Reinolda to make her message known to the whole world.

Rose-Marie decided she would help Our Lady do this; in fact she decided she would do all in her power to help the Blessed Virgin. The poor dear Catholic Church had not been able to do enough to make this vital information known to the people and to the world, thought Rose-Marie in her ignorance. What an honour that Our Lady had visited South Africa.

Rose-Marie also felt aware that there was an urgency to Our Lady’s request to Sister Reinolda.

With Father Felix’s permission she read the message out at the following Sunday mass in the small parish church of the Immaculate Conception as the little congregation listened.

As a result on Sunday the 26th of July some three months after Sister Reinolda’s death, a few families from Mtunzini and one family from Eshowe made a pilgrimage to the Tabernacle of the Most High’s shrine at Ngome. On arrival they saw a tiny three sided shrine which had a roof. This was the shrine built at the request of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and stood a few metres from the dusty dirt road opposite the small mission school. Looking through the wrought iron gate at the entrance to the shrine, they could see the painting of Mary Tabernacle of The Most High, which hung directly above the altar. On the altar and on the glass over the painting was a layer of red dust which had blown off the dirt road running alongside the shrine. These were the only two buildings at Ngome. Local children helped the pilgrims find their way to the springs along a narrow path through the forest.

It was a sunny Sunday and when Deacon Buthelezi arrived to conduct a communion service for the few Ngome Catholics and for the pilgrims who were waiting, the wrought iron gate was opened and Deacon Lawrence Buthelezi then commenced the communion service in the shrine at the altar which had now been covered by a white altar cloth. Rose-Marie prayed asking the Blessed Virgin that her husband who had been looking for work for three months would find work in which he would be happy. A husband in the group prayed that his wife would come to mass with him on Sundays. Both these requests were granted within a week.

After the communion service Rose-Marie spoke to Deacon Lawrence Buthelezi about the importance of the message and asked him whether he had met Sister Reinolda. Deacon Lawrence looked at Rose-Marie and said the following:

‘I Knew Sister Reinolda, and when I was with her I never felt the awareness that I was black and that she was white. I was an Anglican priest and was a married man, and When I told her that I wanted to become a Catholic she told me to think very carefully and seriously before doing so as it was a great and serious commitment to make.’

Rose-Marie spoke to Deacon Lawrence of the seriousness, importance and urgency of Our Lady’s message to Sister Reinolda and stated that the Pope should be told. The Deacon agreed and Rose-Marie said she would write to Pope John Paul to tell him. This she did.

Rose-Marie wrote to Pope John Paul 11 informing him of the apparition of our Lady at Ngome and sent him a copy of Father Norbert’s translation of the message into English.

She borrowed telephone directories of the whole of South Africa from the village Post Office, and sent copies of Our Lady’s message to Sister Reinolda, to as many Catholic priests in the big South African cities as she was able. She informed as many people overseas as possible and whenever she met people at the church who were on holiday from other parts of South Africa she informed them and gave them copies of Our Lady’s message to Sister Reinolda.

Bishop Mansuet Biyase of Eshowe published the following statement on August 11, 1981:

I am writing here on the above subject (the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Sister Reinolda May at Nongoma) to clarify the confusion caused by a circular that has been distributed in the Diocese of Eshowe. In fact this circular has also been sent to some places in the country as well as abroad. The gist of it all is the report on the alleged apparitions of Our Lady to a certain Sister Reinolda May OSB who is now dead. The first apparition is said to have taken place on the 22nd of August 1955 at Nongome Benedictine Hospital and the last one, the 10th on the 2nd of May 1971. Now with regard to stories of this nature, the Church usually adopts a policy of watch, wait and see until there is proof beyond doubt. The Church does this because in her long history and experience, a multiplicity of such stories has been told, and in many cases, when proper investigations were made, they have proved to be made up stories. Though I am not implying that this particular one is a made up story, it belongs to the category of so-called apparition stories and therefore we must be careful in the way we treat it. Because there is no clarity about its evidence my predecessor Bishop Aurelian Bilgeri, OSB did not allow this story to be published. Even the so-called miracles that were said to be connected with these apparitions could not reasonably be accepted as such. As a consequence, this story could not be handed out to Catholic Church circles as being true and proved. Yet it has happened that these circulars have been written and circulated, but may I make it clear that this has been an irregularity. According to the law of the Church, such a step on such a matter cannot be taken without the consent of the local Bishop or Ordinary. In this our particular case, believe me when I tell you that I was not told beforehand, neither was a copy sent to me. The first copy that landed in my hands was sent to me by a bishop from another diocese, who was already making inquiries from me about these alleged apparitions. Soon after this one, a number of similar inquiries poured into my office from this country as well as from overseas. They did this because they all knew that the right source and channel of such news is the local bishop. I have to tell them that this is one of the stories difficult to accept. In view of my predecessors policy with regard to these alleged apparitions, and since even I myself have not found any clear proof in support of this story, I hereby in virtue of my duties as the Bishop and ordinary of the Church in the Diocese of Eshowe, formally forbid anyone to publicise this as a true story. Neither do I allow any mass public pilgrimages to be organized to Ngome near Nongoma.

On Sunday April the 11th 1982 the “Southern Cross” published two photos of the “Shrine of Ngome” KwaZulu and a short article entitled “First Anniversary of Sister Reinolda’s death”. The article was sent in by Mrs Rose-Marie Foxon of Durban. The last sentence of the article read as follows: “Those who visit the shrine at remote Ngome in KwaZulu, should not be disappointed to find a humble, dusty building in the midst of the poverty of our Lady’s children”.

By 1984 Bishop Biyase had given permission for a bigger chapel to be built at Ngome. The church, built in a hexagonal shape, is situated on a solid rock overlooking the Ngome Forest, about one hundred metres away from the small chapel erected in 1966. Bishop Biyase blessed the chapel on August 31, 1985. The painting showing Our Lady as the Tabernacle of the Most High was taken from the little chapel and put up on the wall behind the altar in the new church, which is named after the Blessed Virgin Mary without the addition of a particular title.

Gradually the number of people making a pilgrimage to Ngome increased. Pilgrims came by private car and on bus tours.

On the 22nd of August 1988 at a deanery meeting held at Inkamana Bishop Biyase stated:

"When I blessed the new church at Ngome I made it very clear that the building must not be considered as a Shrine to Our Lady, but simply as a church catering for the needs of the people at that particular outstation. However, I find it difficult to suppress the Ngome Affair altogether. The past years have shown me that the idea of Ngome does not die. I cannot prevent anyone from going to Ngome.”

Chapter 9

On December the 8th 1981 the Foxon family had moved to Durban and when Rose-Marie became a secular Franciscan she met Margaret Cullis.

Margaret Cullis, Rose-Marie Foxon together with Father George Purves and other pilgrims went on pilgrimage to Ngome. Margaret Cullis who had arranged and been on countless pilgrimages over a period of forty years felt on arriving at Ngome and entering the beautiful little chapel filled with an intense joy and knew that the place was as holy a one as she had ever been to in the world. The surrounding countryside was exquisite and in keeping with other places in which Our Lady had appeared.

Although in the early days it was difficult to get to Ngome it was well worth the effort especially as Our Lady had promised “great graces to all who go there”. There were no private facilities in those days and people had to make comfort stops in the bushes. It was quite a feat walking down to the springs, through long grass and bushes and often encountering bulls, cows and goats.

Margaret Cullis again went to Ngome and decided to do something special for Our Lady for the Marian Year. However permission would have to be obtained from Bishop Biyase of the Eshowe Diocese. Fortunately there was to be a bishop’s conference in Durban, so she sought out Bishop Biyase requesting permission to take pilgrims to Ngome. Without hesitation this kind bishop granted permission and Mrs Cullis knelt at his feet and received his blessings. Mrs Cullis felt that bishop Biyase would encourage anyone to honour Our Lady always and specially during the Marian Year.

Little did she know that the special blessing received from Bishop Biyase would open up so many pilgrimages for the Marian Year and in the years to come. Mrs Cullis had the privilege of taking many groups of pilgrims to Ngome throughout the Marian Year. In those early days they would leave on a Friday morning from the cathedral in a big bus and travel to Mkuze where they stayed at the Ghost Mountain Inn – in those days a lovely little hotel which gave cheap weekend rates, thus making these pilgrimages available to even the poor, although many were sponsored. The hotel soon became known as the “Holy Ghost Mountain Inn” as pilgrims would have mass on Friday before dinner and again on Sunday morning before they left for home. The Saturdays were the special days of pilgrimage when they left early in the morning for Ngome and travelled on bumpy dirt roads cross-country but the scenery was beautiful and they would pray and sing hymns in preparation for Ngome.

On September the 8th 1988 an article appeared in the Daily News headlined:

‘SHRINE SET TO BECOME ANOTHER LOURDES’

“The age of miracles has not yet passed says Mrs Cullis of Durban who has organized a number of pilgrimages to a remote shrine in Zululand which she believes may become ‘another Lourdes’, the famous place of healing in France.”

There was no easy way to approach Ngome in those days. The last 70 to 100 kilometres, if not more, of the journey was along dirt roads, which meant that Pilgrims travelling from Durban, or Johannesburg, left their homes in the early hours of the morning, and on arrival at the holy shrine would usually be able to spend some three hours at this holy place before taking the arduous journey home. Some stayed at Inkamana Abbey or at the Ghost Mountain Inn at Mkuze.

Mrs Cullis knew that Our Lady “Mary Tabernacle of the Most High” had promised great graces to all who travelled to her shrine at Ngome, and as the International Link (President) of the co-workers of Mother Teresa travelling around the world to encourage her co-workers to live the love-life starting in the home and branching out from there to the world, she was inspired to give out pictures of Our Lady – copies of the famous painting, hanging in the chapel.

The pictures depicting Our Lady with a huge host on her breast made wonderful gifts to Mother Teresa, her sisters, brothers, priests, lay people and to her sick and suffering co-workers who were much consoled. Mrs Cullis asked people to make a “spiritual pilgrimage” to Ngome as they looked at their pictures. Mother Teresa kept hers in her prayer book.

In 1989 Margaret Cullis’s son Graham had a horrific and freakish car accident. Going around a corner to enter the main freeway, he crashed into a broken down truck. He suffered a fractured skull and the prognosis was not good. However prayers were going up for him around the world. After being in a coma for some time he gradually regained consciousness, but could not see. The doctors thought he would be brain damaged. To Margaret’s surprise she found that some one had placed a picture of Mary Tabernacle of the Most High where he lay. Graham gradually recovered and although his sight was slightly impaired he suffered no brain damage. He lives a normal life, has a good job, and has married. The doctors call Graham, God’s miracle. Mrs Cullis believes Our Lady, Mary, Tabernacle of the Most High played a large part in his recovery.

In March 1961 Father Michael Mayer OSB had been transferred to Nongoma Parish. During the years he stayed at Nongoma he came to know Sister Reinolda May well. She told him about her encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Father very seldom went to Ngome. In 1976 he was asked to serve as a member in the commission to investigate the Ngome Affair. During the Marian Year in May 1988 diocesan priests organized a pilgrimage from Eshowe to Ngome. In 1981 Bishop Biyase had published a statement which made it very clear that no public pilgrimages to Ngome were allowed. Bishop Biyase disapproved of this undertaking of his priests. It was suggested to the Bishop to think the Ngome Affair over again.

At that time Father Michael Mayer was parish priest in Eshowe. He felt that he should promote the Marian Shrine at Ngome. In the course of time he became deeply convinced that Our Lady wanted this place of prayer and grace at Ngome. Bishop Biyase was always an understanding guide in all Father Michael undertook to promote the Ngome Marian Shrine.

Also during 1989 Bishop Mansuet Biyase and Father Michael Mayer met with Father Paul B. Decock O.M.I. the chairperson of the TAC (Theological Advisory Commission) of the Southern African Bishops Conference to discuss the Ngome Affair. At their request Father Paul B. Decock compiled the following statement about Ngome.

“There is nothing objectionable in this (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 even 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….Holiness and the mental sanity of the person (who allegedly had visions) are no proof that the visions are genuine. The only objective criterion would be a miracle, which is seldom ascertainable…. At this stage the visions cannot yet be declared worthy of credibility.” (Cf. Paul B. Decock, The Ngome Visions, 07-05-90).

Chapter 10

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 further away. He used this opportunity to officially declare the Marian Shrine at Ngome a “Place of Prayer”. Ngome had thus become to all intents and purposes, a sanctuary of Our Lady, which has the approval of the Church. It meant that the pilgrimages to Ngome were no longer merely condoned but could now be actively promoted.

In February 1993 Father Michael sent out a circular letter explaining: “In our Diocese, the Marian Shrine at Ngome has become a gathering place of pilgrims for the glory of our Saviour in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In the name of the Bishop I am inviting you to a Eucharistic celebration of our Diocese at Ngome. It is desirable that each parish be represented.” The first major diocesan pilgrimage to Ngome took place on Saturday March 27 1993. In his invitation to the priests of the diocese, Father Michael said: “I am asking you to inform your parishes of the diocesan pilgrimage in March…. You may not be in favour of pilgrimages to Ngome. Your parishioners however, may like to go to Ngome. It has been declared a place of prayer. It is going to become a religious centre. Recently the Bishop of a neighbouring diocese celebrated holy Mass there.”

Bishop Mansuet Biyase of Eshowe took part in three major pilgrimages to Ngome in 1993. Each time between three to 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.

At this Eucharistic Pilgrimage Bishop Hubert Bucher stated:

“Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let from Ngome, a light shine out over the whole church in South Africa”.

Many of those who made a pilgrimage to Ngome Marian Shrine, also walked down to the place of the springs, mentioned by Sister Reinolda in her report about the encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1989 a pathway was laid leading down to the springs.

At the springs a large wooden cross was erected, and as pilgrims to Ngome like to pray there, and to fetch water from the springs, benches were provided.

During a pilgrimage to Ngome on Saturday the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December the 8th in the early 1990’s, a group of pilgrims lead by Rose-Marie Foxon witnessed during the late afternoon an amazing sight of the sun pulsating and spinning, surrounded by brilliant changing colours. The sun itself was changing colours rapidly, taking on the colours with which it was surrounded. These were in different hues. Some of the pilgrims who saw this amazing sight said the sun appeared to be approaching them. After some minutes the sun again took on the appearance of a white host in the sky and was then partly obscured by a fairly thin half-crescent which was a thick dull black. After a while the black half-crescent broke up and disappeared. The sun then again re-appeared without obstruction becoming fully visible as a circular shining white host. The pilgrims informed Father Michael of this strange event.

In the early 1990’s Norman Servais spent four years researching the Ngome affair and its message, and he subsequently produced a video on Ngome. The video entitled ‘The Message of Ngome’ was followed a year later by its sequel ‘The Message of Ngome Part Two’. Both videos were released in the mid nineties. The South African Broadcasting Corporation heard about the Ngome affair and commissioned a program to be made. This was broadcast nationally in 1998, and presented by the late Father Claudio Rossi.

A Mass of thanksgiving was held at Ngome on May 31 1994, after the historical democratic national elections. The vicar-general of the Diocese of Eshowe Father Johannes Kubheka was the main celebrant at that Mass. Earlier in the year pictures of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, cast in brass, were put up on massive poles marking the pathway from the church to the wells in the forest. Bishop Biyase blessed the "Stations of the Cross for Peace” at a pilgrimage on August 14, 1994, the eve of the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady.

In 1994 the Ngome Tea Estate had generously donated a building site to the Shrine. A statue of the Tabernacle of the Most High was made by the artist Geraldine McGurk for the grotto. In a written testimony she declared that she had tried in vain to paint the eyes of the statue. She had painted one eye after another without being able to get them right. Then after taking a short break, she tried once again to paint the eyes. This time, she made such a mess that she proceeded to clean the paint off. In doing so, she exposed the colours of the previous attempts; the mottled effect and identical hues in both eyes was not only realistic but superior to anything she could have painted.

More incredible still, the eyes had heart lines – that is, lines that show up in our eyes when we are emotionally disturbed. Geraldine is adamant that she did not paint in any lines.

In January 1996 building activities started at Ngome and on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary June 15, 1996 Bishop Biyase blessed the new buildings, which had not yet been finished. He blessed the grotto and the crucifix Portuguese pilgrims had donated. He thanked the Portuguese community for their devotion for Mary, Tabernacle of the Most High, and their contributions to the Shrine. For a number of years the Portuguese community had organized many pilgrimages to Ngome.

In earlier years pilgrims stayed at Inkamana Abbey and enjoyed Benedictine hospitality, but as the years passed a Pilgrims Rest at Ngome was planned because the Latham family wanted to move from Durban to Ngome. Chris and his wife Anna courageously made a start at the Shrine and took care of many pilgrims. With great faith Anna had encouraged her husband Chris who had never made a statue in his life, to make statues of Our Lady of Ngome. Thus Chris became known as manufacturer of statues of Our Lady of Ngome. These statues were made with love and devotion and a Miraculous Medal was placed within each statue during their manufacture.

At this time also the Pilgrim Virgin Movement in preparation for the great Jubilee 2000 reached South Africa. This international movement of Pilgrim Virgins was started in France by lay people, and involved the lay faithful of every country in the world. Every country was asked to circulate pilgrim virgin statues in honour of Our Lady, throughout their respective countries, to culminate in the year 2000 in Israel with all countries involved participating.

A committee of lay people in South Africa took the title of the National Movement of the Pilgrim Virgin and met regularly to organize Pilgrim Virgins so as to do homage to the Mother of God in this way. As the many statues made by Chris Latham at Ngome were the only statues of the Tabernacle of the Most High, they were bought and donated by private individuals and sent out to be circulated by the South African committee of the National Movement of the Pilgrim Virgin. The statues of Mary Tabernacle of the Most High became the symbol of the South African Pilgrim Virgin Movement. They were circulated in South Africa and Zimbabwe, where they were received with great love.

Pilgrim virgin statues of the Tabernacle of the Most High were taken to other countries, one remaining permanently in the Monastere de la Visitation in Paray Le Monial in France. Another statue of Mary Tabernacle of the Most High was taken to Israel to Kiryat Yearim outside Jerusalem, where the Ark of the Covenant once rested, and where the convent of the Sisters of Saint Joseph now stands. This statue was placed in the chapel of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Shortly before the eve of the JUBILEE 2000 two representatives of the Pilgrim Virgin Movement left South Africa for Israel, taking with them a pilgrim virgin statue of Mary Tabernacle of the Most High. On the eve of the year 2000 they joined in Shepherds Field in Bethlehem with representatives of other countries also bringing their pilgrim virgin statues. After the Jubilee these statues remained permanently in the museum of Mary in Nazareth.

Anna Latham states:

“We had dreamt of quietly and humbly living simply near the shrine to be close to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament for adoration, and close to God in the beautiful natural environment. We had taken a big risk and left everything to fulfil that dream. After our family left Ngome I realized that as a family we had only been called for that short period of time to pave the way for the Benedictine Sisters of Twasana to set up their community at Ngome.”

Chapter 11

The 13th of December 1997 was a very special day at Ngome. The feast of the Immaculate Conception had been transferred from Monday the 8th to Saturday the 13th December. Many members of the various communities of Benedictine Sisters of Twasana arrived at Ngome early in the morning to celebrate the establishment of a new convent comprising four Benedictine Sisters at the Ngome Shrine.

The morning was taken up with Mass of the Immaculate Conception and various prayers conducted in the Shrine. Celebrations continued throughout the day. At the end of the Mass Father Michael Mayer OSB, the custodian of the Ngome Shrine welcomed the Sisters to Ngome. This day in a very real sense symbolized for many a major step towards the fulfilment of the desire that Sister Reinolda had for a strong Eucharistic presence at Ngome, since the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament would now become a regular occurrence at the Ngome Shrine. Sister Regina, the Sister Prioress of the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters said that the day was truly historic for their order.

About twelve minutes after sunset a dramatic phenomenon appeared in the sky above Ngome. It was captured on video. The phenomenon consisted of several rays of blue light radiating from the direction at which the sun had set. The rays gradually increased in number and in thickness. Shortly before they appeared, the illuminated clouds in the sky resembled flames. The entire phenomenon lasted for approximately fifteen minutes. Everyone present was greatly moved by the occurrence.

On the 8 of February the images of the rays were featured on the SABC TV program 50/50. The scientific explanation presented in the program to describe the phenomenon was accurate and the rarity of such a dramatic display of crepuscular rays was clearly stressed. The rays were again featured on national television 28th and 29th June ’98 as part of a documentary on Ngome produced by the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

Even though the phenomenon was visible over a large area of land on that evening, it has been ascertained that the crepuscular rays looked at their best from directly alongside the Ngome Chapel. This is because there was a perfectly straight line between the shrine, the cloud formation causing the main crepuscular ray and the sun. In light of this, and in addition to the fact that the phenomenon occurred on a day of great significance in the story of Ngome, many believe that the event was indeed a sign from God – a sign which was intended not just for the people of Ngome but also for the people of Southern Africa and beyond.

In December 1997 the Benedictine Sisters of Tswana began their life of prayer and service at the Shrine. Bishop Biyase blessed their new convent on August 22, 1998. A month later the Sacred Heart Association of the Diocese of Johannesburg came in large numbers to Ngome. The shrine experienced the first open-air night pilgrimage.

There are “Crosses of Love” in the five continents, especially at places of apparitions of our Lady such as Lourdes and Fatima. The “Glorious Cross” at Ngome was erected and blessed in 1999. The Cross is “ever present” at Ngome Marian Shrine.

On Saturday of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the month of the Holy Rosary, in the year of the Holy Rosary 2003, the large church which was built was dedicated to the Mother of God, Tabernacle of the Most High, by Bishop Jabulani Adatus Nxumalo OMI, Durban.

The thousands of pilgrims who make their way to Ngome, often stop at the grave of Sister Reinolda May, to pray and ask her intercession in their needs. The following prayer was left at her grave:

Prayer for Sister Reinolda May.

Mashiane,
Sister Reinolda, I am Virginia Ngema, one of your trainees. I trained under you in the Benedictine Hospital Nongoma from November 1961 to October 1962 under your vigilant and highly capable supervision. We came here as pilgrims from Soweto to honour your steadfastness in prayer, and in thanks to the Blessed Virgin Mary for having appeared to you several times and we are confident that you are closer to her now. We ask you to intercede for us to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tabernacle of the Most High, to follow close in her and your footsteps. I have spent most of my time like you in the service of mankind. I request the grace of good health that I can continue serving my community. We are here also to pray for our priests, our church, our parishioners, our families, relatives and our friends who are here with us in this pilgrimage.
Sister Reinolda and Mary, our Mother, we thank you. Together with you we give all glory and honour to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Bishop of Eshowe, Bishop Mansuet Dela Biyase, made this statement in October 2002:

‘Ten years ago, on the 3rd of October 1992 I officially declared at Ngome that the Marian Shrine at Ngome is a “Place of Prayer”.

During the last ten years the Marian Shrine of Ngome in the Diocese of Eshowe became one of the most well known Marian Shrines in Southern Africa. We thank our Lord and Saviour and his Mother Mary, Tabernacle of the Most High, for the many graces pilgrims receive at Ngome. May our Blessed Mother continue to lead many people to her Son, Jesus Christ at this place of prayer and grace’.

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”
Apocalypse 12:1

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