Written by Administrator Thursday, 29 July 2010 09:10
Since the Africa Synod in Rome in the mid 1990s it has been customary to speak of three attempts to evangelise Africa. The first we can associate with Saint Mark, the foundation of the church of Alexandria, the spread up the Nile to Nubia and Ethiopia and West along the coast of North Africa. Saint Augustine attended a synod with some 500 other bishops from North Africa in the early fifth century. But, except for the enclave of Ethiopia, Christianity in Africa virtually disappeared under the onslaught of Islam in the seventh century.
He was energetic but not a good listener, and had to be moved. But to where? The decision was made to send him to Africa, and he reached Tete in November 1560 and from there proceeded to the court of King Mwene Mutapa, North West of Mutoko near the Mazowe river. The King and his mother became Christians, but Muslim traders worked against Silveira. Silveira was killed and the mission collapsed..
The International Mission (1879-1887)
Fr Henry Depelchin SJ
Fr Charles Croonenberghs SJ (1843-99) Shosong (Botswana) They reached Kimberley on 11th May. They reached the Limpopo on July 8, and carved a cross high up on a spectacular tree where many travellers, including Livingstone, had halted. It can be seen to this day, though the tree is dead. They crossed the Limpopo and 'for six days journeyed through a dreary waste of thorn bushes, dusty and dry, almost without water and without grass ...' and reached Khama's capital at Shoshong on 23rd July. The chief was cool to them because he had aready welcomed the London Missionary Society. Depelchin was very disappointed and determined to move on. They faced many trials. The wagons were often stuck and the oxen fatigued. The were frequently dehydrated in the scorching sun, and there was the constant threat of wild animals.
Fr Charles Croonenberghs SJ (1843-99)
They reached Kimberley on 11th May. They reached the Limpopo on July 8, and carved a cross high up on a spectacular tree where many travellers, including Livingstone, had halted. It can be seen to this day, though the tree is dead. They crossed the Limpopo and 'for six days journeyed through a dreary waste of thorn bushes, dusty and dry, almost without water and without grass ...' and reached Khama's capital at Shoshong on 23rd July. The chief was cool to them because he had aready welcomed the London Missionary Society. Depelchin was very disappointed and determined to move on.
They faced many trials. The wagons were often stuck and the oxen fatigued. The were frequently dehydrated in the scorching sun, and there was the constant threat of wild animals.
On the 17th August they reached the Tati goldfields, in modern Botswana not far from the Zimbabwe border. Depelchin decided to found a mission there, which the Jesuits called Good Hope, on the south bank of the Tati river. It was the first mission of our Jesuit Province.
Depelchin was disappointed by the slow progress of relations with Lobengula, and decided to send two additional expeditions – one to Mzila’s Shangaan people in the East, and one to Lewanika’s Barotsi in the North. Neither of these expeditions were a success, largely due to a tiny insect – the mosquito which brought about the death of most of these early Jesuits. The irony is that it was the Jesuits in South America who had brought the world’s attention to the anti-malarial qualities of quinine, known at the time as 'Jesuit's Bark'.
Mzila - Shangaan (Zimbabwe)
What could go wrong did go wrong on the journey to Mzila's. Fr Law, Bro Hedley, Br de Sadeleer and a new arrival, Fr Karl Wehl, set out on 28th May, 1880. Fr Wehl got separated from his three companions and was lost for a month. The rains set in and the wagons got stuck; food ran out and malarial fever weakened the health of all three. They abandoned the wagons and arrived at Mzila's on foot on 31st August in an exhausted state.
Mzila did not welcome them, and Fr Law died of malaria on 25th November. The three remaining Jesuits lived in squalor and starvation until 19th April 1881, when two of them struggled to Sofala on the Mozambique coast where Fr Wehl died in his weakened state. Br de Sadeleer returned to Mzila's with supplies, then he and Bro Hedley struggled back to Gubulawayo, arriving on 1st October 1881, sixteen months after they had set out, and having accomplished nothing.
Fr Augustus Law SJ (1833-80)
The journey to the North fared little better. On the 17 May 1880 Frs Depelchin, Terorde and Weisskopf, with Brs Nigg, Vervenne and Simonis set out for the Zambezi and settled at Pandematenga.
Mwemba - Tonga (Zambia)
Depelchin decided to start work with the Tonga people, and eventually obtained permission to start a mission at Mwemba’s settlement on the North bank of the Zambezi. Mwemba soon tired of their presence and, it seems, tried to poison them. Fr Terorde died in agony on the 16th or 17th of September 1880. Br Vervenne was very ill but able to bury Fr Terorde. At this point Br Nigg arrived and carried away Br Vervenne in a hammock.
Lewanika - Barotse (Zambia)
Depelchin, though ill with malaria, determined to press on, and sent messages to Lewanika of the Barotse who invited him to come the following year, 1881. They made the journey and were welcomed and promised land for a mission station. Depelchin returned South to gather more men and supplies, but he was now weak from his exertions and the constant malaria, and did not manage to return to the Zambezi.
Fr Peter Prestage (1842-1907)
In 1886 Fr Prestage eventually persuaded Lobengula to allow him to start a school at Empandeni, but the new superior, Fr Alfred Weld, decided that a period of consolidation was called for, and ordered the withdrawal of all Jesuits from Matabeleland. Prestage accordingly withdrew, but he begged Weld to allow him to return, and Fr Weld eventually gave in.
In 1887, Frs Prestage and Andrew Hartmann built up Empandeni, and classes began in the school. But the signing of the Rudd Concession soured relations between Lobengula and the Europeans, and the Jesuits felt they had to withdraw for a time, leaving a caretaker in charge of the mission.
1890 was the year when Rhodes’ expeditionary invasion, also known as the pioneer column, came to claim the land between the Zambezi and the Limpopo. His claim was based on a flimsy agreement with Lobengula, which Rhodes interpreted liberally. It was shortly after this that Fr Prestage returned to Empandeni, a residence was established in Salisbury, and the first mission in Mashonaland founded at Chishawasha in 1892.
In 1894 Fr General decided to entrust the mission to the British Jesuits although many of the Jesuits who came from other countries stayed on. Despite the wars of the first decade of colonialism, it was a hectic period of expansion. Missions, schools and parishes were established in Bulawayo (1894), St George’s (Bulawayo 1896), Gokomere (1896), Mutare (1899), Embakwe (1902), Gweru (1903), Chikuni (1905), Kasisi (1905), Driefontein (1906), St Joseph’s Hama (1908), Katondwe (1910), St Peter’s Mbare (1910), etc. In 1927 authority was delegated from the British Provincial to a Mission Superior on the spot, and in 1930 the first bishop was consecrated, Bishop Aston Chichester.
There were always a large number of Germans among the Jesuits in this country, and they felt they needed their own area in order to focus their efforts and give identity to the support they knew would come from Germany. So in 1957 the East German province took over the Sinoia (Chinhoyi) Mission. Within a few years they built missions in Guruve (1958), St Albert’s Mission and school (1962), Karoi (1963), Chitsungo (1964), Magondi (1964), Banket (1970) and St Boniface Hurungwe (1970).
By the late 1970s we felt it was time for the British and German missions to come together, and Fr General Pedro Arrupe called us to form one province in 1978. Both missions were beginning to receive vocations locally and, at the same time, the number of Jesuits coming out from Britain and Germany was rapidly reducing. So we wanted to combine our resources in responding to this new phase in our story.
After a few years of running our own Zimbabwe noviciate, we decided in 1983 to join with Zambia/Malawi and Eastern Africa in a joint novitiate in Lusaka. In 1994 Arrupe College was established in Harare as a college of philosophy and humanities training Jesuits from the whole of English speaking Africa.
At the beginning of 2012, Zimbabwe Jesuit Province had 131 members:
34 Scholastics before ordination: (18 studying Philosophy & Humanities, 5 on Regency, 11 studying Theology)
9 priests awaiting Final Vows,
15 Brothers with Final Vows,
61 Priests with Final Vows.
Last Updated on Friday, 20 July 2012 12:45