The Consolata Missionaries are a Missionary Religious Congregation founded on 29th January 1901 by Blessed Joseph Allamano, a diocesan priest, teacher and devoted to Our Lady Consolata, Mother of Jesus and of His Church. Through our Mother Mary we receive Jesus, the true consolation of humanity.
The Congregation was first made up of brothers and priests. In 1910 Blessed Allamano founded the Consolata Sisters. Priests, brothers and sisters are consecrated for the mission for life.
In the past thirty years, Consolata Lay Missionaries have joined the Congregation. They too devote their lives, abilities and talents towards the building up of the Kingdom of God all over the world.
Some Consolata Missionaries first came to South Africa in 1940 as Italian prisoners of war. They were held at Koffiefontein and deported after three years.
In 1948 instead some were sent from Italy to the University of Cape Town to validate their degrees, according to the British system, before being to Kenya and Tanzania as teachers.
In the late 60s the General Council accepted a request to start a missionary presence in the then Prefecture of Volksrust (today, Diocese of Dundee). Frs. Jack Viscardi and John Bertè were the first ones to arrive on 10th March 1971. The first Mission was Piet Retief. For 24 years they evangelized in different places, in the territory, today known as the Diocese of Dundee.
Consolata Missionaries, wherever they go, are called to stay for a relatively short time. Their aim is to announce Jesus, consolation of the world, through Mary, especially where the people don’t know Him. Then they form Christian communities, encourage them to become self-supporting and to be a ministerial and missionary church strengthened in unity by the Holy Eucharist, listening and spreading the Gospel everywhere.
Care for families, orphans, the vulnerable, the elderly and the sick, are all signs of Jesus consolation of humanity.
Consolata Missionaries contribute therefore to the Christian formation of leaders and catechists and to the general well-being of every person.
Although present in the country for so many years, there is still no South African Consolata Missionaries as, initially, the goal was the development of the local church through the promotion of the local clergy. We hope and pray that some will accept God's call to be sent from South Africa as missionaries all over the world.
The 24 years spent only in the territory today calls “diocese of Dundee”, according to an interview I did, in Italian, to Fr. John Bertè, for special issue “Sanibonani” in 1996 (silver jubilee), he said that we could divide the evangelization of the Consolatas in four stages:
The 1st Stage: starting in the Vicariate of Volksrust, guided by the Vicar Mgs. Marius Banks. The missionaries were at Piet Retief, then gradually went to Ermelo (Damesfontein), Evander, Secunda, Embalenhle, Kriel, Standerton and Bethal. One important act of consolation was to become bridge between some Mozambican men working in the mines of the Transvaal and their wives and children living in Mozambique. This was possible because the Consolatas evangelizing also in Mozambique.
The 2nd Stage: at the time of the creation of the Diocese of Dundee (1980s), the missionaries went to the rural areas Pongola and Pomeroy; there was an idea to go to Amakhasi, never materialized. This was to emphasis the presence of consolation with the poorer. At that time they were, also, assisting the Bishop in Dundee Parish.
The 3rd Stage: in 1991 the Consolatas, encouraged by Bp. Michael Pascal Rowland, went to Newcastle and its townships. The energies spent in Damesfontein Pastoral Centre for the formation of Leaders and Catechists, with the new pastoral area, started to be use for the benefits of the density populated Newcastle Deanery. But soon the signs of times called the missionaries to focus on projects, workshops and retreats consoling those HIV/AIDS affected and infected.
The 4th Stage: On 20th June 1995 when a missionary presence was started in Waverley and Mamelodi-West (Pretoria), one of the aims was to strengthen the awareness of the missionary responsibility of the local church and to welcome and form young men to become Consolata Missionaries from South Africa to the world.
Having served for many years in rural areas, as it was mentioned above, from the early 1990s, aware of the phenomenon of urbanization, the Consolatas became present in different townships, initially in the Diocese of Dundee and later on in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg (Daveyton, 2004).
Several youth were accompanying in their vocation discernment, the parish communities were praying for vocations and a Diocesan Vocation Team was established in Dundee diocese, where Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests could meet and plan periodically.
Fr. John Bertè, did not mention the 5th Stage, because he died on 5th January 2005. That time was another blessing for the Consolata Missionaries, that on the spring’s day 2008 started the intercultural Theological Seminary, at Merrivale (KZN), and one year later they were also open the Woodlands parish, in the Archdiocese of Durban. The seminary is made by religious professed Consolata students from several countries of Africa Continent, but no yet from South Africa.
Last year, on 23rd May, the Consolata Missionary Family had the first Beatification of one of its members, on the person of Sr. Irene Stefani, who spent her life as a nurse in Kenya, and died at the age od 39 in 1930.
Soon Consolata Missionaries will open officially in Swaziland, Diocesi of Manzini, already led by Bp. Jose` Luis Ponce de Leon, IMC
For sure the merciful consoler Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the intersession of the Blessed Joseph Allamano and Irene Stefani will pour his grace on the people of South Africa in order to become attentive to the Word of God and spread the Gospel to the world as we are living a new spring time of Pentecost.
Fr. Rocco Marra, IMC (up dated 30/03/2016)