Dec 01, 2021 Last Updated 1:57 PM, Nov 30, 2021

South Africa: Thirty-five years of evangelization

Categoria: I Nostri Dicono
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{mosimage}“On the 10 March 1971 the first Consolata Missionaries to arrive in the Prefecture Apostolicof Volkrust, were Frs. John Berté and Jack Viscardi. They spent some time in being acclimatized and getting to know the Prefecture and learning Zulu in Pomeroy and Mhlumayo. They then took over the Mission of Piet Retief from the Franciscans, other Consolata’s joined them and in 1973, the Parish and Mission of Ermelo was handed over to the Consolata Missionaries. From then on they went from strength to strength to take over more parishes and missions”. Those were the words of Mgr Michael Paschal Rowland, the then Bishop of Dundee, on the 19th of January 2001 as the Consolata Missionaries were celebrating their 30 anniversary in South Africa and the centenary of the foundation.

A “survivor” speaks:

The Lord Jesus, in His goodness, called me as a young boy to serve at His altar and later to become one of His special friends, to become a Priest and act in His name. While I was studying to be a Diocesan Priest, He invited me to take a further step and become a “Missionary” Priest. I cherished the idea, I could already see myself in far away lands bringing thousand of people to Jesus (like St. Francis Xavier!), maybe becoming a martyr…! But the strong opposition I encountered all around and especially in my family, made it difficult for me to take the final decision. But in October 1964 I took the plunge and joined the Consolata Missionaries. In the second half of 1968, I received my 1st appointment not directly to the mission field, but to further studies in connection with my future work in the Missions. Cape Town then became my “home” for the next three years. In 1971 I only had one remaining subject to write in order to successfully complete my studies and therefore I had plenty of free time. At this point Fr. Lorenzo Maletto, IMC, my superior, suggested that I could help out Fr. Alfred Rakauone, the Parish Priest of St. Gabriel, in Gugulethu, who was not well. Obviously I accepted with enthusiasm. On the 15th of June 1971, Fr. Alfred died unexpectedly and I kept the wheels turning till the end of the year. I held no previous pastoral experience, nor did I know the Xhosa language, but the youthful enthusiasm did the trick. At the end of the year I completed my studies and got my missionary appointment to Piet Retief in what was then the Transvaal. Piet Retief was part of the Prefecture Apostolic of Volksrust, now Diocese of Dundee. It was a great change from the big Parish of St. Gabriel in Gugulethu to the numerically small, but geographically vast Mission of Piet Retief and then of Damesfontein. I enjoyed my missionary work in the area for the next seventeen years! The Lord protected me and carried me through many difficult situations due to the apartheid policies or to my fiery temper, during those memorable years. It was very rewarding to see new small Christian communities spring-up and grow where there was not a single catholic before. I do remember those “missionary years” with pride and nostalgia. My youthful dreams had been fulfilled.

{mosimage} In 1991 after I had grown a bit wiser and more experienced I was appointed to care for two much bigger catholic communities in Madadeni (Newcastle) which in the course of the next nine years became three, due to the rapid extension of the township. Once again I had plenty of work, but a very different environment, which quired the acquisition of new skills and new methods. I enjoyed this new appointment as I had enjoyed the previous ones. I remember with a certain pride my ecumenical work with many other Christian churches and my experience at proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the help of a large “tent”, which in six weeks moved to six different locations in the township bringing together for praise and worship thousands of peoples. Today I sometimes dream of repeat the same experience in Embalenhle (Evander), but I haven’t the courage and the energy anymore to take upon myself such an onerous endeavour. What can I say after more than thirty years in the Diocese of Dundee? I can say that I enjoyed every moment of it and that I am grateful to the Lord who has, during the last few years, called a number of local young men to serve as Diocesan Priests. They may not yet be numerically enough to cover all the Missions of the Diocese, but it is a good start for which, we Missionaries, may take some credits for. May the Lord of the vineyard call more labourers to work in His vineyard in the years to come so as to make us Missionaries redundant.


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