Saint (St) Joseph’s Mission in Matobo, Matabeleland South will on March 19 hold centenary celebrations in which at least 3, 000 people are expected to be part of the festivities to commemorate the Roman Catholic Church’s 100 years of service to the community.
The giant mission, consisting of the church, St Joseph’s Primary School and St Joseph’s Clinic was started in 1923 by priests from Empandeni Mission in the neighbouring Mangwe District.
St Joseph’s Catholic Church services other outstations namely: St Therese (Lisieux), St Maria (Headman Mpamadzi), St Sebastian (Headman Sigangatsha), St Anna (Headman Namati), St Joachim (Bidi), St Anthony (Bango), St Peters (Crossroads) St Thomas (Gubula), St Andrews (Malaba), and St Elizabeth Catholic Church (Beula-Seula).
Bango and Cross Roads are just across the Simukhwe River in Mangwe.
CITE caught up with St Joseph’s Parish Priest, Father Innocent Makawule Ndlovu, who said preparations for the centenary celebrations are already in full swing.
“We are currently busy with preparations,” said Father Ndlovu.
“We are trying to give a facial uplift for the mission by painting buildings. We want to renovate some structures and for that reason, we are asking the community to assist us, the government and well-wishers. We are glad that the local traditional leadership has done its best. For instance, Chief Malaba has already contributed a beast towards the occasion. We have Chief Fuyana, who has also given a he-goat (intondolo), we have Headman Mpamadzi, who has also given a he-goat, we have Felix Malaba, the chairperson for parish, and he has also pledged a he-goat. So people are doing their best to contribute and support.”
Local Catholics, Father Ndlovu said, have bought some paints and contributed some money towards buying more beasts.
The priest said they would love to see roofs of both the old and new church buildings, conference rooms and other structures at the mission painted, adding those who wish to partner with them can contact the centenary team headed by the Sister in Charge, Sister Ngwenya on himself on 0712 505 869 / 0772 789 138.
“On 19 March 2023 at 0900 hours we shall have a thanksgiving service to celebrate 100 years of evangelisation amongst mainly Kalanga people, of course there are also Ndebele-speaking people among the Kalanga,” said Father Ndlovu.
“We want to thank God for all these years. 100 years is not a joke that the mission of St Joseph has been at the service of the local people.”
He explained further: “On that day we will be giving thanks to God and seeking for more guidance for the future and the years to come. We want to retrospect, look into the past with gratitude, celebrate the present with great jubilation and also anticipate the future with great faith, love and hope.”
The missionary activities here at St Joseph’s started around in 1921 with an outstation of St Therese, located 16 km South of the current mission. In 1923 Father Gerald came from Empandeni and often visited St Therese where he opened a school, assisted by a lay person, Mawhi Malaba Ncube of the Bhule house of the Malaba royal clan and other Catholics who had relocated from Empandeni.
“Basically, when we celebrate the 100 years of evangelisation, we are not only looking at priests because the tendency is to thank the priests alone,” said Father Ndlovu.
“But we also want to look at the lay people, the local people, the people of God that contributed immensely to the growth of faith among the Kalanga people and in this case, we are thinking of the likes of Mawhi, the Tjilin’we families, the Mbome family members, these are the Moyos that were Catholics at Empandeni, the Khwiyani people, we want to thank them, these are the Malaba people. They contributed to the growth of Roman Catholicism here at St Joseph’s Mission.
St Joseph’s Mission gave birth to the primary school between 1932 and 1934 and the clinic around 1939 and 1940.
The clinic was started by the Precious Blood Sisters while the primary School, one of the largest in the area with around 800 learners and school and doing very well, was opened by Father Peter working together with the Precious Blood Sisters.
Father Ndlovu said the Mission of St Joseph has made great achievements over the years in education health and faith.
“We cannot quantify faith but we want to believe that church has been instrumental in building moral values of the community,” said the priest.
“We expect about 3, 000 people or more to grace the occasion of the centenary celebrations. We have sent our invitations to various people regardless of their religious or political affiliations. We expect church dignitaries from other denominations.”
Father Ndlovu said they also expect government officials to grace the occasion.
“We expect obviously our arch-bishop, Arch-Bishop Alex Thomas to be our main celebrant, presiding over the thanksgiving service and also administering the sacrament of confirmation to our people,” he said.
“So we expect many people to come.
Father Ndlovu said that entertainment, including traditional dances, church music and many other activities, would be provided by congregants, learners at the mission school, and community members.
“We also expect a youth sports tournament a few days before,” he said.
“There is a lot in store for the occasion.”