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FMSA SAY GOODBYE TO SOUTH AFRICA
It is not easy to leave South Africa. How do you say goodbye to this beautiful land at the southern tip of Africa?
South Africa was the focus of world attention in early December when Nelson Mandela died. Previously the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island had united both artists and ordinary people all over the world to call for his freedom. Now, this heroic man once again united not only the people of his country but people all over the world, this time in mourning his passing. And paying tributes to him. Pope Francis said: “I pray that example of President Mandela will inspire generations of
South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations”.
We had been in Boksburg on the East Rand for twenty years. Boksburg would not be prominent on most maps of South Africa. It had once been a dusty fledgling town that grew up suddenly on the discovery of gold in the area. On a Summer’s day in 1886, two prospectors found Gold in the Transvaal (land north of the Vaal River) and the rush was on. People thronged into Johannesburg and the whole Rand (Witwatersrand) area in order to strike it rich. However, not everyone struck it rich! South Africa remains a land of many faces and great diversity and, in spite of its renowned mineral wealth, a country of great need. To this day there are vast expanses of territory around Boksburg inhabited by very poor people who live in the most rudimentary shelters in Informal Settlements.
We, Franciscan Sisters, first came to Boksburg through an invitation from Fr Stan Brennan OFM, who died in July 2011. Fr Stan had spent more than 40 years ministering in Reiger Park, a Township in the Boksburg area, and had spent his life trying to make things better for those around him. He set up Outreach Programmes in Medical, Educational and Pastoral Care. He had first invited the Franciscan Sisters to Boksburg when he had a chance encounter with Srs Rita and Mechtilde who had recently come from the Eastern Cape, now the Transkei. Since then many Sisters have served in Boksburg with ministries that have predominantly served the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged. We are happy to record this and very grateful to all those who have served here over the years. New ministries in Prison Ministry, Ecumenism and Spiritual Accompaniment have been developed in line with the emerging needs.
Sisters Mary, Deirdre and Cecilia are the last to leave South Africa. Saying goodbye to all those with whom we worked and among whom we lived is painful. We thank God for the privilege of having been here in South Africa to witness the miracle of Democracy and to be with the people as they work and struggle towards a better future. We have been happy here and we leave behind memories of friendships formed and bonds created as we move forward. We invoke a blessing on all the people of South Africa in these words of traditional blessing:
Deep Peace of the running waves to you