Golden Jubilee Celebrations in South Africa
On 6th March 1954, Mother Kevin Kearney, Foundress of the Franciscan Sisters for Africa, with Sisters Gertrude and Monica set out from Kampala, Uganda on the long trip to Kokstad in South Africa. Mother Kevin was then seventy-nine years old! Of that period we read:
"This entailed travelling by train to Mombasa, by boat to Durban and by road to Kokstad. Mother Kevin had been invited by the Bishop of Kokstad, John Evangelist McBride O.F.M."
L-R Mother Gertrude, Fr. Reginald OFM, Mother Kevin, Bishop McBride OFM, Mother Monica
Between the years 1962 and 1990, many of our sisters were involved in the medical care, nurses training and administration of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Lusikisiki. What a joy it was for us to see the developments there. It is now a District Hospital with ten doctors - the Medical Superintendent Dr. Thomas from Kerala, India and his wife, four South African doctors and four Cuban doctors. Dr. Thomas gave us a tour of the hospital. New wards, theatres and an administration block have been built and very little remains of the old hospital. In a central position stands the same statue of St. Elizabeth.
On Mondy 24th we set out for Mount Frere to visit the Precious Blood Sisters. It was here that Srs. Monica, Julia and Celine were given such great hospitality in 1954. The hospital is now very old but the sisters pointed out the location of the original convent to us. The sister's house is now situated opposite the hospital.
On our way out of Mount Frere we rejoiced to see the new hospital, which will be opened shortly. Dinner back in Kokstad gave us an opportunity to meet with most of the priests of the Diocese - Tom Byrne, John Kerr, William Lovett, and Egbert O'Dea.
In the afternoon we visited the Monastery of the Poor Clares who were not there during our years in Kokstad. The whole community of sisters are all from Zambia. The good news was that the following morning a young South African lady from the area was to be received as a postulant.
The next morning we set out for Hardenburg, beautifully situated close to the Drakensberg Mountains
and the Lesotho border. Here we were again warmly welcomed by the Daughters of Charity and Fr. William Lovett O.F.M. Some of the sisters still remember with great fondness our three sisters who taught in the Teachers Training College - Sr. Augustine Conway (R.I.P.), Sr. Madeline Brophy now in Ireland and Sr. Louise Poklemba now in Kenya. The original house of the sisters still stands.
Old Holy Cross Convent
On our journey we visited Cedarville where some of our first sisters were involved in the clinic and in pastoral work. The house occupied at that time still stands but no longer houses sisters.
On Wednesday, 26th we started the long trek home very happy that we had retraced the steps of our first sisters in South Africa. At home in Boksburg, Srs Elizabeth Murphy and Felicia Matola had been busy preparing a wonderful photographic display for the next big day, Saturday 29th, when we were joined by many friends and co-workers from the Dioceses in which we lived and worked between the years 1988 and 2004.
The venue we chose for the occasion was St. Francis' Care Centre - a centre for terminally ill patients. Our main celebrant for the Mass of Thanksgiving was Fr. Vumile Nogemane O.F.M Provincial of the Friars in South Africa.
Many friends and co-workers joined with us in this celebration, which was followed by a visit to the photographic display room and then a meal for all.
During our meal together we recalled the years 1954-2004, very conscious of the friendship we had
made both with religious and the various people with whom we worked. Our gratitude again goes out to the Mercy Sisters in Boksburg, the Loreto Sisters who were in Glen Cowie and the Holy Family Sisters in Luckau especially to the late Sr Sally Fiore who was Diocesan Development Co-ordinator in the Diocese of Witbank. Sally later went to Uganda where she resumed contact with us and sadly passed away last year having just celebrated Mass with us at La Verna in Uganda. To the Holy Rosary Sisters from Tzaneen Diocese and the Newcastle Dominican Sisters in Boksburg; to the people of the villages ofApel and the surrounding villages; to the people of Reiger Park Parish and St. Anthony's Education Centre. Finally, a very big thank you goes to Fr.Stan Brennan O.F.M. for all he has been to us over the years.
New Convent of Precious Blood Sisters
Celebrating our Golden Jubilee has been a wonderful opportunity to say 'thank you' to all who have enriched our lives and to pay homage to Mother Kevin and all the sisters who have gone before us. It has been an opportunity for us to rekindle our zeal for the spread of the Kingdom and an opportunity for us to invite others to come and join us as Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa.
Sr. Rena Condron FMSA