Rainbow Nation

South Africa Celebrates


This year, 2004, South Africa celebrates 10 years of Democracy. We remember the aspirations of the African National Congress of 1912 which called for, ".... the establishment of a truly democratic form of Government" and rejoice that this has been achieved. Nelson Mandela called the Bantu Administrations, erected under Apartheid, "a retreat from democracy", in his autobiography: "A Long Walk To Freedom." When Mandela was released from prison, on the llth  February 1990, the world watched spell-bound and, later when he visited Canada and met young Inuit people (Eskimos) who shouted "Viva ANC" and informed him that they had watched his release, after 27 years, from prison on Robben Island, he realised that "Television had shrunk the world and, had in the process become a great weapon for promoting democracy." In April 1994, when all

Sr. Cecilia Sweeney with trophy and award for outstanding teacher in English
South Africans went to the Polls for the elections (most casting their vote for the first time ever), a new South Africa was born in spirit as well as constitutionally. The joyous feeling of the crowds on that day was compared by one journalist to the mood of the great crowd around the Brandenburg Gate the day the Berlin Wall came down. Ten years on, much has changed but, as Nelson Mandela wisely says: "we have not taken the final step on our journey but the first step..." towards achieving, for all, the fruits of freedom. So, while we rejoice in the development already achieved, we realise that there is still a long road ahead before all enjoy the fruits of democracy and liberation.

We, Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa, also rejoice this year as we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our presence in South Africa. Our Foundress, Mother Kevin Keamey, who blazed a trail in Uganda, "had her sights fixed on South Africa" - coincidentally just at the time the Treason Trial against Mandela and his companions was being launched - and, together with her companions, she personally visited South Africa in 1954. Mother Kevin and her companions were disconcerted by the apartheid policy of separate development and found it a daunting experience, at variance with their respect and dignity for all people. However, a decision was made to respond to the needs of the time and these pioneering Sisters attended to the social, educational and medical needs of the local people and contributed a marvellous service to the people of the Transkei. One of these early missionaries, Sr. Doctor Rita O'Hare has served in South Africa until the present day and her care of the sick and great spirit of service was celebrated at St Francis Care Centre (for those suffering form HIV/AIDS) just before she went on home leave in March of this year.

In the 1970's, (while Mandela and his companions were enduring the 'The Dark Years' on Robben Island) our Sisters (Madeline Brophy, Louise Poklemba and Augustine Conway R.I.P.) went to, minister in Hardenburg Mission on the border with Lesotho among the tongue-clicking Xhosa and Sotho people. In the late 1980's with talks beginning between the ANC and National Party and the hope of liberation dawning for the masses, our Sisters (Rena Condron, Jeanette Walters and Kathleen Hickey) came to Glencowie in the Northern Province, now Limpopo, to prepare for their ministry in Apel. As they ministered in Teaching, Catechetics and Social Development, they witnessed a new confidence growing in the community around them and had an opportunity of voting in the first democratic elections. In Mooketsi, in Tzaneen Diocese, Srs Rena, Eilish, Christina, and Anne Shoetelkotte were involved in a wonderful Pastoral Programme "Called to Serve."

ImageWe salute all our Sisters who have worked in South Africa and we treasure the memory of those who have gone before us. May those who have died rest in peace and may those who have moved on enjoy God's Blessings. A group of four Franciscan Sisters now minister in Boksburg in outreach programmes, just like our 'ancestors' did 50 years ago!

For Srs Rena, Mary Fisher, Mary McGloin and Cecilia Sweeney working in the 'New South Africa' is a challenging and very special experience and people pay us tribute for our contribution to development of the Rainbow Nation. In February of this year Cecilia Sweeney was awarded a Trophy as 'Best Educator in English 1st Language in the Region' and we all rejoice in being part of a growing democracy and in witnessing the gradual transformation of the 'Beloved Country'.

                                                                                               Sr. Cecilia F.M.SA.