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Sr. Mary Fisher, Ms. Mary Mhlanga, Srs. Bridgette, Cecilia and Deirdre 

It is not easy to leave South Africa. How do you say goodbye to this beautiful land at the southern tip of Africa?
This country is unique in so many ways. It holds the Cradle of Humankind and was the birthplace and home of one of the great icons of our times:  Nelson Mandela. It has a rich diversity of cultures among its people who have seen dramatic change and transformation take place in the country’s journey to Democracy. It was like a miracle happening. The scenes that happened there during the first Democratic Elections in 1994 have been compared to the scenes of jubilation at the Brandenburg Gate when the Berlin Wall came down. The colourful National Flag that was adopted in 1994 has a large Y in its centre, a symbol of the merging peoples of the New South 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 withdrew from South Africa at the end of November 2013. Our final leave taking took place during November, a month that, in South Africa, is characterised by blue skies! Those of us who were last to leave South Africa were keenly aware of the enormous changes that had taken place and the heritage built up in the 59 years since Mother Kevin and companions first arrived in the Transkei in 1954.

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
Deep Peace of the flowing air to you
Deep Peace of the shining stars to you
Deep Peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep Peace of the gentle night to you
Deep Peace of the Healing Light to you
Deep Peace of the Son of Peace to You