New SACBC Secretary General

South African Sister sees her appointment as Recognition of Women

Sister Hermenegild Makoro has been appointed as successor to Fr Vincent Brennan SMA as Secretary-General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).

Sister Hermenegild, 60, was born in the village of Koeqana in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. She made her first profession in 1976. “I see my appointment as recognition from the bishops of the work that women are doing in this part of the world,” Sister Hermenegild Makoro said in a December 12 telephone interview, noting that “in parishes women are talking the lead.” She views her appointment as a natural extension of the many tasks performed by women in the church.

For the past six years, Sister Hermenegild has been associate Secretary-General of the Pretoria-based Bishops’ Conference. She will replace Father Brennan on his retirement from the post in March 2012. Fr Brennan will continue with his pastoral responsibilities in the diocese of Rustenburg where he has ministered since 1985.

According to CNS the job “will be challenging, especially for me as a woman after the position has been held by men for so many years,” said Sister Hermenegild, who has served a term as Provincial Superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood.

During the height of apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s, the late Holy Family Sister Brigid Flanagan was associate Secretary-General of the Southern African conference and frequently stood in for Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa while he was imprisoned for anti-apartheid activities.

“The face of the conference has changed since those days,” Sister Hermenegild said, noting that “about 15 new bishops have been appointed in the past two decades.”

“Because I’ve worked for the bishops’ conference for a long time, I understand the way they operate,” she said, noting that the region’s bishops “have open and vibrant discussions and I feel I will be able to challenge them if the need arises.”

In meetings of IMBISA, which represents the bishops’ conferences of Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa, “I will be the only women among all the men,” she said.

“But I don’t feel like an outsider. There is mutual respect, and we all have the same interests at heart, the interests of the people of God,” Sister Hermenegild said.

“My appointment “might make them think” about appointing women to leadership positions in their country’s Episcopal Conferences,” she said.

Article written with some information provided by CISA News Agency, Nairobi