Cast out your nets into deeper water!

A two-day orientation workshop for SMA priests assigned to the South Africa Region was held at the SMA Regional House, Buffelsfontein on 11-12 February 2016.

Fathers Samuel Madza, Joseph Ogungbe and Vincent Brennan
Fathers Samuel Madza, Joseph Ogungbe and Vincent Brennan

The purpose of the workshop was to help recently appointed SMA priests gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities involved in ministry within the South African Catholic Church. From the earliest years of our Society we have always given time to preparing new missionaries when they first arrive in Africa. This period – called the Tyrocinium – was given over to getting to know about the local culture and learning the local language. It usually lasted for six months before the newly-ordained was sent to an experienced missionary to help initiate him into mission work. Now, since the 1990’s, most of our missionaries are coming not from the older parts of the Society [America and western Europe] but from the new parts of the SMA family:  several African countries, Poland, India and Philippines. But even the African SMA’s from Nigeria or Kenya for example have to learn about the culture and some of the languages in South Africa!

Fathers Pius Afiabor [Regional Superior], Emmanuel Dim and Fidelis Atolagbe, all from Nigeria
Fathers Pius Afiabor [Regional Superior], Emmanuel Dim and Fidelis Atolagbe, all from Nigeria

And so the SMA Regional Superior in South Africa – Fr Pius Afiabor from Nigeria – arranged for this two-day workshop to assist in acquainting the more recent members assigned to the country [as well as the ‘old hands’] in some aspects of life in South Africa.

The workshop included presentations on the history of apartheid, the Southern African Catholic Bishops pastoral plan, catechetics, marriage registrations, child safeguarding, integrity in ministry and SMA leadership structures.

Sister Winnie Rocchiccioli presented some thoughts on Catechetics and the Aduilt catechumenate. Pia Nunn gave a presentation on Apartheid whilst Vincent Brennan and Hugh Lagan gave presentations on Professional Conduct and the Protection of Children.

The workshop was well received and all participants found the content and experience beneficial.

The SMA has a long history in South Africa dating back to 1873 when the first French SMA missionaries landed in Cape Town. The second wave of SMA missionaries arrived in Rustenburg in 1985 and our presence has steadily expanded into two additional dioceses. Since 1985, 36 SMA priests from the Irish Province and three African Districts-in-formation have served in the region of South Africa.

Today, Fr Pius leads a 16 priest team ministering in 3 dioceses: Rustenburg [9 SMAs], Pretoria [5 SMAs] and Johannesburg [2 SMAs]. Six of the 16 are from the Irish Province. Among the Irish members is Fr Hugh Lagan who is working with groups of clergy throughout southern and eastern Africa on personal wellbeing and Safeguarding matters.

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