SMA Preparatory Programme in Tanzania

Panorama showing the entrance and roofs of the new formation House and its location overlooking Lake Victoria




          This article was first published in the Spring/Summer edition of the African Missionary Magazine 2024. Below is a Gallery of photos showing the construction on this amazing site. 

Fr John Kilcoyne SMA with the SMA Vicar General, Fr Francois dePaul Houngue

In 1983 the SMA decided to admit African, Filipino, Indian and Polish seminarians to the Society. This decision has borne great fruit and, 41 years later, our SMA membership has grown, especially in African countries. There are now over 800 SMA priests worldwide, more than half of them come from what we initially called the “SMA Foundations.” Today SMA’s work and live in 17 African countries as well as in Europe, the Americas and Asia. We are blessed with over 400 students in formation for priesthood, most of whom are studying in SMA seminaries and Formation houses in Africa.

One of these new, as yet to be completed houses, is located on Bwiru Hill, Mwanza, Tanzania, which will be the SMA Preparatory Programme centre for future missionary priests from Tanzania.

In the SMA structure, the 29 SMA’s in Tanzania, are officially called a ‘District’, that is an area with growing numbers of local vocations and the potential to become a self-sustaining Unit [Province] within the Society. Fr John Kilcoyne was appointed the District Leader in 2019 and he is assisted by Father James Shimbala from Tanzania. Fr James is also the Director of the Preparatory Programme.

Due to the increasing number of young Tanzanians asking to join the Society, we decided to build a Centre for their initial training. Work at Bwiru Hill began in mid-2022. 

There are eight Tanzanian SMA priests: two working in the country and the remaining six in other African countries.

The District of Tanzania has 29 members, coming from Benin Republic, Canada, Central African Republic, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.

We have 28 Tanzanian students at various stages of their training – in the Preparatory Programme, in the International Spiritual Year [in Benin Republic], on Stage [working in a parish alongside experienced SMA missionaries], studying Philosophy and Theology.

We also have two lay Associates [from Netherlands] and two religious Sisters [from a Polish Congregation].

The location is spectacular not only because it commands panoramic views of Lake Victoria but also because of its amazing terrain. Mwanza is called Rock City for a very good reason: there are massive rocks everywhere and Bwiru Hill is no exception. As a result, the building project has been challenging, demanding the breaking of hundreds of tons of rock, levelling uneven ground, and designing the buildings to fit in with the sloping and multi-level site. To date the administration block and accommodation buildings [consisting of 16 bedrooms] have been completed, along with the kitchen and a recreation room. The community Chapel, dining room and classrooms will be built when money is available.

For the moment we are using an office as a classroom for the five students in the 2023/2024 class. Fr James and Fr Evantus Kene [from Nigeria] are in charge of their training. The nine-month Preparatory programme is the first step on their journey to becoming SMA missionaries. It is a time of discernment, during which they begin to explore whether the life of an SMA missionary priest is what they are called to, and become familiar with the SMA: our history, mission and spirituality. They are also introduced to the subjects they will later study in one of our SMA major seminaries in Kenya, Nigeria, or Ivory Coast.

Looking at the photographs one cannot help but be reminded of the verse from St Luke’s Gospel where the Pharisees complained to Jesus about the noise of people praising him as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus replied to them, “I tell you if these were silent the stones and rocks would shout out” [Luke 19:40].

The buildings among the rocks on Bwiru Hill will not only be a training centre for SMA students. They will also serve as a place for spiritual direction, retreats, language learning, training programmes for lay people etc. The Centre will, in time, be able to receive guests visiting Mwanza.

Staff and students

We, the SMA team in Tanzania, are deeply grateful to all who have supported us and helped with the costs involved in establishing this Centre. It will play its part in helping the growth life and the development of the Tanzanian District.”                                                        Fr John Kilcoyne SMA

An important source of funding for this Project is the Family Vocations Community [FVC] of the Irish Province and other Grants from the Province. The FVC brings together people who want to support the training of priests for Africa. For further information about how you can support Priests for Africa contact the FVC Director at your nearest SMA House or write to [email protected]   Alternatively, if you wish to make a donation click on the “Donate Now” Button on the top of this page.  



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