Dominicans Celebrate 100 Years in South Africa
In 1917, Fr Laurence Shapcote OP (1864–1947) arrived in South Africa to officially investigate the possibility of setting up a mission on the behalf of the English Province of the Dominican Order in South Africa. This marked the foundation of the Dominican presence in the entire Southern African region in our contemporary age.
In 2017, one hundred years down the line, Dominicans remain present and contribute in several ways both within and outside the Church in Southern Africa. In anticipation of the centenary celebration, on 29th July 2017, a book entitled The First Dominican Friars in Boksburg, Brakpan and Springs – South Africa (1917-1927), authored by Fr Joseph Falkiner OP, was launched in Johannesburg. The book describes the founding members and their work in the first ten years of the Order in South Africa.
On 5th August 2017, Johannesburg, about four hundred members of the Dominican family, priests and religious, parishioners belonging to Dominican parishes, benefactors and friends of the Order gathered at Blackfriars Dominican Community in Springs to officially celebrate the centenary. The occasion was graced by Archbishop Peter Wells (right), the Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa, who presided over the Holy Mass as the main celebrant.
The homily was delivered by Father Bruno Cadoré OP (left), the 87th Master of the Order of Preachers and current Chancellor of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. In his homily, Father Bruno Cadoré OP applauded the contributions Dominicans have made in the region and described the centenary as a moment of renewal so that the holy preaching may remain relevant.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops were represented by Auxiliary Bishop Duncan Theodore Tsoke and Bishop Abel Gabuza. A message applauding the occasion from Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, was read at the function. Father Gabriel Samba OP, Socius of the Master of the Order of Preachers for Africa, Sister Rudo Shungu Matsika OP, Regional Prioress of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for Zimbabwe; Sister Thobile Gumede OP, Mother General of the Dominican Sisters of Montebello and Delores Hartzenberg, president of the lay Dominicans in South Africa were part of the occasion.
The Dominican students and the Dominican Sisters of Montebello beautifully led the liturgy with their singing.
A festive reception was held after the Mass.
Fr Stanslaus Muyebe OP, Prior Vice Provincial of the Vice Province of Southern Africa, in his speech, noted that the centenary celebration was a “moment of grace” for the whole Dominican family and a time to celebrate the vision, the gifts, the risks as well as the various blessings received.
He explained how Dominicans started the Kroonstad Diocese through the founding of various parishes, their involvement in the promotion of justice and peace, intellectual ministries such as publishing and lecturing, ministries to the oppressed and impoverished, Catholic media, and involvement in the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and the foundation of the Theological Education by-Extension College (TEEC).
The same sentiment was expressed by the guest speakers Professor Vincent Maphai and Rev Dr Smangaliso Mkhatshwa who applauded the involvement of Dominicans in various spheres, especially their prominent role during the apartheid struggle.
Professor Vincent Maphai emphasised that social justice, pastoral outreach and intellectual work are the key areas requiring the involvement of Dominicans today. He challenged Dominicans to continue undergoing renewal so that they may remain relevant in the Southern African region. The emphasis on the need for ongoing renewal and re-examining the vision of the Dominicans for the future is vital.
The past hundred years of Dominican presence in Southern Africa have been fruitful and the challenge is to constantly make checks and balances so that the Dominicans and their presence may remain relevant. By so doing, Dominicans will continue positively responding to the signs of time while remaining faithful to their identity and mission.
From left: National President of the Lay Dominicans ,Delores Hartzenburg, Regional Superior of Dominican Sisters Zimbabwe Sr Rudo, Sr Thobile Superior General of Montebello Dominicans, Fr Bruno Cadore Master of the Order, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Peter Wells, Dominican Sisters International Coordinator Sr. Marie Therese Clement, Sr Stephanie, Regional Superior of Newcastle Dominicans, Fr Gabriel Samba OP Assitant to the Master for Africa, Fr Pheko Thinane Subprior of Aquinas Priory (Jhb), Fr Stan Muyebe, Vice-Provincial of the Vice-Province of South Africa. In front Fr Georges Prior of eMaphethelweni Priory and Fr Brian Superior of Blackfriars Community.