Celebrating the New Southern Africa Province (SAP)

By Fratern Masawe, SJ
Assistant for Africa and Madagascar

The African proverb says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child”. One can also add to it, “And it takes several years to do so”. The same thing could be said regarding the establishment of the new Jesuit Province of Southern Africa (SAP).

On 27 September 2011, the then Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, wrote a letter to all Major Superiors accompanying the document on “The Renewal of Province Structures in the Service of Universal Mission” which was to fulfill the mandate of Decree 5, nº 26 of the 35th General Congregation, aiming at better services of the universal mission.

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This invitation brought to task several Major Superiors: David Smolira in South Africa, Virgilio Domingos in Mozambique, Stephen Buckland in Zimbabwe, and Emmanuel Mumba in Zambia -Malawi, along with 311 companions. Their reflections went beyond Southern Africa and the Conference of Africa and Madagascar. The meticulous discernment process included the Portuguese Province as well as the British Province. The final realignment decision included a time-line of events and celebrations.

The first celebration was of the inauguration on 6 December 2014, when Adolfo Nicolás, asked Our Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady of Divine Providence and St. Francis Xavier, to bless the life and mission of the Society of Jesus in the then new Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province, for the greater glory of God and for the good of Souls.

The second celebration was on 31 December 2015, when Adolfo Nicolás decreed the transfer of the then Dependent Region of South Africa from the British Province to the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province.

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Now is the third celebration. Fr. Arturo Sosa, the current Superior General, communicated to the Major Superiors: David Rowan, Chiedza Chimhanda and Leonard Chiti and their current 277 companions in Southern Africa, these words, which will be in effect today,“I unite the present Dependent Region of South Africa, the Province of Zimbabwe-Mozambique and the Zambia-Malawi Province. The new Province will be comprised of the territories of the Republic of South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.”

It took nearly ten years of transition to erect this new Province. And so many Jesuits, dead and alive, to bring it to this third level of life-mission. Some even say this is the fourth celebration, the first being the Zambezi Mission, in the 16th Century.

Obviously, it took two generations of Generals and several major superiors, let alone the different commissions, task forces and committees; assemblies, conferences, consults, dialogues, meetings; colloquies and prayers at different levels and times, to come peacefully to this day of consolation.

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The difficulties towards unification were faced prayerfully, proactively and creatively. The languages, especially Portuguese and English, were to be taught and learnt from the novitiate, common catalog be printed to enhance knowledge of one another and of their respective apostolates. All this helped to have transcended to good extent cultural, ethnic and historical differences. A bond of mutual knowledge dispelled fear of one another and of the unknown.

Perhaps this celebration is not only the inauguration of the SAP but above all a thanksgiving event for the gift of freedom which allowed our companions to go beyond personal interests, ideologies, fear, pride and prejudice to deepen an identity of the sons of Ignatius as companions of Jesus in Southern Africa.

On 25 March, the Annunciation of the good news of our Lord, we ask through the intercession of Our Lady for the “yes” grace to God’s call and for the assurance of her motherly care for Fr. Leonard Chiti, the Provincial, and for this newly conceived Province.

Watch Father General’s video message to the new SAP Province.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles public relations.

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