Centenary Celebrations of the presence of the Dominican Brothers in South Africa

Centenary Celebrations of the presence of the Dominican Brothers in South Africa

The Vice Province of Southern Africa has celebrated 100 years of the presence of the Dominican Friars in South Africa under the sign of renewal, with great joy. At the ‘heart’ of the centenary celebrations on 5th August 2017 was the Holy Mass, held in the Church of Our Lady of Mercy, at Blackfriars Dominican Community, Springs in Johannesburg. The Mass was presided over by Archbishop Peter Wells, the apostolic nuncio to South Africa, in the presence of the Master of the Order of Preachers, fr. Bruno Cadoré, his Socius for Africa, fr. Gabriel Samba, two Bishops representatives of Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SABC): Auxiliary Bishop of Johannesburg Duncan Theodore Tsoke and Bishop Abel Gabuza of the Diocese of Kimberly. About four hundred members of the Dominican Family, parishioners from Dominican parishes, benefactors and friends of the Order in Southern African took part in this Eucharistic celebration. The relaxed ambiance of the liturgy was characterised by traditional songs and dance led by Dominican students and Dominican Sisters of Montebello.

The homely was delivered by the Master of the Order. Brother Bruno commended the contributions Dominicans have made in enhancing the kingdom of God through various apostolic ministries in this region. He further said the centenary is the moment of renewal so that the holy preaching of the gospel remains appropriate and meaningful among the friars and the faithful. The Dominican Brother Martin Badenhorst, read on behalf of Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), a congratulatory message, which also highlighted the need for the friars to revitalise the Order’s charism and respond to the ‘signs of the times’. As sign of their fraternal communion with the Vice Province of Southern Africa in celebrating this centenary, the Dutch Province sent Dominican flags (white and black). The Master of the Order had the honour to hand over these flags to the priors and superiors of the four communities (Pietermaritzburg, Mondeor, Welkom and Springs), and to raise another one, after Mass, to the top of a mast, in the courtyard of the community. This flag which is flying over next to the national flag of the Republic of South Africa reminds us of the past 100 years and projects into the future.

A gala dinner was held. At this occasion, fr. Stanslaus Muyebe, Prior Vice Provincial of the Vice Province of Southern Africa, in his speech applauded the efforts made by the foundering friars and those who came after them, for their involvement in apostolic ministries such as; the promotion of justice and peace, intellectual ministries (publications and lecturing), Catholic media (print and electronic), involvement in the Young Christian Worker ( YCW) and the foundation of the Theological Education by-Extension College (TEEC) in South Africa. In another development, fr. Stan expressed his gratitude, on behalf of the newly established Vice Province to the Province of Holland for their positive influence and the flags they donated symbolising their fraternal unity since the foundation of the entity.

Furthermore, the keynote speech by Professor Vincent Maphai and Rev Dr. Smagaliso Mkhatshwa, both who have been involved with the Dominicans in various domain, affirmed the good works of the friars, and emphasised that they continue promoting social justice, their pastoral outreach and intellectual work in this region.

A book by fr. Joseph Falkiner, OP is an introduction to the foundation of the Dominican Order in South Africa under the title: The First Dominican Friars in Boksburg, Brakpan and Springs – South Africa (1917-2017).

The Vice Province will continue to build on the initiative of fr. Laurence Shapcote, OP ( 1864- 1947) who in 1917 arrived in South Africa to make a survey of the possibility of setting up a mission on behalf of the English province of the Dominican Order in South Africa. His presence sparked the foundation of the Order in this entity. Since then, the friars have fervently continued to inspire, and support the Church in Southern Africa. Now the challenge remains for the younger Dominicans to continue to strengthen the strongly laid foundation which is now a hundred years old.

Ernest Mwape, op & Gabriel Samba, op.


(23 August 2017)