Diverse Expressions of the Preaching Mission of the Missionary Dominicans of the Sacred Heart in Zimbabwe

Diverse Expressions of the Preaching Mission of the Missionary Dominicans of the Sacred Heart in Zimbabwe

My adventures into life in Zimbabwe and the mission of the Missionary Dominicans of the Sacred Heart has continued this week. Let me highlight four of the ministry sites and share more learnings about the world of Zimbabwe.

St. Dominic's All Girls' High School in Chishawasha

The Sisters arrived in the bush country of Chishawasha in 1898 and initiated the first school for African girls in the country.  Today 420 enthusiastic young women are 7 day boarders! The curriculum is diverse, including life skills of sewing, cooking, technology and business as well as a full academic program. The Dominican charism is clearly evident throughout the school! I had the opportunity to speak to the Juniors about Flintridge Sacred Heart.  They would love to connect with our girls there!  They are eager to hear about life in California.  One of their first questions was:  Do they have a brothers' school.  These ladies are connected with a Jesuit all boys' school. 

Feeding 420 young women far out in the bush is no easy feat.  A major source of food comes from their vegetable gardens and the chickens which grow so quickly that just after 6 weeks they are able to be slaughtered and eaten.  Rabbits and turkeys also provide for daily fare.  A beautiful park is part of the campus where I encountered my first monkeys face to face!

The school struggles economically because not only are the parents dealing with economic challenges but the government has frozen tuition rates so it is impossible to charge what is necessary to maintain the school.  Catholic business men have stepped forward to strengthen the Board and find ways to strengthen viability.

St. Martin School                                                                                                                           

This elementary school serves as a haven in the midst of the high density area of Harare where poverty is so evident.  It is a single classroom school 1st - 7th grades along 2 other classes for 3-4 year olds and 5 year olds.  In spite of the economic challenges, Mr. Guese, the lay director, enthusiastically shared with me plans to expand to a double classroom school and in the future build a high school!   They have the property; they just need the money! The school has an excellent reputation with very successful alumnae.  Mr. Guese is reaching out to the alumnae asking them to give back to the school and help build its future.  He is a natural development director as well as administrator.  His vision and confidence are quite remarkable!

Here too the curriculum includes agricultural education; a swimming pool and tennis courts add to the sports activities!  To supplement income the school recently began raising chickens.  The day I visited there were 200 6 week old chicks ready to be sold at $6 a piece. An additional 150 chickens were called the "layers" which provide eggs sold at $3.50 a crate.  The rabbits are multiplying quickly. They are most valuable for their high quality manure which provides a high income.  In fact, companies are giving them rabbits so they will create manure for them.   The school also grows corn, dries it and grinds it for sale.    You can tell my agricultural education is growing my leaps and bounds!

The children were full of energy and joy and obviously learning a great deal!

Mother Patrick School        

The Bishop invited the Sisters in 2009 to create this double school which is located on the other side of Harare in a developing area.  The Sisters recruited students from 83 schools, expanding year by year until they graduated their first students in 2012.  The school boosts the amazing accomplishment of 100% pass rate in all of the classes for the state exams. There are 504 enthusiastic students with 3 Sisters engaged in the teaching and administration.   This site has an interesting addition to the cultural education program.  On the grounds is built a full scale traditional village as well as a "modern"  center.

This past year all of the classrooms were equipped with electronic white boards!  And of course agriculture was part of their curriculum here too....but no chickens for sale!

Education is highly valued in Zimbabwe. The spirit of the students and their appreciation and pride in their schools and teachers were truly impressive and sincere!

As I visited each school I was conscious of our own affiliate and sponsored schools with similar challenges!  It was inspiring to witness in each of the schools the focused attention on the Dominican charism often publicly displayed in various places within the school grounds.

St. Theresa Hospital

Thursday,  July 13, Sisters Claudina and Masura picked me up at 5 AM and we began a 4 hour trip to St. Theresa Hospital in Hama.  The last hour of the journey is on a rocky, dirt road taking us across 3 rivers.  Here, deep in the bush country, the Sisters began a hospital in 1957.   Through the years it has grown into so much more in response to the people's needs.

The hospital includes  male, female and pediatric wards, a surgery room, x-ray room, and a laboratory for specimen analysis.  In addition they provide services for physical rehabilitation, post delivery and care of babies  born at home, a dental clinic, outpatient care, an HIV AIDES center, counseling, as well as a home based outreach to the people in the outlying areas. Conditions and equipment are simple and basic providing essential services no where else within reach.

Forty-nine trained nurses and 2 doctors serve at the hospital with a total staff of 126 people.   Finances are challenging.  Anyone 65 or over is not charged for services, but there is no source of income to pay for these expenses.   Many people don't have money to pay for their care.  Some will pay in maize.  The vegetable garden helps provide food for the hospital, along with local chickens.   The government doesn't provide an adequate supply of drugs; the private companies which have the drugs are very expensive.

When pregnant women's birthing time nears, they come and stay in some units on site because it would be impossible to travel to the hospital when labor finally begins. (picture to right)   Cars are not part of most people's lives;  walking is the mode of travel.

The Sisters also sponsor a School of Nursing here!  It involves a 3 year training program, with 12 - 18 students in each year's cohort.  The students live on campus--more mouths to feed!

Political and Social Reality

I continue to learn about the unfolding history of Zimbabwe which was originally Southern Rhodesia before the people achieved independence April 18, 1980. President Mugabe was a revolutionary and politician who led Zimbabwe as Prime Minister from 1980 - 1987 and has served as President since 1987.   He is presently 93 years old.  There is real tension and unrest as the election looms in 2018 as President Mugabe plans on running for another 5 year term.  The African Bishops Conference has published an excellent pastoral letter in preparation for the elections.  The pastoral strongly affirms the importance of a free and just election.  It calls all people to seriously study the situation and the values of the Constitutions, to respect diverse opinion and to resist any show of violence.  Their past history of elections have been marred by manipulation, fraud and violence.

The economic crisis continues as cash simply is not available in the country.  People are standing in line for 4 or 5 hours in order to withdraw money from their bank accounts.  The bank will give nothing more than $50.00 so after a few days they are forced once again to wait for another opportunity to secure cash.  People are found in so many places trying to sell things or beg for money.  Frustration is evident and yet there is resilience and determination evident in the spirit of the people. I encounter the people's goodness and beauty again and again.

Connecting with the Dominican Candidates

Over the past year the candidates have planted, cared for and harvested the corn which has been drying in preparation for rubbing it off the cob.  Today I got to join them in this final process.  From here it is bagged and stored for cooking during the year!   Adventures abound wherever I turn!

What's ahead!

Tomorrow we are going to join the children in the orphanage and home for the deaf for Eucharist. Sunday afternoon Sr. Rudo, the regional prioress,and I will begin a journey to some of the outlying missions.  We will travel by bus to Gweru and then on to Bulawayo on Tuesday, returning to Harare on Wednesday before leaving on another journey on Thursday.   We'll see what learnings and experiences await me!

The interior journey continues as I come to have glimpses of what it means and feels like to find myself stretched by sounds and food and customs outside of my world.  There is a certain unsettling dis-orientation on the physical and emotional levels even in the midst of a welcoming environment.   All of this creates ripe ground for growth in self knowledge and new perspectives.  I have a sense of God meeting me in the midst of all of it and leading me to some unknown new life.  It is a graced journey for sure!  I count on and give thanks for your continued prayer and love!

Be assured mine is with you as well!

Your sister, Gloria Marie


(18 July 2017)