Mission celebrates 50 years
The Jesuit Bishop of Chinhoyi, Dieter Scholz SJ, has led the celebrations at Blessed Rupert Mayer Mission in Zimbabwe as its members marked 50 years of serving the community. For the past half century, the Mission has been evangelising and providing social services to the poor who reside in the rural “bush” of the Makonde area of Chinhoyi Diocese.
For many years, Blessed Rupert Mayer Mission has stood as the only centre of evangelisation and civilisation in an area that experienced the worst during Zimbabwe’s war of liberation, including the killing of two Jesuits. Some students at the Mission school walk for up to 10 kms to get to the school from their homes, whilst others have never even been in a bus! It now has 20 outstations, a hospital, primary and secondary schools plus a crèche.
Fr Karl Hermann SJ, Mission Superior since 2004, explained the centrality of the Mission to the daily lives of the people there. “We are far from town and people do not want to stay here, they think it is in the bush. To stay here, you need lots of perseverance,” he explains. “We serve the community by preaching the word of God. The Mission serves the community by giving education, and we also serve the sick people through the hospital which runs different programmes like helping HIV/Aids patients through home based care programmes.”
Fr Karl says Bl Rupert Mayer Mission is different from other missions because they “don’t choose the students but we take all who come knocking … we help anyone.”
Last weekend, the Mission celebrated its work and its very survival. Before the Mission was started in 1964, they were denied land on which to build. Fr Kensy, then assigned to start the Mission, prayed through the intercession of Blessed Rupert Mayer, a German Jesuit who spoke out against the Nazi regime in the Second World War, and they managed to secure the land. The Mission, the school and the clinic were closed at the peak of the liberation struggle, after two Jesuits, Father Gregor Richert SJ and Brother Bernhard Lisson SJ, were shot in cold blood. Property was vandalised. But after Independence the Mission was reconstructed.
Fr Karl himself has often faced many challenges to keep the Mission going, with the political upheaval in the country and the economic challenges that affect the functioning of the school and the hospital. But he says each time he has prayed through the intercession of Bl Rupert Mayer, and somehow the prayers have always been answered.
Bl Rupert Mayer’s Primary School has been partnered with St John's Beaumont school in Windsor since 2005 when Fr Karl visited the Berkshire school. Through the Jesuit Missions Companions Programme, pupils and staff from St John's Beaumont and Bl Rupert Mayer exchange letters, reports and photographs. Teachers from both schools have visited each other and St John’s Beaumont’s fundraising has enabled them to supply teaching materials for the Zimbabwean school.