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South Africa

The Republic of South Africa, is the southernmost country on the African continent, with coastlines on both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland and encloses Lesotho. Under Dutch and British rule in colonial times, South Africa became an independent republic in 1961. In subsequent years the continuation of the policy of Apartheid blighted development in the country. In 1990, with the release of Nelson Mandela from jail, negotiations led to the formal abandonment of Apartheid and multiracial elections were held in 1994. Nelson Manedela became President that year. South Africa has the second largest economy in Africa, after Nigeria. The population is estimated at 53 million.

St. Patrick's Missionaries in South Africa

In the late eighties, as the number of local priests in the Society's traditional mission areas increased, the Society began to look to areas of greater need. New missions were sought, where, as always, the aim would be to promote the diocesan clergy and work towards a self-reliant local Church. Research was undertaken and by the middle of 1988 it was decided to send priests to four dioceses in three countries new to the Society: South Africa, Cameroon and Zimbabwe.

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day in South Africa.

Making paschal candles - Fr Tom Devoy.

Father Michael Bennett, Sr Rudo and Sr Anita O'Leary (Sisters of St John of God) work with displaced women in Musina (on the border with Zimbabwe).

Fr Terry Nash chats with local parishioners after Mass.

South Africa group, 2000s.

Society Philosophy House, KwaPatrick.

A view of Table Mountain over Cape Town.

So in January 1989 the first of our priests arrived in two different dioceses in South Africa. They were Witbank and Tzaneen, both in the north-east Transvaal. The Society felt drawn to these areas because of the social and racial injustice which singled them out as especially in need of the Gospel. Also there was a great lack of local priests in these areas.


Members of the Society arrived at a momentous time. The release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990 facilitated political change in the country, long hoped for but without optimism. Within another four years multiracial elections had taken place and Nelson Mandela was installed as the President.


A very important development for the Society in South Africa was the establishment in 2001 of Kwa Patrick, a residence for our students who enrol in St Joseph's Theological Institute in Cedara to study Philosophy as the second stage of their formation as priests. Students came here from Kenya and Nigeria where they had spent two years of initial formation. Their presence in the country brought the vibrancy of youth to the region.

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