Tafadzwa Chibukwa, Chronicle Reporter
ESTABLISHED in 1902 by Jesuit missionaries, St Patrick’s Mission in Makokoba suburb, where the oldest Roman Catholic church in Bulawayo is located, was built of stone like a fortress to capture the design of a cathedral.
The Mission encompassing St Patrick’s Primary School and the parish is located directly adjacent to Renkini bus terminus along Luveve Road.
Last Saturday it celebrated 120 years since its establishment.
Scores of people from different parishes in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo thronged the Mission in their numbers to celebrate the 120 years in style.
The existence of the church is of great importance to congregants and they make sure that they attend since it is the mother parish to all in the archdiocese of Bulawayo.
Speaking during celebrations at St Patrick’s parish, the parish priest Father Alex Ndlovu narrated the church’s history from the time it was established by the Jesuits to the time it was later demolished and rebuilt.
He also narrated all the activities that the church holds till today.
He said having been built in 1902, the first parish priest was Father Joseph Kammerlechner who built a small church hoping to attract a few people from its proximity.
Later, the church could not accommodate the growing numbers of congregants who were joining.
In 1976 a hall was constructed for congregants to continue worship while a bigger church was rebuilt and later opened in 1977 by the late Archbishop Ernst Heinrich Karlen.
Fr Ndlovu said as a mission, the church was simultaneously built with the school to offer educational services. Dominican sisters took a leading role in the progress of the parish and school, leaving a legacy of producing their own priests, sisters and lay professionals in various fields.
“The activities of the mission and the school are inseparable, both were and still are responsible for evangelisation and secular education. It has always been evangelisation through education and vice versa, as some Dominican sisters have taught at the school for years.
“St Patrick’s not only empowers education in Bulawayo alone, but they are also responsible for other missions in the outskirts of Bulawayo. St Patrick’s has established about eight schools spread around the proximity of Matabeleland, Tsholotsho and the Gwayi Valley,” said Fr Ndlovu.
He said the parish has also contributed immensely to society as there are many esteemed personalities that have emerged from the church.
“We have contributed to society by producing people who are responsible and add substance to society. We have the likes of the retired Archbishop Pius Ncube, Fr Gabriel Silonda, Fr Victor Dube, Fr Reason Mlilo, Fr Gabriel Mthombeni and Sister Austin Tshabalala among other priests who are a product of the church.
“We also have individuals who grew up in the church and became people of stature in society like the former Matabeleland regional education director, Mr Stanley Hadebe. We also have entrepreneurs and business people, actors and musicians that have surfaced from the church,” said Fr Ndlovu.
He said they continue to work towards a perfect vision of moulding model citizens into society through projects and activities that the church offers to children and youth.
They organise career guidance programs, guidance and counselling programs, retreats, recollections and sports programs among other programs that they organise to make sure that the youth are adequately taught while they grow.
Faced with the mission to serve society and help the needy, the Roman catholic church has a developmental arm that works towards sustainable development in society, Caritas.
“The Roman catholic church not only caters for its people within the church but they also take into consideration the existence of the less privileged in the society, hence the establishment of Caritas which caters for the needs of those people in society,” he said.
Caritas aims at helping give relief to the less privileged in society by empowering them through education, projects and entrepreneurial support.
Fr Ndlovu said instead of just giving food and money to people, Caritas goes an extra mile by helping them on activities that impact their livelihood like funding for their education.
He said annually they baptise an average 40 to 50 people which shows that the church continues to grow. [email protected]