At The Tip Of Africa

Bridget Puzon, O.S.U.

When the plane touched down in Johannesburg, Sister Jane Finnerty began her journey to meet the Ursulines in South Africa and Botswana. As her pre-General Chapter visit to another province, she chose this province in particular because of her desire to see the work of the many sisters from the Eastern Province who had served there, particularly in founding ministries in Botswana. Sister Kathleen Colmer from England made her pre-chapter visit at the same time, and they traveled together.

During two days in Johannesburg, Jane learned about the province and its works in South Africa. She visited St. Ursula’s School in Krugersdorp that, early in the period of national transition, was integrated, with a mixed-race student body.

St. Ursula’s School in Krugersdorp

Her next stop was in Soweto homeland, where Regina Mundi church is a landmark. She visited Mandela House, former home of Nelson Mandela. Another noted former resident, Desmond Tutu, had also lived in Soweto. The Hector Peterson Museum told the story of the Soweto uprising in the 1970s, and this visit explained the story of the changes in South Africa.

In Subiaco, she visited the Benedictine mission, a rural area with a high school and kindergarten where two Ursulines serve. The students provided a welcoming program, and Jane recalled that American Sister Fran Lyle had once served there. The works of the Ursulines in these areas of South Africa are rich in the country’s recent dramatic history and a source for understanding their part in it.

Botswana was the next stop on the journey. A relatively new nation, Botswana was the place where American Ursulines Anne Marie Kelleher, Gregory Horgan, Ann Alicia Smith, and Christina Pratt contributed to the building up of education and social outreach. Jane participated with admiration and great joy at the community’s liturgical celebration for Ascension Thursday, and experienced the songs and instrumental music in the procession, spirited preaching, and a communion service. Without a priest, a parish committee oversees the services.

The life-changing development of water projects

In areas remote from the towns of Serowe and Sefare, Jane observed the life-changing development of water projects, supported in part by Ursuline communities and schools in the U.S. From taps in the ground, water is now available in family compounds for personal use and for their gardens where food is grown.

A strong and effective project developed in Botswana is the non-profit organization Mothers for All; its mission is “to help ensure that no child is left alone.” Because of the AIDS epidemic and poverty, the organization has developed a mission to provide basic needs and hope for orphaned children. To support their efforts, they have established a use for waste paper, converting newspapers, calendars, and posters through processing the paper into products such as jewelry, handmade cards, and gift packaging: website: mothersforall.org

When she returned from Botswana to Krugersdorp, South Africa, she was delighted to have an opportunity to bring Sr. Lorette Brophy the latest news of the Eastern Province.

On the day of departure, a visit to Brescia House School in Bryanston and the Marist-sponsored Sacred Heart College, where Ursulines serve, rounded out an inspiring, challenging, and heartwarming visit to the South African province.