South Africa: A Land of Many Faces
SMA Regional Assembly Meeting, Buffelsfontein, South Africa – Report.
“The strong spirit of camaraderie among SMAs in the region,
the shared commitment to better the lives of those they serve
and the common calling to spread the gospel message to the peoples of Africa
brings with it much life and gives life to many. ”
Sixteen priests of the Society of African Missions gathered at the SMA Regional House in Buffelsfontein from 20-23 February 2017 for their Regional Assembly meeting. We are five nationalities representing Ireland (6), Nigeria (6), Togo (2), Ivory Coast and Kenya (1 each). The days were spent reviewing the 2014 Assembly decisions and planning for the next three years.
The Catholic Church in South Africa has shown remarkable signs of growth throughout the 20th century. It is estimated that 8% of the South African population are Catholic making it the second biggest church in the country. Almost 80% of Catholics in South Africa are black. Most white Catholics in South Africa are descended from Irish immigrants. The SMA has had a long and storied history in South Africa, dating back to 1874. The SMA presence in South Africa continues to grow and SMA priests now minister in 11 parishes across three dioceses.
Ministry in post-apartheid South Africa brings with it many joys and challenges. The rise in xenophobic sentiments within the country and the tensions and fears created by such among foreign nationals has once again reared its head in recent weeks. Over 130 foreign nationals have been killed in South Africa due to xenophobic violence over the past 15 years. In an effort to combat anti-immigrant prejudice, the Government continues to promote an inclusive nation building project. The reality of poverty, unequal access to human development opportunities and slow economic growth within the country continues to create a glass ceiling for many South Africans to access basic employment, housing and education.
In the face of these very real challenges, the SMA priests working in the Region of South Africa continue to see much to be hopeful for. The strong spirit of camaraderie among SMAs in the Region, the shared commitment to better the lives of those they serve and the common calling to spread the gospel message to the peoples of Africa brings with it much life and gives life to many.