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South AfricaFr. Samuel Mazda belongs to the Nigerian Province of the Society of African Missions. He was ordained on 9 July 2005 in Abuja, Nigeria. He currently works in South Africa and shares his pastoral experience where his first missionary priority has been to reconcile the Montana parish community.

Reconcile twenty-one different nationalities?

As far as pastoral work is concerned, "South Africa is not a country like any other," said Fr. Samuel Madza during his recent visit to MIM (International Missionary House) in Lyon.

Sharing his missionary experience in South Africa, and comparing it to his previous missionary experiences, he showed us that South Africa's mission is of a special nature. This is due to the history of this nation, which gained independence 26 years ago. The scars of the apartheid regime are still visible and one of Fr. Samuel's main missions is to "reconcile the parish community" which has "twenty-one different nationalities".

Ordained on 9 July 2005, in Abuja Nigeria, Fr. Samuel arrived in South Africa in 2015 and was received by the late Fr. Pius (MHSRIP). His previous mission was to Augusta-Maine in the United States. Five days after his arrival, he had to take over a parish, and "no one gave me a document to read (about how things were supposed to happen)," he lamented. He had to rely only on himself, he added, "to find ways to meet the bishop's desire." He spent six months in Montana listening and watching.

Given the dire security situation, "I was forced to change the keys to all the doors for my own safety," he revealed with a smile.

Taking the first steps for the mission entrusted to him by his bishop, Fr. Samuel "created a committee for reconciliation, made up of members of each nationality." He held a meeting with that group and from there he formed another small team that summarized everything that was discussed in the larger group. The summary was read later in the church and so the path to reconciliation began.

The historical background

"For us to really appreciate the mission in South Africa, we must remember that during apartheid, black people were not allowed to enter the neighborhood where I now live," he said. Referring to history, he added that at 3 p.m., every day, a bell rang; all blacks had to disappear from the region and go to their own residences in the (ghettos) townships since the apartheid government had grouped people according to their race. And the physical appearance was not enough to determine whether one was black or white. "A pencil was stuck in people's hair...; if the pencil fell out of the hair, they were considered white, otherwise... they were just considered black. Of course, this "law has since been abolished," he confirmed. As a result, he acknowledged that now "blacks also have the right to buy houses, rent or build wherever they want, including in areas that were previously considered white." This means that communities that were initially purely white, now have members of different colors and races.

Current situation

He also pointed out that black South Africans "like to sing at Mass, but whites, especially those in Ireland and England, for example,South Africa 1 don't like long masses with songs that last up to four or five hours, and this is one of the difficulties that I also had to deal with.” At least now, there's a little bit of understanding, he confirmed. He also added that there are activities such as "the fairs that I have put forward, and this fits well with the charisma of the SMA and it is a strength for us."

Whenever there are problems such as xenophobia, he stressed that "the parishioners show concern and, personally, I refrain from taking sides." That said, he noted that some foreigners "facilitated their attacks by their own behavior."

The Episcopal Conference of South Africa(SACBC) through LUMKO(the Pastoral Institute of the Conference in Germiston, Gauteng, offers the Church, in southern Africa and beyond, a transformative vision of a community church based on Vatican II and the pastoral plan of the (SACBC) "Community in the Service of Humanity. . .

among other programs"), organizes an annual international pastoral course for participants from other countries;it is a program that helps new clergy and religious men and women from other countries in South Africa to learn about the reality of the country as they settle down.

Poverty in South Africa does not discriminate according to skin color, there are many "poor white South Africans" and the parish makes a lot of effort (charity) for example, to feed more than a thousand people. Through the caring committee, up to 150 children each received a food basket kit and a pair of shoes.

There is a good involvement of the laity in the parish, such as the presence of the Eucharistic ministers, and the parish is financially autonomous because the parishioners contribute to its operation.

In conclusion, Fr. Samuel recalled that the first two years were difficult since "it is not the place in the region, the country or even the continent where one is that is a source of joy of the mission" because it "always is always painful to change places, but becoming a missionary is an ongoing process." Departure is always difficult, but it can also become a blessing because that is what shapes us into vases and instruments of the gospel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      By Dominic Wabwireh, SMA