The Province of the Republic of South Africa

11/Jun/2010

1.224.000 km2 – 19.000.000 h.

En su larga trayectoria de más de 100 años, la Provincia de África del Sur ha ido expansionándose en un ambiente heterogéneo, compuesto de confesiones religiosas y grupos raciales muy diversos. El apostolado marista, limitado en general a la población blanca, ha secundado en todo momento los deseos de la Jerarquía, preocupada por crear en el país una «élite» cristiana. Los numerosos sacerdotes y religiosos salidos de nuestras aulas y el número elevado de antiguos alumnos que ocupan puestos influyentes, hablan bien alto de los logros obtenidos. Los colegios Maristas de África del Sur siempre acogieron a un cierto número de alumnos no católicos, creando un clima de tolerancia religiosa muy anterior al movimiento ecuménico actual. Solo un 6% de la población es católica. En RETREAT funciona una escuela para mestizos.

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La Province de l'Afrique du Sud compte plus de 100 ans d'existence. Elle a grandi dans un milieu hétérogène, fait de plusieurs groupes raciaux et de confessions religieuses très divers. L'apostolat des Frères s'est généralement limité aux jeunes Blancs, de par la volonté expresse des évêques, anxieux de créer une élite chrétienne dans le pays. Les nombreux prêtres et religieux sortis de leurs écoles, de même que les nombreux anciens élèves dans des positions d'influence, montrent qu’ils y ont très bien réussi. En acceptant toujours un certain nombre d'élèves non-catholiques dans leurs écoles, les Frères ont instauré en Afrique du Sud, une atmosphère de tolérance religieuse bien avant le mouvement œcuménique actuel (seulement 6% de la population est catholique). Une école pour les métis fonctionne à RETREAT.

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A Provincia marista da África do Sul já completou cem anos. Cresceu num ambiente heterogéneo de varios grupos raciais e diferentes religiôes. Por vontade expressa dos bispos, desejosos de criar urna élite católica, o apostolado dos Irmâos visou mais os jovens europeus. Os numerosos padres e religiosos recruta-dos nessas escolas, sâo testemunho do êxito dos Irmâos. Nessas escolas aceitaram sempre certo número de alunos nào católicos, criando assim urna atmosfera de tolerancia religiosa muito antes do movimento ecuménico atual. Da populaçâo, apenas 6% é católica. En Retreat funciona urna escola para mesticos.

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This Province was the first established so called ' mission' outside Europe – if we allow Great Britain to form part of Europe. I speak here exclusively of our Congregation of the Little Brothers of Mary.

We were introduced to this country which is inhabited essentially by non-Catholics stemming from English Anglicanism or Wesleyanism (Methodists) or Scottish Presbyterianism or French Huguenots who in faith were Calvinistic Hollanders, by an Irish Bishop. Such is the milieu in which our Brothers have laboured for over a century! In our estimation this is essentially a missionary environment – a fact which is not generally appreciated throughout our Congregation.

You, who read this, may say or think, «What about the Black people? » Let me put it to you that these Black people are ethnic groups such as: Fingos, Tembus, Pondos, Zulus, Swazis, Basutos, etc., etc., all with their own language, folklore and traditions. If our work has been limited, in the main, to the White people, this is due to the wish of the episcopacy – Not at all in so far as they asked us to overlook the dire needs of the Blacks but because many of the Bishops felt that without Catholic White leadership the Catholic Church's work among the Bantu races would be to a large extent nullified.

Again, we repeat, not that we haven't worked among the Bantu or the Coloured people (metis) for we have had missions, and very successful missions, for example, a Teachers' Training College at Roma in Lesotho, at the Khaba in Uitenhage, at Soweto (Orlando) in the Transvaal. There have been Marist Brothers who spent their week-ends teaching catechism in outlying mission stations in the Transkei and in Hout Bay (Cape). But, we make the admission unreservedly that we have co-operated with the Hierarchy to give what this country does need: White Leadership -and, where the ratio of Black to White is never less than five to one.

We have at present 70 Brothers of whom 31 were born in South Africa, five are on loan from other Provinces and the remainder are here as missionaries, thanks to St. Francis Xavier's College, Grugliasco, which was the main source of manpower for this Province since the International Juniorate was founded by our far-sighted and missionary-minded Superior General, Frère Stratonique. The closure of this Missionary Training Centre was, indeed, a severe blow to our Province. However, in passing, we must pay tribute to those great pioneers who came to us from France at the turn of the century and at the expulsion of the Teaching Congregations from France (1903-1904). We would appear ungrateful if we failed to mention what the Province of Great Britain and Ireland has done for us since the foundation of our Province in 1867. More recently we have received help, both temporary and permanent, from generous Provinces such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States. We have at all times been Catholic and catholic – the latter in the sense of our being cosmopolitan, because besides the nationalities already mentioned we have benefited greatly by timely assistance from Germany, Belgium and Spain.

Despite the present shortage of Brothers we do struggle on – note well, struggle – because we still maintain nine schools, seven of which are both primary and secondary. One is purely primary and one is for the Coloured people. This may appear to be rather peculiar allocations of priorities but, do, please, bear in mind, that we are governed by apartheid which states categorically «Whites for Whites", "Bantu for Bantu", "Coloureds for Coloureds" and "Indians for Indians". This means that each ethnic group must have pastors, teachers, doctors, lawyers – in other words men of the professions of their own ethnic group. If a White Brother teaches Bantu (Black) he is merely tolerated. If the same White man evangelises Coloureds it is "… by kind permission of…" These facts must be taken into account before you can hope to understand in any way whatsoever the difficulties under which our Brothers work.

To-day the «in-thing" is ecumenism. We have been practising it in our schools in South Africa for the last century. Our Catholic schools can count amongst their most fervent supporters, among their true friends, many leading men in all professions throughout the country who were educated in our schools. Their schooling in Catholic Colleges removed that obnoxious stumbling block to any mutual respect and understanding among sectarian Christian groups. By our example we have taught the basic Christian virtue of tolerance. Is this not a missionary effort in the truest sense of the word?

As far as Marist formation is concerned we have Brothers who have been trained in various Provinces and, right now, we combined with The Irish Christian Brothers to make sizeable classes for Juniorate and Scholasticate training. In our schools our Catholics number 2391 while our non-Catholics total 1017. Most of our pupils are drawn from the Middle class. Needy cases are adequately catered for. The school for the Coloureds at Retreat, managed by two White Marist Brothers and secular Coloured staff, is financed almost entirely (Buildings, furniture, salaries, etc.) by the White Colleges.

How do we manage to run seven secondary and primary schools with so few Brothers? Thanks to the help we receive from" lay staff, who are not all catholic, and who number at present 137. So, if fees are charged you can understand why. While fees meet the salaries of these teachers, amenities at the various Colleges are provided by a body known as the Parent Teacher Association, a fund-raising group without which our schools could not possibly maintain present standards in education.

The fact that we have mentioned that there are 31 Brothers born in South Africa proves that local recruiting has not been neglected and has borne fruit. What we like to call «communication lines" are still open because we have trainees at all levels of formation. Pray God their numbers will increase!

 

To conclude and help you to understand something of our difficulties, do, kindly, remember that our total Catholic population is barely six per cent. We have struggled, we are struggling, we intend to keep on struggling to realise in so far as we can with God's help the ambition of Blessed Champagnat and what the Hierarchy at their plenary session (February 1973) said:

«… The Catholic school has been the living and illuminating centre of much missionary effort. Countless communities of dedicated Religious have given their spiritual energies and religious generosity to the work of the Catholic school and parents, conscious of their religious responsibilities, have regarded the Catholic school as their most highly prized and inseparable ally in the education of their children ".

While we have spoken of our success in attracting South African vocations to our own Congregation, it may be of interest for you to know that our present Cardinal, His Eminence Owen Cardinal McCann, His Grace Archbishop Denis E. Hurley of Durban, several other members of the hierarchy and a substantial number of our most apostolic priests are past pupils of our schools. This may be due to the spirit of the country which sees more prestige in a priestly vocation – whether secular or religious – rather than in the somewhat arduous vocation of the Teaching Brother in South Africa.

RETOUR

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SUIVANT

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