The Zambezi Mission was launched in 1879 from Grahamstown (South Africa). The mission’s territory covered present day Zimbabwe, most of Zambia and part of Mozambique. Its final aim was to establish a mission near Lake Bangweulu in Zambia. The first attempt proved a failure. Its few survivors regrouped in South Africa and, in 1890, accompanied the Pioneer Column under Cecil Rhodes British South Africa Company.
The mission was originally international, but soon the British Province took responsibility for Zimbabwe as the Portuguese Province did for Mozambique. In 1905, French Jesuits Moreau and Torrend crossed the Zambezi and established the Chikuni Mission near Chief Monze in the southern part of Zambia. In 1910, all the Jesuits were expelled from Mozambique. Five of them (mostly Poles) crossed the Luangwa River in Eastern Province and erected the Katondwe Mission. The Polish Province took responsibility for this mission, which eventually gave birth to the dioceses of Lusaka and Monze.
Mgr. B. Wolnik SJ was appointed the first apostolic delegate of Broken Hill (Kabwe) in 1927. Given the scarcity of men and money, his first major act was to hand over two thirds of his mission to the Franciscans: the Copper Belt to the Conventuals and the Western Province to the Capuchins. Then, he consolidated the major stations with a network of outstations. He gradually expanded into the new railway towns of Lusaka and Kabwe. After the African tour of Bishop Hinsley in 1928, the Catholic Church began to focus on schools as the point of insertion for evangelization. By the time of independence in 1964, the Jesuits managed over 200 primary schools. With the expansion of Lusaka as capital, Archibishop (later Cardinal) A. Kozlowiecki SJ organized the rapid extension of parishes with the help of Jesuit missionaries from Slovenia, Croatia, United States and Slovakia as well as of other missionary congregations.
In 1962, the Diocese of Monze split off from Lusaka under Bishop J. Corboy SJ with Irish Jesuits and several sister congregations. Corby was succeeded by Bishop P. Lungu SJ, who died in a car accident after six years in 1998. The original educational work at Chikuni developed into a secondary school and a teachers training College. The latter was in response to a 1957 request by the Bishops. Today Chikuni is linked to a cultural centre and a community radio station. The two minor seminaries of Mpima and Mukasa were established and run for quite a number of years by Jesuits.
The Vice-Province of Zambia was erected in 1969, merging the Lusaka and the Chikuni Missions. A novitiate for all of English-speaking Africa was established in Lusaka. Initially local vocations were few. Since 1985, however, a consistent number began to enter. Today, sixty out of just over a hundred Jesuits in the province are in formation and most administrative responsibility is in local hands.
The province expanded to include Malawi, taking responsibility for a major seminary in Zomba (1989-1999), and then establishing a residence in Lilongwe (1993) and a parish in Kasungu (2000). Construction of a secondary school has just begun there. While several original foundations have been handed over to dioceses, the province is still committed to seven parishes. It continues to run Canisius Secondary School in Chikuni and has recently acquired Leopards Hill Jesuit Secondary School in Lusaka. It has always had a good presence in the University of Zambia. It runs an Agricultural Training Centre near Lusaka that promotes organic farming. The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR) has been active in the last 25 years and Loyola Productions is a new venture in media ministry.
By Edward Murphy SJ
Source: JHIA diary