Zimbabwe August 2010  -  Fr Nicolas’s Journal

8 August

We left Manchester for the long flight to Johannesburg . Arrived there at 9.30 and having got through all the formalities found Thabo Katsana and Bernadette Hegarty waiting for us. Thabo is so generous and willing in this boring business of meeting flights! It's always good to see him.

9 August

I had an excellent breakfast with the few boarders from St Martin 's School and then was picked up by Rosemary Pyne-Mercier to go and see Victoria Abbey in hospital. There we found Mary Mistry and Theo Simpson waiting for us. Victoria was obviously very unwell but talked incessantly as usual! She stopped for long enough to give her Communion and anoint her. Then we left her to have her leg ulcers dressed.

Rosemary took me back to Rosettenville where I met up with Fr Thabo and Fr Surinam , an Indian South African priest and we went to lunch together (mounds of delicious meat!). Fr Surinam is a fascinating young priest who longs for a contemplative form of the religious life. He has much experience of Hindu religion which feels his real home and Ignatian spirituality. He is also well earthed in reality when it comes to talking about fulfilling his hopes. I hope he will come to stay at Mirfield next year and perhaps do a day at the Centre on Hinduism and Christianity.

That afternoon I went to friends for supper and to stay the night. They are RCs and Opus Dei; Mark is very seriously ill with a lung condition but we had a great evening and much excellent wine.

10 August

I met Sr Heather Francis and Edna Moore for the flight up to Harare . There we were met by Sarah who drove us to Jenny's. The two ladies stayed with Jenny. I went on to some new friends - Glynis and Rob Kelly who also have an amazingly generous style of hospitality. They were dying to take me for some days on a houseboat on Lake Kariba but nothing was available.

11 August

I picked up my car from the mechanic who had serviced it. Maintaining cars in Zimbabwe is more expensive I think than in England but as there are no rescue services to speak of out in the bush I think the money well spent.

12 August

We drove out to Shearly Cripps. The weather has been pretty cold since we arrived but the drive was lovely, except that you see empty fields all the way - the government's land reform programme has meant that almost everything now has to be imported! At Shearly Cripps we met with the CBLM sisters and I could give them the happy news that we have the money for them to start building their new convent in Juru township. I said mass for them and then picked up the headmaster of St Jude's school and set off back to Harare leaving the two ladies behind. I had found $1,000 to spend on text books so we went to two places at opposite ends of town to do this. The school actually needs $19,000 worth of books, so this is only a start but a very welcome one for them. By the time I got home that evening, having dropped the head by a bus stop with his books, I was really tired.

13 August

I met Phillip Mutasa and went with him to see Bishop Chad to talk about various possibilities  - one of which is sending some young academic priests out to teach for short periods at Gaul House. There is a huge and urgent need to upgrade the standards of theological education for the clergy.

That evening I went round to Julius Makoni's for a chat. This turned into a typical Julius evening - three bankers turned up - Francis, James and Jonathan (the latter from England) and we drank lots of whiskey, ate a large meal, drank some lovely wine, talked about banking, investments, church politics and Julius's episcopal experiences.

14 August

Taken up with a long chat with Phillip Mutasa, a visit to Tariro House to meet the housemother and admire the chickens, 200 of which are near to slaughter and then on the airport to meet Carl and Ben off the Ethiopian flight, which was late. Carl and Ben stayed with Rob and Glynis, who have three sons, now away from home so they seemed rather to enjoy having the three of us to spoil in their place.

15 August

We went out to Shearly Cripps, to celebrate mass, dish out a lot of rosaries (I preached on Our Lady) pick up the ladies who had had a good time, despite cold, and long power cuts.

16 August

We set off with the full party - Heather Francis, Edna, Carl, Ben and I for Mutare where we met with Luke Chigwanda (now Diocesan Secretary) and the splendid bursar, Cecilia Chinguo. We heard some dramas - how Luke and another priest were attacked by police saying mass at St Anne's Goto and were arrested. They managed to escape police cells by paying a spot fine. Much trouble also at Bonda where the church is now locked against both factions of the Anglican church.

Then we drove up to St Augustine 's and found the sisters waiting for us, ready to spoil us. We arrived of course with a carful of food so they could feed us properly! There we heard their exciting tales of how Mother Betty, Sr Elizabeth and Sr Annamore were arrested for having a CPCA service in their chapel. The police and the local St Augustine 's clergy were simply horrible to them and at the police station they were forced to strip and, then with just their tunics on were put into a stinking dark cell. Fortunately within some hours the Diocese were able to get them released and they returned triumphant and even more fierce in defence of the faith. 

17 August

In retrospect this was the only day in my stay in Zimbabwe that I did not drive somewhere. We spent much of the day meeting the children from the local Tariro group - to which we added another six. I handed that six over to Edna so she could give them special coaching for the next few days. Education in Zimbabwe has become so poor that every bit of support we can give the children is a help. Sr Heather Francis spent the time getting to know the CZR sisters and finding out about their needs. Carl was mostly with the orphans, introducing Ben to them.

18 August

After mass (it is only when I am there the sisters get mass) Carl, Ben and I set off to Chipinge, about 2 hours south of Mutare. There we met a young priest, Fr Paul Mudowaya who is the only priest south of Mutare and very young and inadequately trained. Carl wanted us to start a Tariro group in his parish, so we went for a long walk round Chipinge (Derek was rector there 25 years ago) meeting some of the leading parishioners.

19 August

After mass in the church and seeing off ten MU members to the MU gathering in Mutare (see below!) the four of us set off for the Lower Save to see the Anglican congregation in Tongogara Refugee camp. This is in hot, low lying territory and feels as if it is the back end of nowhere. We found a camp of about 4,000 refugees from DRC, Rwanda , Burundi , Somalia , Ethiopia and Sudan stuck there with nowhere to go. Amazingly there is an Anglican congregation, mostly from DRC and Rwanda with an excellent pastor recently arrived from DRC. When we arrived the people left what they were doing and about 30 adults with 20 children crowded into a tiny church building and sang and danced for us; it was incredibly moving. We also spoke with the Camp administrator, an Anglican who seemed good and caring, plus his assistant. Both are social workers battling with huge problems. They said any kind of help we could give would be valuable. After some chat we agreed to help - Ben is going to raise money towards the church they want to build. I handed over $200 to help the pastor and his wife begin supplementing children's education and promised to come back in January and see what more we can do. I think all of us agreed it was one of our most moving experiences and most unexpected. It was good to see the Diocese of Manicaland, with all its problems, reaching out to care for such a poor and neglected community but also wonderful to see people with such traumatic backgrounds able to celebrate the faith and welcome us visitors with such generosity.

20 August

After mattins and mass, Ben and I left Carl (who later talked with the church council and started another group of Tariro orphans) and set off first to Chimanimani where we took tea with Lord and Lady Plunkett (sounds posh but they are friends of Anselm and now very elderly). We also met nice Guy Carey, then drove on to Mutare to the Diocesan office to meet Bishop Julius who updated us on the diocese. He had just come from the MU gathering of 4,000 in the showgrounds and it was expected to go up to 6,000 by the Sunday. Then Ben and I drove on to St Augustine 's where we found the gate shut against us. Fr Maunze on instructions from Jakazi had banned us! Two orphans were there so I sent them to fetch the sisters, who soon arrived with a posse of orphans. Soon afterwards came permission for us to enter the mission. When we reached the Sisters we found Jakazi's archdeacon Mtikiti waiting for us with two priests. He sat us down and we had a great row. This was interrupted by the sisters who arrived and took over the fighting while Ben and I watched. In the end we made a sort of peace and were told we could stay the night. I then found that Jakazi himself had just previously been shouting at Edna and Sr Heather Francis, so we all experienced a little of the drama!

21 August

After lunch the four of us left St Augustine 's and drove back to Harare .  

22 August

I took Ben to St Francis Waterfalls for his placement with Fr Paul Gwese. There we had mass with about 400 people in a school hall. They are shortly going to move out to a tent on a patch of ground where they intend to build a new church while they wait to regain access to their old! Paul gave us an excellent breakfast, then Edna and I went to the neighbouring parish of Hatfield where I met Justin Matyatya. I have promised to find the money for him to have surgery on his arm. From there we went to the airport to meet two more people from England - Des and Lola. Des had seen a programme on TV about the need of Zimbabwean school children for school fees and was determined his baggage industry would find fees for 1,000 children. Lola is a recently discovered friend of mine from Zimbabwe and she put us in touch. The result is that Des and Lola came to visit schools in Masvingo diocese. That evening I was back in town to meet the Bishop of Masvingo (Godfrey) and Des and Lola, plus two others to talk about the project.

23 August

Paddington Zorwadza in his nice big Jeep, Lola, Des and I set off for Masvingo and arrived in late afternoon. Des met us and was impressed by the administrative staff the Bishop has created.

24 August

We set off to look at schools in the Sherugwi area – visiting four of these over dreadful roads. Each school was incredibly moving though, as we found they have about 60% orphans. Less than half the children pay their fees. Schools are short of water, books, staff housing, classrooms – pretty well everything you need to make a school work. The headmasters we met all seemed competent and well motivated, struggling with really inadequate resources. We agreed we couldn't meet all their needs but if we can at least enable the majority of children to pay their school fees that would make a big difference. Des is also determined to raise money to put in a borehole in the most needy of the schools.

25 August

In the morning we set off to see the Secondary School and Youth Training centre at Chidzikwe. The secondary school was a council school but has been taken over by the Diocese and that has enabled them to improve their facilities, though much is still lacking. The diocese has taken over about 12 former council schools, as local councils just haven't been able to cope. The Training centre opened this year and has produced over 100 pigs (starting from eight), a thousand chickens and a magnificent vegetable garden. They are training 60 young people free of charge. That afternoon we returned to Harare .

26 August

Fairly early on this morning Heather Frances, Sr Anna Marie and I set off back to St Augustine 's. As we were sure we would not be allowed in the gate (Carl had been prevented earlier in the week but had sneaked in) we got Luke Chigwanda to drop us by a short cut and climbed in over the mountain. This meant we were in before the priest knew. Next day we set off back to Harare escorted to the gate by a posse of sisters and children. En route we drove round by St David's Bonda to meet the sisters there and briefly explore the mission.

27 August

I took a quiet day for about 13 people, mostly of fairly evangelical Anglican persuasion.

28 August

Being rather under the weather I simply said a mass for Jenny and Edna, who were both not well; then drove in to town to meet Justin Matyatya; from there went to airport to see off Lola and Des, then picked up Ben from Waterfalls four 2 days R&R.

29 August

We went to Bally Vaughan Game Park for game viewing, elephant rides, canooing and a splendid lunch.

30 August

I took Ben to Gaul House where we met some seminarians. When I went on to Waterfalls to pick up Fr Justin Matyatya and take him to a doctor for a consultation (result of that is that I must find $3,500 for him to have more surgery.) That evening Sr HF and I went out to meet some former Bonda pupils.

31 August

I tried to make this a day off but had to see one of the Saturday retreatants for a long talk. I also moved my billet to Gillian Girdlestone's.

1 September

Spent most of the day with 40 Diocesan clergy teaching about confession, priestly formation and the rosary. That was good and very moving to meet some of the really splendid clergy in the diocese. Then visited Tariro House to find them in the midst of a rather bloody slaughtering and dressing of 200 chickens.

2 September

Went out to Shearly Cripps to meet the Bishop and see the sisters. The Bishop and I met with the priest and chairman of governors to agree on setting up a clinic which will serve the children primarily but also the local community. This probably means we need to find another £10,000. Then I took some of the sisters to Juru township so we could admire the newly dug foundations of their new convent. Then back into town for a quick lunch with Jenny and then drove to the Diocesan office to meet the Diocesan Secretary to check on payment and supervision of the Sister's convent project.

3 September

We spent most of the morning at Tariro House, celebrating a requiem mass for the children's parents. This was the culmination of some weeks' work on grief etc. Then rushed to Arundel School to hear a couple of friends sing in a recital of sacred music.

4 September

Having offered to say mass and preach for Christchurch Borrowdale, I found myself booked to do two masses. The first was in English at a school chapel. The second in Shona at another school hall. In fact we had that outside as the keys had got mislaid. It was fun, but had to be conducted faster than the Shona people are accustomed to as I had to get back, change and get to the airport.

That night and the next day I spent with my niece and family in Johannesburg .