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As children of our forefathers In the faith we recall the history of the Diocese of Hwange as an act of gratitude to them and to God our Father.
There are obvious limitations when writing the history of the Diocese of Hwange. First of all, most of the protagonists in this history are still alive and many are present here today. They could speak for themselves and provide the correct information. That shows that we are still very close to the events and the people who made the history of the Diocese. One needs to look at the historical process with some distance in time in order to see the facts and the people in the perspective of an overall view.
Second, missionaries and Christians of the first generation, as many are in the Diocese, are the agents of history rather than the history writers. We provide material for others to write history after us.
Here we are going to highlight the main events and to mention only few names among the many missionaries, religious, local priests, missionaries and Christians of and lay people who were instrumental in the laying of the foundations and the formation of the diocese as we see it today. We will also mention some places which, for one reason or another, played a particularly significant role.
The diocese of Hwange is a small portion of the Church. The main agent in the formation and life of the Church is the Holy Spirit. His intervention in every Christian and in every community cannot be measured adequately by our human standards. The inner life of the Church escapes the eye of the amateur historian.
For convenience sake I am going to divide the history of the evangelization in the diocese into three periods:

  1. From the very origins up to 1952, and we call it the period of the pioneers.

  2. From 1953 to 1962, the period of the Apostolic Prefecture.

  3. From 1963 to 1988: the 25 years of the Diocese

    The period of the pioneers

The very beginnings of evangelization in what is now the diocese of Hwange are linked to a place called Pandamatenga, on the border with Botswana in the western part of Hwange District. The early presence of Christianity in Pandamatenga is described by our Bishop with the following words taken from the Diocesan Bulletin nº 95, page 3:
The fore-runners of the missionary work in our diocese were the Jesuits, who, led by FR. Henri Dopelchin, arrived at Pandamatenga the 25th June 1880. Of them the first person to lose his life was Fr. Anton Terorde, buried at Mwemba on the 15th September 1880. Fr. John Weisskoph, Fr. Alfred Allen and Bro. Francis Sadeleer are buried at Pandamatenga itself. Bro Bartholomew Kroot was a dying man when he left Pandamatenga. He died in Bulawayo on the 21st of June 1885. With his departure Pandamatenga, ‘that death trap’, was finally closed. The record is impressive; in five years six missionaries had died, and not a single conversion to the faith had taken place…” “Six great missionaries who believed and put into practice the words of the Lord: ‘The wheat grain that falls into the earth and dies… yields a rich harvest’ (Jn.12:24). They are our Patrons, our beloved ancestors in the faith, who intercede before God for us”.
Our Bishop writes about these earliest missionaries with the greatest admiration and says: “I feel deeply indebted to them. I wish we could build in their loving memory an altar and a cross at Pandamatenga as a memorial to them and as a token of our deep gratitude. Gratitude is proper of noble hearts”.
In my account for the next period I have borrowed most of the information from Fr. Alexander Alapont who has made research into the origins of Makwa and St. Mary’s Missions.
The Wankie Colliery Company was mining coal in Hwange since the early years of this century. Workers came to the mine mainly from Zambia and Malawi. Among the Bemba workers there were Catholics who continuously asked the Jesuit missionaries to visit them. The Jesuit missionaries started visiting Hwange from St. Patrick’s Mission, in Bulawayo.
The Bemba Catholics in Hwange welcomed the missionary from St. Patrick’s warmly at the old train station, where the present goods shade is located. From there they accompanied him to the nearby guesthouse, where his room had been prepared. In January 1924, St Ignatius School is opened by Fr. Joseph Esser, S.J. in honour of the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius of Loyola. The Zambezi Jesuit Mission covered present Zimbabwe and Zambia, thus a station in Hwange was on their route between their missions in the two countries.
Sine 1924 Fr. Esser used to visit St. Ignatius in Hwange every two months. The arrangement to stay in the guesthouse was not satisfactory to the missionaries who wanted to stay longer in Hwange. Therefore they asked Mr. Thomson, the Wankie General Manager, to allow them to use two houses at the single quarters. After 1930 it was the Mariannhill missionaries, who had replaced the Jesuits in Bulawayo, the ones who regularly visited St. Ignatius. They soon realized that evangelization had to expand in the area.
In November 1932 Fr Joseph Kammerlechner made the first trip into the rural area by bicycle, with the idea of finding a place to open the first permanent mission in Hwange District.
In December of the same year, Bro. Aegidius Fister, also a Mariannhiller, toured the area along the Zambezi, surveying the area. He was in the area for less than two months and baptized four people in danger of death. He reached as far as the Mateji river. He contracted malaria and died in Bulawayo in January 1933.
Early in 1933 a firm decision was made to open a mission station near the Zambezi. The first place chosen was MAPETA’s village in the SIMANGANI area, on the top of a hill by the Deka river bank, some two kilometers before the confluence of that river into the Zambezi and not far from the present bridge near Simangani.
There was no road to reach Mapeta, so it was decided to build one in August 1933. Fr. Andrew Hotze and Bro. Mauritius were appointed to open the new mission, but Fr. Hotze had to undergo a major operation and therefore Fr. Joseph Kammerlechner went there together with Brother. The country was rough and mountainous. Having built the road the Brother started making bricks for the building of a school near Mapeta village.
Meanwhile another expansion effort took place in the rural area near Lukuzhe River, at a place called NEKAMANDAMA. St. Peter School at Nekamandama was opened in January 1933. It is the first rural Catholic School in what is Hwange Diocese today. Nekamandama was opened from Hwange and the missionaries reached the place by bicycle and on foot along Lukushe River through very rough terrain.
Back at Simangani with the two missionaries we see them busy moulding bricks and making plans for the new Mapeta Mission. At the end of 1933 they realised that the water at the place was unsuitable for drinking and cooking purposes. So, the initial plans were changed and they moved some 5 Km. to the West, where they chose a picturesque hill just by the Zambezi. The place was really beautiful! It was going to be a mission and it would be called St Aegidius Mission, MAKWA, in honour to the late Bro. Aegidius who had died a year before of malaria contracted in this area.
By the beginning of 1934 the missionaries were established at Makwa. They started building operations immediately. They put up the priests’ house, the sisters’ house and the church which was probably used as a school too. The buildings at the first Makwa Mission were erected with adobe bricks.
The water was pumped from the Zambezi. Down the hill, by the river bank, it was flat ground. Reports from elders at the place tell us that the missionaries had a garden of two and a half hectares approximately where they grew maize and vegetables. The Sisters were in charge of the field. They had fowls too and some cows, as reported by Mr. Tick Shoko, still alive, who was the herder. Workers in those days were paid ten shillings a month ($ 1,00) and food.
The first two sisters to go to Makwa Mission were Sr. Reginata and Sr. Notkera both of the Congregation of the Precious Blood. Like the Mariannhill Missionaries they were from Germany. Soon after, a third sister was sent, Sr. Illidia CPS but Sr Reginata was changed. In 1935 Sr. Benita replaced Sr Illidia and Sr. Raymunda also joined the community.
The work of those Makwa missionaries must have been very hard and carried out in the middle of adverse circumstances: hot weather, lack of communications, poor means of transport, diseases, etc. The area was sparsely populated.
A great collaborator of the missionaries at Makwa was Mr. Antonio Robo, a Christian from Mozambique who had been a catechist at St. Ignatius, Hwange, for several years. The Mariannhill priests brought him to Makwa where he was catechist and teacher at the new mission school. On 23rd June 1934 the first Christian convert is received into the Catholic Church. The first baptism took place on 7th July 1934. The old people at Makwa still remember the insistence of the early missionaries asking the people not to stump grain on Sunday and to stop the practice of “malila” and “mhande” ceremonies.
Another teacher at the mission school was Mr. Vincent, at present employed by the Council as a tractor driver. Soon after, a young teacher arrived from Malawi, Mr. Matthias Kangwere, an ex-seminarian, who was going to play a decisive role in the growth of the church in Hwange town. Makwa school had Sub A, Sub B, and St. 1.
It was also in 1934 that Musuna School was probably opened, near the Musuna River in the valley. In those days the Dombe people were ploughing between the Musuna and the Zambezi rivers and fishing in them. The area is called now Dambwankulu. This Catholic School was short lived, as most of the people shifted to the Musuna Hills. Musuna School was opened by Fr. Joseph Ebert who had joined the Makwa community late in 1934.
Another interesting historical fact must be noted here. While preparations were being made for the opening of Makwa Mission in 1933, Fr Hotze received from the new Binga District, called Sebungwe, request for the opening of schools in the Tonga area. The people lived behind the mountains, a distance beyond the Gwaayi River. Kamativi Tin Mine was the farthest place to reach by road. The Zambezi Valley inhabited by the Tonga had no access by road.
Fr. Hotze crossed the Zambezi into present day Zambia and travelled along the northern bank of the river into a country infested by wild animal and sparsely populated. He crossed again into present day Zimbabwe right in the middle of the Zambezi valley. There he opened two schools among the Batonga: Syachilaba and Syansale. That was nearly twenty five years before the Kariba Dam was built. The people lived along the river making their living on fishing. The two schools started operating in 1934. About 100 children was the first enrolment in each school and probably there were no girls enrolled.
The school inspector wanted to refuse approval for these schools for it was impossible for him to reach there, but in the end he gave in and the work commenced. The Mariannhill Missionaries were the first to star education and Christian work among the Batonga.
Makwa was 45 Km. north of Hwange town. Every weekend the missionaries had to go to St. Ignatius in Hwange to celebrate the Eucharist for the growing community there, Hwange was the only place where they could do any shopping. The road from the mission to Hwange was a mere oxcart track. Deka River, 7 Km. from Hwange had no bridge. On the North was the Zambezi; to the West was the Mateji River. There was no road on that direction and no bridge whatsoever. On the East the Deka was also impassable. During the rains there were cat off.
The first complete year at Makwa, 1934, was a time of making plans and also a time to question the advisability of keeping the mission in such a remote place. In 1935 painful decisions had to be made. The new church-school was completed. A cement platform was placed under the altar. It can still be seen today among the ruins. Even a large statue of St. Aegidius was on the way from Germany to be placed in the new mission church.
On the side of evangelization the catechumenate was doing well and on 4th may 1935 the missionaries had the great joy of baptizing eleven adults at Makwa. The coming of Fr. Joseph Ebert would accelerate the course of events at the remote place. He soon realized that the mission could not succeed in these conditions. The endless discussions and plans for changing the mission site multiplied. It was an agonizing year.
A new place had been found nine miles South of Hwange town near the Lokozhe River by the main road to Bulawayo. Fr. Joseph himself chose the place where a good house had already been erected by Miss Bolton, the secretary of Mr. Tompson, the General Manager of the Colliery. The house was located on the bank of the river surrounded by impressive hills. It was on sale and Father saw the golden opportunity to get the place. It was also during 1935 that a new school had been granted and called St. Mary’s School. That was the ideal place for the transfer of the mission.
By the end of 1935 the three sisters at Makwa and Fr. Joseph Ebert and Bro. Basil Sofka decided to move to St. Mary’s Lukozhe. Thus 1936 is the year of the foundation of St. Mary’s Mission. Gradually Makwa was dismantled and the material transported to the new mission site. Fr. Alexander dates the coming of the missionaries to St. Mary´s in April 1936. The new mission was to be a centre of evangelization and a place from which most of the missionary expeditions into present day Hwange Diocese would originate. St Mary’s Mission is in all truth the mother of Hwange Diocese.
From St. Mary’s the Mariannhill missionaries visited regularly Hwange where the school of St, Ignatius and the parish were more effectively served. Soon they opened also the parish of the Holy Family whose books date back to 1938. Makwa was not abandoned completely. Regular visits were made but now from St Mary’s Mission. Mr Thomas Sayi collaborated with the priests and sisters as builder and catechist. Mr. James Nehwati was among the first Christians under St. Mary’s.
From St. Mary’s Mission new schools were opened: Lambo, Luseche, Nemgazha, Milonga, Kanywambizi, Mbizha, and visits were made to those already operating.
Of those years of church work at St. Mary’s, Bishop I. Prieto has this to say: “The figurehead of all the Mariannhill who worked in Hwange is Fr. Joseph Ebert CMM. He with Bro. Basil Sofka and the Precious Blood Sisters Notkera, Raymunda and Benita began in earnest the missionary work that started at Makwa from 1933 to 1936 and the from 1936 to 1950 at St. Mary’s Mission Lukosi. Makwa and St. Mary’s are a credit to the faith, zeal and dedication of Fr. Ebert and the Precious Blood Sisters”. (Dioc. Bull. Nº 83 p.3)
Another missionary that Cycled along the roads and pats of Hwange district was Fr. Odilo Weeger CMM who stayed at Sty. Mary’s from 1939 to 1942. Some of the above mentioned schools were opened and visited by him during his long apostolic tours.
In 1943 St. Mary’s School started offering boarding facilities to children of other areas. Sr. Sales CPS was then appointed to organize and take care of the girls in the boarding. Bro. Theofil CMM, who started the construction of St. Mary’s Hospital, contracted malaria and died at St. Mary’s where he is buried.
By the middle forties St. Mary’s had been consolidated as a catholic Centre irradiating educational and health services in the surrounding area. The number of out-stations was increasing. In 1947 Fatima Mission was opened to serve the pastoral needs of the northern part of Lupane district.
Fr. Odilo CMM was sent to pioneer the new station. St. Luke and St. Paul were later opened within the same district of Lupane.
All the missionary work in the Hwange area was done from St. Mary’s Mission and as part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Bulawayo. Bishop I. Arnoz CMM, Vicar Apostolic was the great animator of those missionary endeavours.
In 1949 (21st May) a group of Spanish Missionaries arrived in Bulawayo Diocese and were posted in the area of Hwange. Frs. I. Prieto, J. Diaz Rubio, James Turigas and Brother Vaquero were in the first Spanish expedition.
One year later, in 1950, Srs. Cecilia, Trinity, Dolores and Mother Jesus, of the Congregation of the Missionary Daughters of Calvary arrived also at St. Mary’s Mission.
Plans were the made for the splitting of the large Matabeleland North into a new jurisdiction that would be entrusted to the Spanish Mission Institute. The new missionaries were posted to St. Mary’s, Fatima and St. Paul, Lupane, in order to gain experience with the Mariannhill missionaries. In 1951 new blood was received in the persons of Frs. Mathias, Victor, Anthony S. Elvira, Ireneus and Bro. Emmanuel Dausá. That would make the handing over possible. The Mariannhill Missionaries and the Precious Blood Sisters laid down the foundation for the future Diocese of Hwange. For their dedication, for their generosity and for their hard work we now say to them: Thank you. May God reward you abundantly!

The period of the Apostolic Prefecture: 1953 to 1962

On 20th June 1953 the Holy See erected a new jurisdiction called the Apostolic Prefecture of Wankie (Hwange), comprising the district of Hwange, the district of Binga and the part of Lupani and Nkayi North of Shangani River. All these areas had been under the Vicariate Apostolic (now Diocese) of Bulawayo. To that the district of Gokwe and Omayi Communal Land were added. They had been before under the Diocese of Salisbury (now Archdiocese of Harare).
The external signs of the spade work done by the Mariannhillers and the Precious Blood Sisters was: 5 parishes erected, 1484 Catholics, 454 catechumens, 52 Catholic primary schools with an enrolment of 1.400 children, 44 outstations of religious service. The Apostolic Prefecture was built on this initial work. It started with 9 priests, 3 brothers, 5 sisters and 6 seminarians.
The Apostolic Prefecture is entrusted to the care of a priest who is given many episcopal powers, and is called Apostolic Prefect. The first Apostolic Prefect of Hwange was Mgr. Francis Font who directed the Prefecture for only two years and had to leave for health reasons. In 1955 the Holy See appointed Mgr. Dominic Ross.
The ten years of the Apostolic Prefecture are characterized by a rapid expansion in missionary work. Tshongokwe Mission was opened in 1953, St. Peter and Paul parish in Hwange town in 1954, and Kana Mission, at the border between Nkayi and Gokwe districts also in 1954. In 1955 church services were also started at Makwika in Nº 3 Colliery.
Fr. Joseph Rubio obtained from the Ministry permission to open schools along Shangani and Kana Rivers. It was the time when churches were competing to obtain schools as a way of penetration into a given area. Fr. Rubio spent months with people organizing the putting up of elementary buildings for more that ten schools in one year. The first schools under Tshongokwe were: Tshongokwe, Sowendle. Tiki, Banagale, Zinaphi, Mpikiwa, Lupaka, Tshebetshebe, Matshakayile, Mpahlwa n. 2 and nº 3, Gomoza, Mzalikwa, Makeke, Nimimbili, St. Clara (Mzola 27) and St. Martha. In that way evangelization started along Shangani River. Some teachers deserve being mentioned in those difficult days: Mr. Athanas Sibanda, Joseph, Lawrence Siyabona, Teresa Mahlangu, Francis Sibanda and many others.
In the area of Tshongokwe other schools were opened after some years: Mzola 32, Dongamusi, Dandanda, Lubimbi, Guga and Mzola 55.
Frs. Rubio and John Chesa and Bro. Emmanuel were the pioneers of Tshongokwe. The mission centred its activities on education. Sisters were soon sent to the mission from the Congregation of the Daughters of Calvary. They would also give a great contribution to the education of the youth.
How was the response of the first years of evangelization under Tshongokwe? One missionary who was an agent of evangelization at Tshongokwe for sixteen years testifies that the first eight years of evangelization in that area did not bear the fruit of many conversions. Many of the local people who had moved into the area in the early fifties from Filabusi and Gwanda had a strong protestant influence with some anti-catholic prejudices. Only some children could join the catechumenate and get baptized, but their home environment made it difficult for them to persevere in the practice of the faith. In its first ten years of existence, Tshongokwe mission registered 727 baptisms, mainly of school children. However, many of them are today the fathers and mothers of Christian families in the area of Tshongokwe and Gomoza.
The apostolic zeal and desire for expansion of Fr. Rubio made him cross the eastern border of Lupani District. His ambition was to penetrate also into Nkayi. Ingwalathi is the oldest Catholic School in the western part of Nkayi dating back to the days of Fr. Rubio’s expeditions. Fr Victor D. Cenera also contributed greatly to the opening and consolidation of Catholic Schools in the area stretching from Fatima mission to Ingwalathi.
From 1952 to 1954 a large settlement of Shona People was moved by the Government to Gokwe District. They were evicted from a area between Gweru, Mvuma and Kwekwe when it was declared European area. They were left by Government trucks in the Kana Communal Land, between Kana and Lutope rivers and in the surroundings of Gokwe office.
Simultaneously there was another immigration of Ndebele People from Fort Rixon and Filabusi into Nkayi and the northern part of Lupani, Mzola.
Both the Shona and the Ndebele settlements of the early fifties had a very weak Catholic influence. Other churches were more popular among the new immigrants: London Missionary Society, Salvation Army, S.D.D, Anglicans, etc.
The Catholic missionaries reached the area of Kana at the request of Mr. Cosmas Gumbo who had settled near the home of chief Mkoka. Among the many immigrants into the Kana area there were some Catholic families that were instrumental in the establishment of the Catholic Church around Kana.: The Gumbo family, the Makodzongi family, the Chifanas, the Magezeras, the Nenes and the Rumumas near Gokwe. Members of these families had been baptized under St. Michael, Mohndoro, and under Driefontein Mission.
On the Nkayi part of Kana Mission six schools were soon opened; Ingwalathi that has been mentioned, Silindeni (now Taheli), Samakandana (soon closed for poor enrolment), Setshanke, Bozane and Mangwizi (now Gababi). Catholic teachers were appointed to head these schools that soon became centres of evangelization. Mention must be made of teachers Stephen Ncube, Robert N. Ngwenya, Romano Nekatambe, Samuel Ndlovu, Wilfred Chingwa and Anastasia Ncube.
Ingwalathi is, therefore, the first of all the communities or out-centres under Kana Mission, including the mission itself. It was opened from Fatima Mission and visited successively by many priests. That made of Ingwalathi a centre of Catholic influence. Mr Robert Ngwenya and Mr. C. Gumbo were instrumental in the growth of Ingwalathi. The response of the people was generally positive.
Mangwizi was another centre of evangelization that showed a positive response. The first teacher in 1955 is still remembered as a strong Catholic leader, Somakandana had to close but it continued as a place of Sunday service and catechumenate.
Fr. James Turigas and Bro, Emmanuel Dausá started building at Kana Mission at the end of 1953. The primary school was opened on January 1954, Teacher Juru was the first headmaster. Other schools were also opened that year: Mkoka, Kambe, Lukukwe, Rumuma and Mafumo. Among the teachers that initiated them are: Mr Robert Chirongoma, Mambabvu Juru and those mentioned above.
At the mission itself Fr. Joseph Culebras and Bro Raphael contributed considerably to the expansion of the mission in the early years. Frs. Thomas and J. Mougan followed and consolidated the work of education and evangelization toward the late fifties,
The first wing of the hospital was opened in 1956 with Sr. Paulina as the nurse in charge. She was soon replaced by Sr. Elizabeth. Both were members of the Congregation of the Daughters of Calvary.
Tshongokwe and Kana opened boarding facilities to children of out-schools at primary level. Both missions represent the great expansion of the Apostolic Prefecture of Hwange in the early fifties. Their mother mission was St. Mary’s.
Until the late fifties the Prefecture was composed of three rural mission stations: St. Mary’s, Tshongokwe and Kana, and four urban parishes: St. Ignatius, Holy Family, St. Peter and Paul and Makwika (St. Joseph). Throughout these years the apostolic work was centered on the schools. The priest in charge of the schools from St. Mary’s would visit Dete, Kamativi and as far as Binga. Those from Tshongokwe would expand as far as Gomoza and Makeke to the East and Dongamusi and Luvimbi to the North. Those from Kana would stretch from Samakandana near the Shangani to Mangwizi in the border with Zhombe and Rumuma and Mafumo near Gokwe and up to Chireya where a School opened few years after.
There was a rapid growth in the activities of the schools and hospitals and in the number of new Christians being baptized. In the whole Prefecture the number of Baptisms in 1954 was 258, in 1955 the number was 237, in 1956 416; in 1957 545; in 1958 1038; in 1959 the number had swollen to 1335. That clearly marked a trend of growth. Remarkably high was the increase in the parishes of Hwange town during those years.
Mgr. Dominic Ross was well aware of this trend and with the reinforcement of new missionaries he soon planned the opening of new mission stations.
The area beyond Mateji River, which was regularly visited by the priests from Hwange, and where Mbizha, Milonga and Kanywanbizi schools had been operating since the time of Fr. Odilo in the forties, was considered the appropriate place for a mission station to cover the rural area North of Hwange town. Fr. Alexander prepared the ground with his frequent and prolonged visits. By the end of 1958 Sacred Heart Mission was opened in the Lukunguni Valley. It would cover the area stretching from Kazungula to the Gwayi River incorporating the old Makwa Mission and its out-stations. Fr. Alexander Alapont, Joseph García and Hertor Fariña and Bros. Emmanuel and Pachal are the pioneers of Sacred Heart Mission. Communications were still bad in those days, and visiting places like Simangani and Musuna required that a priest first came to Hwange and the movin from there to Makwa area; all that in very rough roads.
The arrangement to visit Makwa from Sacred Heart did not work due to the lack of proper communications between Kanyambizi and Makwa. In 1961 it was returned back to St. Ignatius in Hwange.
The vast area covered from St. Mary´s Mission needed to be split into new mission stations. With the opening of St. Francis Xavier School at Dete the new parish would serve the needs of that railway town and a number of out schools in the surrounding rural area. Fr. García and Bro. Paschal pioneered the work at the school and the church. Fr. Martirian Torrego also spent there long periods of time supervising the building. Dete would turn to be a central parish in the future diocese. Its primary school was always a model of perfect organization and professional performance in the whole area.
Kamativi Tin Mine was a growing mining centre that needed a greater pastoral attention than the one it could receive as an out-station of St. Mary´s. St. Theresa Primary School and parish were also opened in 1959 and a priest stationed in the new parish with many Nyanja speaking Christians. The parish records start in 1960. Fr. Ferdinand Villarejo a new dynamic young priest was the first resident priest at St. Theresa, Kamativi. The new parish was dedicated to St. Theresa of Lisieux, patroness of the missions, as Dete parish had been dedicated to St. Francis Xavier.
Mgr. Ross was not yet satisfied with the opening of these new stations. Despite the difficulties of poor communications and the general underdevelopment of the area under the Prefecture, he wished to reach every corner where people would need the church’s assistance to improve their life and to bring the message of Christ to them. No effort was spared to expand though the financial resources were very limited.
The aim now was the district of Binga where thousands of people had been resettled after the construction of the Kariba Dam. Among the people evicted from the Zambezi valley and brought into the new lands of the district were chiefs Syansale and Syachilaba with their Catholic Schools. The chosen place for the new mission station was a hill in the centre of the district near the Office that the District Commissioner had a Kariyangwe.
The communications were bad; the terrain hilly and slippery during the rains, most rivers had no bridges. Reaching the place was a real adventure. But no difficulties stopped Mgr. Ross and the young missionaries to open a mission and an education centre in the heart of Tongaland. Bro. Emmanuel who had gained experience in the opening of St. Paul and Kana was appointed to the difficult task of building the new mission at Kariyangwe. Fr. Emmanuel Castellá was the first priest at the mission. A prefabricated house of corrugated iron would be the first priest’s residence and chapel in 1960 and soon after the sisters’ house. The mission was named after St. John Vianney.
Evangelization in Kariyangwe in the early sixties must have been very similar to that of the Mariannhill missionaries in the forties around Makwa and St. Mary’s. Bro Paschal soon replaced Bro. Emmanuel and Fr. A. Arnaldos, popularly named there as Fr. Syankuku, reinforced the mission staff with a Community of sisters Daughters of Calvary.
Alongside the material work of the mission, the evangelization started among the Tongas by those missionaries who soon mastered the local language. In spite of a situation of poverty and underdevelopment  and of the rigid traditional marriage structures there was an openness to the Gospel. Kariyangwe would play a decisive role in the history of the Tonga people of Binga, accelerating the process of change and modernization. It is difficult for us now to imagine the life that the people and the missionaries had at Binga in the early sixties, because the transformation experienced in twenty five years among the people of Binga would have taken a hundred years in other places.
Another objective of the expanding effort of Mgr. Ross was the northern part of Gokwe area, all under Kana Mission. A school had been opened at Chireya, 200 kilometers North of Kana. In 1961 the decision was made to open there a mission station which started in 1962. Fr. Thomas del Barrio, who had been working at Kana Mission, was sent to pioneer that remote place. He took along with him some of the teachers who had collaborated under Kana. Mr. Francis Mativenga was appointed to work at the mission school and for six years laboriously collaborated with Fr. Thomas in the setting up of the mission buildings as well as in the work of evangelization and education.
With this new adventure, Kana mission was split into two parishes, leaving the largest part of Gokwe district, north of Sengwa River, under the new mission of Chireya. Thus the flourishing centers of Rumuma, Mafumo and Miti became outstations of Chireya. Their distance from Kana was 80 km. and now they were put under a new mission 130 Km. away. Rumuma and Mafumo deserve a special mention because they had to weather difficult times and the absence of the priest for long periods of time. However they always kept the Sunday services going as well as the catechism classes. They have been the prize of all the priests who have served those communities in successive years. It has helped them to develop a sense of self reliance up to the present time.
Chireya Mission was named after St. Dominic, the name of Mgr. Ross. As it happened in most parts of the diocese the distances were long and the communications poor. Fr. Thomas could take five days to reach Gokwe, cycling 120 Km. from Chireya to get the mail during the rainy season. The transport of building material from Kwekwe, 260 Km. away, would often take days. Bros. Henry Ramalle first and Paschal later left part of their life in putting up the first buildings at Chireya, Evangelization at Chireya was also slow. Sampakaruma and Mashame were out-centers to the North and Mazuvazvido to the West. Conversions those days were few among the people of Chireya. Christian life was more rewarding at Rumuma and Mafumo.
St. George’s school that was started in the fifties in Hwange was serving the Railway community. It soon became a centre of Christian life. It was given the status of a parish with its own books in 1962. Its school records have been always professionally high. St. George’s has been steadily growing as a Catholic community.
By the end of 1962 the Apostolic Prefecture of Hwange had a solid infrastructure of twelve mission stations and parishes, 59 Catholic schools, four mission hospitals and over a hundred out-stations or evangelization centre.
Three institutions were of special concern for Mgr. Ross: the preparation of diocesan priests, the opening of a secondary school and the field of catechists.
The Minor Seminary at St. Mary’s Mission was given close attention. Personnel and money were geared towards this institution. Unfortunately the results of those efforts would take years to be seen with the ordination of the first priest. But the seminary was always in the heart of Mgr. Ross and of the priests who worked in the Prefecture.
The Prefecture also needed a Secondary School to form the future influencing people of the society. St. Mary’s, the mother mission and close to the mining centre of Hwange, would be the right place. Fr Mathias Ruiz took this heavy responsibility on his shoulders, preparing the building and looking for the necessary staff. In January 1962 the school started its Form 1. From that first Form One students in 1962 would come out the first local priest of the Diocese, Fr. Robert Ndlovu, one of the sisters of the first group of the Daughters of Calvary and a number of teachers scattered now throughout the Diocese.
Catechetics was the other concern of Mgr. Ross. The Apostolic Delegate from Pretoria had suggested the opening of a Catechetical centre in the country. Mgr. Ross accepted the challenge and chose Sacred Heart Mission. In 1962 building started in earnest and in 1963 the first intake of students was accepted for the two years course for catechist. Frs. Phillip and Cunill would pioneer this work with Bro Emmanuel. For thirteen years the catechetical centre trained qualified laymen and religious sisters as catechetical workers and efficient pastoral agents who are giving their full time service to the church in Zimbabwe. The pastoral foresight of Mgr. Ross is still bearing pastoral fruits in the present church of Zimbabwe.
In 1956 Mgr. Ross asked the Franciscan Sisters of the Divine Motherhood to take up the offer made by Wankie Colliery of the running of the new hospital in Hwange town. The congregation opened a community of sisters at the Colliery Hospital that has ministered to the sick in the largest best hospital in the area. During all those years they have also run a nursing school where hundreds of rural nurses received professional and Christian formation.
By the end of 1962 the Daughters of Calvary had established communities of sisters at St. Mary’s Mission, at the Holy Family Parish, at Sacred Heart, at Kariyangwe, at Tshongokwe and at Kana. In very rural mission opened by the priests they soon offered their selfless service in the fields of education, in the hospitals and in the promotion of local women and girls. The first local religious sisters would make their religious profession after the formation of the Diocese.
The ten years of the Apostolic Prefecture from 1953 to 1963 represent a time of growth, a period of very had manual and apostolic work. The seeds of the Gospel were planted and watered with sufferings and selfless dedication; missionaries (priests and sisters), lay people (catechists, and committed laymen and laywomen), all contributed to the establishment of the Kingdom of God in what is today the Diocese of Hwange.
There were also failures in different fields, but by and large, the positive aspects and the achievements during the decade of the Apostolic Prefecture are more outstanding than the human failures. To all those who gave their little or big contribution in the establishment of the Church in the Prefecture of Hwange we thank and commend to the Lord.


On March 1, 1963 Pope John XXIII erected the Apostolic Prefecture of Hwange into a Diocese. That was a sign of appreciation of the work done since the Jesuit missionaries started at St. Ignatius, to the Mariannhill missionaries, to the Spanish missionaries, to the Precious Blood Sisters, to the Daughters of Calvary and the Franciscan Sisters, to the strong lay force of committed men and women.
                The material infrastructure of schools, churches, residences, hospitals, houses of formation, training centres, etc. had been put into existence. Potentially it had all the elements required for the local church to be established as a Diocese.
On the same day a young priest, who had pioneered since 1949 to 1958 in the origins of the diocese and had been for five years rector of the seminary that trained missionaries in Spain, was elected bishop. He was 40. His name, Ignatius Prieto. On July 7th Bishop I. Prieto was enthroned in a solemn ceremony held at the sports ground of the Hwange Colliery. A new era started for the evangelization of Hwange. The ceremony marked the birth of the Diocese whose 25 years we now celebrate.
I have said that the decade of the Apostolic Prefecture was characterized by a remarkable growth in all spheres of Church life. It was a time of expansion, new mission stations were opened, hospitals and schools were set up. Distant places were visited and covered with elementary church services. When the Diocese of Hwange was put under the responsibility of Bishop I. Prieto, a formidable task was laying ahead of him. The diocese was erected during the celebration of the Vatican Council which introduced a new spirit and a new working style in the Church.
The period following the establishment of the diocese would be characterized by CONSOLODATION AND STREGHTHENING. The many institution and centres opened in the fifties and early sixties needed strengthening and deepening. The seed of the Gospel had been planted but it was still a tender plant that needed root and patient nurturing before it became a big tree.
From 1963 to 1965 Bishop Prieto had to combine the attention to the new diocese with his attending the Vatican Council sessions. Therefore no plans of expansion could be made in those years.
At the end of 1964 the first group of catechists graduated at the Catechetical Centre of Sacred Heart. Five of them were from the Diocese of Hwange: Mr. C. Gumbo, from Kana, Mr. P. Gwaba from Dete, Mr. Alois Nkomazana from Tshongokwe and Mr. Mathias Ncube from Sacred Heart. They were to play an indispensable role in the evangelization work f the diocese as full time pastoral workers and as animators of other pastoral leaders. The Catechetical Training Centre was the given a new impetus by Frs. Renato and Benny who had recently graduated at Lumen Vitae.
The new secondary school at St. Mary’s was also producing Form Two students, many of whom went for teacher training. The staff was increased with Frs. Anton, Hector and Vera and with Srs. Cecilia and Laura. Seminarians who successfully completed Form Two had to be sent to the newly opened Minor Seminary of Chikwingwizha in the Diocese of Gweru. Frs. Robert Ndlovu, Maximus Gumbo and Joseph Nkwebu belong to that first generation of seminarians. Frs. Benny, Hector and Amador took charge of the seminary successively.
In 1966 a new mission station was opened at Nembidziya. Thousands of Shona immigrants from various districts of Midlands settled in the eastern part of Gokwe, under headmen Nembudziya, Goredema and Makore. Many Catholics were among the immigrants. Their home missions: Driefontein, St. Joseph. Holy Cross, Gokomere… and other missions of Gweru Diocese. The new Catholics at Nembudziya sent a delegate, Mr. Herbert Ruzere Nyathi, to Bishop A. Haene in Gweru, asking for a priest. Looking at the map, Bishop Haene saw that the area fell under the Diocese of Hwange and passed the request to Bishop Prieto. Bishop Prieto asked the priests from Chireya to reach the place.
Fr. Thomas del Barrio made the first sporadic visit to Goredema, passing through what is today Nyamadzengwe and reaching the newly established Purchase Area of Copper Queen at Ungwe. He visited some Catholic families that were settling in the area and that asked him for Catholic Schools. That was in 1963 and Fr. Thomas was very busy with the opening of Chireya and its out-centres.
In 1964 Fr- Joseph Leal started regular visits to Nembudziya. He found Christians getting organized at places called Nyamuswawo and Musoronzou, having their catechism lessons and Sunday prayers. Many Catholic families could be mentioned as having been instrumental in the beginning of the Church at Nembudziya. Fr. Joseph could not visit the place often but every time he went to Nembudziya he saw the numbers swelling bigger and bigger. In 1965 he went with Bishop Prieto to see the place. They stayed at the home of Mr Casian Muzwiriri, one of the many influencing families of the area. A new mission station would have to be opened to attend to the many people moving into Nembudziya.
The first plans were to have the mission near Shumba Dam at the border between the communal land and the Purchase area. That could not materialize because it was “Crown Land” as it was designated by the law of those days. A request was made to the District Commissioner to have a more central place in the communal land. He reserved one hundred acres (40 h) near Lunga Village by the main road from Gokwe and 3 Km before chief Nembudziya’s home.
In 1964 the Baptist missionaries, stationed at Senyati Mission, had opened the first three schools of the area: Nembudziya township, Chinyenyetu and Goredema.
Many people settled also along Sengwa River, from Mlalazi to Chihanga, along Manyoni River from Chiuray to Gundura, and along Lutope River from Mhlalambi to Matibhini and Lukukwe. It meant a sudden increase in the Catholic population under Kana and Chireya Missions. All wanted a Catholic School at their homes.
In 1964 the Government of the time decided to impose the policy of separate development. The new policy in the field of school was that only Councils or community boards would be granted schools. The first of those Community Boards were formed in Sayi and Nembudziya. In 1966 Manyapa and Mateta schools were opened in Sayi and Nyamaswawu and Nyamuroro in Nembudziya. They all chose a Catholic Manager. They started with Sub A. Ungwe was also opened in 1966 with three classes.
The opening of Nembudziya Mission with a resident priest dates back to March 10 1966. The Christians at Nembudziya were the first missionaries to themselves by working hard to organize themselves and look for the priests. The first Mass that Fr. Angel Becerril said under a tree on the newly granted site on 11th March 1966 was attended by hundreds of Catholics and Catholic sympathisers. It was rather a joyful day of harvesting pastoral fruits. Other centres were soon opened at the request of the Christians: Chinyenyetu, Marowa, Svibe, Mutehwe, Nyamadzengwe, Mupawa and Goredema.
This pattern of Christians opening Mass centres by themselves was followed under Chireya at Manyepa, Chiurayi and other places. And under Kana Mission, at places like Mateta, Kadziramwada, Bopoma, Gawa, and Ngomene.
Another Mission station was opened in 1967: GOMOZA. It would cover the eastern part of Tshogokwe between Shangani and Kana rivers. The schools that would fall under the new mission were: Tshebethsebe, Mathsakayile, Mzalikwa, Makeke, Ndimimbili. Ncono, Mphahlwa and Gomoza itself. Most of them had been operating since the pioneering times of Fr. Rubio.
Fr. Xavier López was appointed to start Gomoza as a mission station. He had been serving the area regularly from Tshongokwe since 1965. He knew the people and the language remarkably well and his friendly relation with the people was notorious in the area. Fr. Xavier worked hard visiting families, ministering to any person in need of any kind, and organising development projects. In his mind the mission would differ from others in that it would not have big institutions and buildings but rather a Christian witness of simplicity and identification with the local people. Teachers Ephraim Ndlovu and Peter Sinala were among those lay people who influenced in Gomoza area.
In 1967 Fr. Alexander, the Parish priest at Kana Mission, obtained permission from the Ministry of Education to open a secondary school with vocational orientation (They were called F. II). The whole Gokwe District did not have a secondary School. Grade Eight was started at Kana and Sr. Cecilia, who had been teaching at Tshongokwe primary, was going to be the head of the new school. Meanwhile Bro. Paschal simultaneously built at Nembudziya and Kana Secondary.
A new parish is also opened in 1968 at Victoria Falls. The new border post and renowned tourist resort grew into a little town and it needed its own pastoral attention. Bro. Emmanuel, once again a mission pioneer, was sent to Victoria Falls to build the church and the priest’s house. Bishop I. Prieto wisely accepted the offer of a stand in the new residential area and immediately plans were made to stat the parish. In March 1968 Fr. A. Arnaldos was appointed to be the first resident priest of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Victoria Falls. He soon started making plan for the construction of another church in the growing Chinotimba Township dedicated to St. Kizito. The new artistic church was later built in 1974. The surrounding rural area was also put under the pastoral care of the priest at Victoria Falls, from Kazungula to Jembwe. The latter had been one of the flourishing centres under Sacred Heart Mission with Christians of an old tradition from the times of Chilanga and Shangano at St. Mary´s Mission.
A remarkable event took place in 1969. The Congregation of the Marist Brothers accepted to take over the secondary school at St. Mary’s. Bro. Basilio Rueda, their Superior General, visited the Diocese and negotiations started to get personnel and finances to develop and transform the school. Shortly before, the Diocese had bought a farm near Dete. The Marist Brothers soon saw the convenience of transferring the school to Dete where there was ample space for expansion and grounds. Bro. Ralph played a role in all these negotiations and ever since he has been attached to the Diocese in soul and body.
Bros. Emmanuel and Joseph started construction work in Dete. The Daughters of Calvary also opted for the building of their central house near the new school. The Minor Seminary was also meant to be taken to Dete. It was in 1972 when the school started at Dete. Gradually the secondary at St. Mary’s was moved to its new site.
It was also in 1969 that the first profession of local sisters took place. They had made their noviciate in Spain. They were from the Daughters of Calvary. It was an important step forward towards localization. Plans were then made by the same congregation to start the noviciate at Dete. It was opened in 1973 with few novices.
From 1965 to 1970 a great transformation took place with the introduction of the vernacular languages in the liturgy of the Church. In the Diocese of Hwange it meant a formidable task because of the variety of languages spoken in the Diocese.
Shona and Ndebele translations were made by inter-diocesan commissions in which the Diocese participated, especially for the Ndebele translations. The Nyanja speaking parishes of Hwange and Kamativi received their religious literature from Malawi. More difficult was for the Tonga in Kariyangwe. They could manage to get some material from Zambia but they had to make some translations themselves. Nambya started timidly to be use in some liturgical texts in 1969, though it was not until the middle seventies that the Nambya Commission was formed.
Therefore great pastoral efforts were made during those years in the field of translating liturgical and catechetical material. Prior to this, a simple Nambya Catechism had been written by Fr. Alexander. It was a very useful catechetical tool in the Nambya speaking parishes. A similar work had been done in 1965 by Fr. A. Arnaldos with a Tonga Catechism.
Most of the work of evangelization was still done in and around the schools. Thus the Catholic teachers were essential in the pastoral planning of those days. In the town parishes the strong lay force was the Legion of Mary with children and adult groups in every town parish. The Catholic Action made a start at St. Ignatius parish but never got rooted in the Diocese.
In 1967 under the inspiration of Frs. Vera and Chesa, the CURSILLOS movement was started and a number of teachers and lay leaders from town joined it. The movement was short lived. After Fr. Vera was called to Spain it lacked a dynamic animator. It had been an elite movement which never reached the grassroots.
Mention has to be made of the Priests Council formed in 1967 following the new directives of the Holy See after the Vatican Council. This body speeded up dialogue and pastoral discussion in the Diocese and it helped to bridge the wide gaps imposed by the geographical distances and the multiplicity of languages. It has been the platform of pastoral planning and evaluation.
In 1970 lay participation in the work of the Church is given a new channel and a constitutional form with the formation of the Parish Councils. This emphasis in the lay participation coincided with the handing over of the church out-schools to the Government due to the excessive financial demand by the Ministry. This happened in 1971.
In 1970 a new mission station is also opened in Gokwe, close to the Government Administration Centre. It took the southern part of what was under Chireya Mission: Chief Sayi’s area and part of chief Nemangwe; also the area under Chief Njelele, including some centres under Blue Gum that were under Kana Mission. Fr. David Ayarra and Bro Paschal raised the buildings of the parish houses and the church.
The parish of Gokwe inherited from Chireya some well established centres: Rumuma, Mafumo, Chiurayi and Manyepa. However many more centres would open in the course of time, making of Gokwe a fast expanding parish. The central mission was dedicated to the Uganda Martyrs one year after their canonization in Uganda by Pope Paul VI.
From 1971 to 1975 the evangelization efforts were aimed at preparing the Mass centres in such a way that they would be Christian Communities standing on their feet. The school could not be any more the centre of evangelization and worship but the community itself and the family behind it. The school would have to be approached from a new angle. That needed the formation of voluntary catechists and other Christian leaders who would be pillars on which the Church would stand. Thus catechesis and lay apostolate became the major objectives of pastoral planning during those years.
Bishop I. Prieto, Chairman of the National Catechetical Commission during those years was well aware of the importance of the formation of those Christian leaders and catechists. Practically in all the mission stations regular meetings and training sessions were held in order to equip these indispensable pastoral workers for the basic formation. In this task the catechists trained at Sacred Heart Mission have been a great asset as trainers of other catechists.
Gradually steps were taken towards a new pastoral policy which came to be formulated as the formation of self-propagating and self-supporting Christian communities. Bishop I. Prieto took this priority at heart and preached it to priests and lay people from all forums. The Diocesan Bulletin which has been published regularly since the early seventies has hammered on the idea ever since the beginning.
Four deaneries were formed in the Diocese in 1974: the Western Deanery, (comprising Hwange parishes, St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart and Victoria Falls); the Central Deanery (Dete, Kamativi and Kariyangwe); the Southern Deanery (Tshongokwe, Gomoza and Nkayi); and the Eastern Deanery (the four parishes of Gokwe). The deaneries made planning and revision of pastoral work easier. In this connexion it is worth mentioning that a mini – Congress was organized by the Central Deanery and held at Kamativi in August 1975. Representatives from the parishes of Dete, Kamativi and Kariyangwe sat down with the priest and sisters to discuss the problems they encountered in their communities and suggest ways of action. The experience was rich and enriching.
The Deanery of Gokwe soon realized the need for a place where to hold meetings and training sessions at Deanery level. Plans were made for the building of a multipurpose centre al Gokwe. With the assistance of Misereor the centre was built in 1976 by Bro. Paulino and Fr. J. Planells. It was a foresighted decision. The centre is now busy throughout the year with pastoral and social gatherings and courses. Fr Angel Floro has succeeded in making of Shingai a real centre of ideas and pastoral initiatives.
In 1972 the Diocese celebrated one of its happiest days in these twenty five years: The ordination of the first diocesan priest in September. Fr. Robert Ndlovu, from Seshanke, was ordained at his home mission, Kana. All the efforts of Mgr. Ross and Bishop I. Prieto and of the priest who worked in his formation were now crowned with the ordination. Two years later in 1974 Frs. Maximus Gumbo and Joseph Nkwebu were also ordained at Kana and Tshongokwe respectively, making a further step forward in the localization of the church.
In 1972 the Bishop liberated a priest to start at diocesan level the formation of what was called the Commission of Social Service and Development (CSSD), at present called CADEC.  Fr. German Rodriguez Prada was appointed to this important and difficult work. His tactful approach to priest and lay people brought the idea into a reality in a short time. He travelled wide and far to every mission station and to many out-centres. The two area committees were formed in Hwange and Gokwe. Fr. German collected a very valuable information from the survey he made of the Diocese a published a booklet that helped to create the atmosphere for future pastoral planning and development projects.
The work of CEDEC was later taken over by Sr. Martha Gallo and Mr. Wakatama. St. Faustina joined them after some years. Their tireless efforts and travelling assisted thousands of people during the war and in the post-war period. Projects were put into action, committees were formed and awareness and training sessions were held throughout the diocese. CADEC is now part and parcel of the diocese and of the Christian communities due to the effort of CADEC workers.
Fr. German also initiated the Justice and Peace Commission with the formation of the two committees in Hwange and Gokwe. The Gokwe committee investigated serious cases of injustices and a full report was included in the book “The Man in the Middle”, published by the National Commission. The Gokwe J & P has later spread its influence to the communities throughout the district due to the inspiration of Fr. Robert.
The war struck at Gomoza on the 15th of August 1977 and at Kana Mission four days later on the 19th. Gomoza primary and Kana secondary were burned down to ground level. As a result Kana Hospital and primary school reduced the activities to a low key. Fr. Joseph Nkwebu still ran the mission for eight months, in a very strenuous situation, till the mission had to close down.
Painful decisions had to be taken in mission stations like Sacred Heart, Chireya and Kariyangwe, leaving the institution and the Christians without the presence and support of the priests and the sisters.
Priests, brothers and sisters together with Christian leaders were in the middle of a situation of conflict. Some of them like Fr. Maximus, Sr. Clotilda and Fr. J. Nkwebu faced court charges. Others escaped death by an inch and only by God’s caring providence.
Dete Secondary School had to close and with it the Seminary too. Seminarians had to be sent to different schools outside the diocese. The priests at Nembudziya had to withdraw and at the end of 1979 even St. Mary’s and Gokwe had to be served from town. Hwange tow parishes were flooded with refugee Christians from the rural areas. CADEC helped to alleviate the suffering of many of the displaced people and also some priests and sisters who obtained charity fund for the refugees.
At the end of 1979 the life of the diocese was paralyzed. Very few rural communities would dare to meet on Sundays for the religious service. The catechumenate also stopped completely. Surprisingly no churches were destroyed with the with the exception of Manyepa, under Gokwe, and Masakadza under Chireya. Rural chapel stood the wave of destruction. Some brave Christians worked underground to preserve those buildings. On the whole it was God’s providence that cared for people and institutions.  The period of the war was also a time of purification and re-thinking. Everybody realized that if the Lord does not build the house we, human builders, labour in vain. This time of purification helped us understand better God’s ways of establishing his kingdom among men. Externally most institution collapsed and perhaps with them some of our human self-confidence and attachment to them. Thus the way was getting clearer for the Lord to re-start building the house more solidly.
The advent of independence brought an end to countless sufferings and opened the gate for a new beginning. The task ahead was formidable. Priests, brother and sisters together with the Bishop eagerly made the first move to re-open the missions and the diocesan institutions. By June 1980 everybody was back and ready to commence. The Bishop gave his example by going with the priests and brother to Chireya and started fixing doors and windows at the hospital and in the priests’ house. The picture of Bishop Prieto digging up sand in the Sesami River in order to get the lorry out will always be remembered by those who started the reconstruction of Chireya: Bros, Emmanuel and Paulino, Frs. Isaac, Rosendo and Gomis. That was the pattern in the opening of other missions. The task started with great hope but still with fears and in the middle of insecurity.
The re-opening of Tshongokwe mission needed to be re-evaluated. The building of a new township at Jotsholo next to the ARDA agriculture scheme, made it advisable to have the parish into the new town. However, before formalities were completed Fr. A. Trujillo had to spend many months visiting the out-centres of Tshongokwe and Gomoza without proper residence. Fatima Mission was his temporary residence for a few days in a month. In 1982 the new priests’ house at Jotsholo was standing. The place would be the centre for the neighbouring missions to hold meetings and courses of pastoral and social nature. CADEC would also have one of the field workers stationed at Jotsholo. In 1987 the Daughters of Calvary also built a new house and opened a community of sisters.
During these years the Bishop of Hwange and the Bishop of Bulawayo had entered negotiations for the transfer of Fatima parish to the diocese of Hwange. This took place in 1984. The parish would be served by the team of priests stationed at Jotsholo while juridically remaining under Bulawayo Diocese.
Reconstruction started in the Diocese in 1980 and continued for years. Donor agencies and benefactors have generously helped. Hospitals and schools were reconstructed or renovated. Priests’ and sisters’ houses were also rebuilt or repaired. Apart from all the material work was the reconstruction of the very Christian communities, the catechism lessons, the Sunday Service and the re-launching of all the pastoral activities.
CADEC deserves credit again for its contribution to the reconstruction not only within the church institutions but also in other institutions outside the Church.
A new feature in the history of the diocese must be mentioned here. In 1983 two religious congregations came into the diocese to work alongside those who were before. The LCBL sister opened two communities at Gokwe and Chireya Missions. The Precious Blood sisters opened a house at Kana also in January 1983. By so doing the Precious Blood sisters came to continue the work that they had started at Makwa and St. Mary’s from 1934 to 1952.
In 1984 the diocese of TOLEDO in the State of Ohio (USA) agreed to send to the diocese of Hwange a team of priests, sisters and lay people. It was going to be called The Mission of Accompaniment. The name reflected the new spirit of fellowship and collaboration between two sister churches: The diocese of Toledo and that of Hwange. They accepted the work in the most neglected area: Binga. Binga parish took over the northern part of the district from Kariyangwe including the area of Siyabuwa. As part of the new development the Toledo team also took over the running of the Kamativi parish and St. Theresa primary school. It is interesting to know that the Bishop has appointed a sister, Sr. Julita, as the person in charge of the parish.
Mention has to be made of the priests that have been incorporated into the work of the diocese: Frs. Tim Peacock and later Fr. Noel as incardinated into the diocese and Fidei Donum priests from the diocese of Badajoz and Cuenca. That has made the diocesan community more international and without strings attached to one particular group. Further ordinations were held of Frs. Marko and Ananias in 1981 and of Fr. Robert Christopher in 1983.
At diocesan level three major projects were to be undertaken. The first was the building of the Minor Seminary next to the Secondary School at Dete. Fr. James Planells, who had made the building of Shingai possible, was appointed to push ahead the project of the Minor Seminary. That would help creating an atmosphere of specific formation while keeping a great deal of integration with the secondary school. Both aspects would help the formation of the future priests: integration with the school and specific formation.
Chimuniko training Centre was the second project. The experience of Shingai in Gokwe and the new trends of lay formation required in the district of Hwange an animation centre. The bishop thought that the adaptation of the old primary school at St. Mary’s could fulfil the need. The renovation work was done in 1984 and Chimuniko is now a real centre of pastoral and social apostolate, In this way Chimuniko links up with the past history of St. Mary’s and the diocese.
The last diocesan project was the Bishop’s House, and the diocesan offices. It was opened in 1985.
Mention must be made of a project that started as a dream of Fr. Joseph Culebras. The dream of the Old Age home is now a reality in Dete. It has now the support of many benefactors and even the Government.
From the pastoral point of view the two animation centres of Chimuniko and Shingai have contributed to create an atmosphere of participation in the life of the church. Strong emphasis has been placed on the formation of lay ministries. Together with this priority, the stress on youth and family apostolate has been characteristic in the past five years. The youth groups are lively and their participation in the community a source of inspiration. Frs. Richard and Emmanuel Puente have taken this apostolate with the youth at heart and together with the youth promoters they support and orientate the many boys and girls of the diocese.
In the family apostolate the formation of Marriage Encounter groups specially in the Gokwe area, has given Christian inspiration to many Catholic families.
In closing this brief historical account we must thank Bishop I. Prieto for his dedication to the serviced of the Diocese during twenty five years. He has been a man of vision, a centre of unity, a soured of strength and encouragement. He has led the diocese to maturity. He has been a shepherd closely following the model of the Good Shepherd.


                Which are the trends that characterize HERE AND NOW the life of the diocesan community? After the years of pioneering work, after the ten tears of the Apostolic Prefecture, now that we complete the twenty five years of the diocese, which ways are being opened for our future?
Allow me to put forward some points for reflexion:

  1. There is a tremendous increase in numbers. The numbers of catechumens and baptisms are swelling high for a diocese of relatively low percentage of Catholics. The number of marriages has also doubled. Reports from missions and out-centres reflect a tendency to higher attendance. We thank the Holy Spirit who works in the heart of every person. In our part we will have to think about the formation imparted to these growing numbers. Our efforts to form the Christians will have to be intensified.

  2. There signs of growth in the sense of responsibility. Christians feel more and more responsible in the running of the church activities. There is greater financial support. There is a thirst for more formation and training the laity is becoming more conscious of their responsibility; they are a strong force to reckon with. The pastoral councils have started off the ground and are excellent ways of bringing the lay people into the church structures. There is room for further development in the light of the last Synod of the Bishops. The sense of responsibility in the social sphere is becoming also a testing ground for Christians.

  3. There is an increase in the number of vocations, to the priesthood and to the religious life. The care and preparation of these vocations will be vital for the church of the future.

  4. Inculturation is the trend in the whole continent of Africa. So it is among us. We cannot attack this front isolated. It will have to be done in collaboration with the other dioceses and indeed with other countries in Africa.

This has been a short historical review of the Church in the diocese of Hwange. Obviously there are many other happenings, persons, places and achievements that could have been mentioned in this paper. Future historians will give account of them.
We give thanks to God our Father for the wonders He works with us human beings and through us, his instruments. Our failures and limitations, which are many, can only make His power more manifest in history. He is the great protagonist of all history.

HWANGE 9th July 1988

Paper read by Fr. A. Becerril at the Jubilee Celebration at Hwange Stadium on the 9th July 1988.

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