A brief survey of the Historical Background of the country during the time of growth and development of the Little Company of Mary in Southern Africa. The beginning of the century was the period immediately following the Boer War. The Afrikaner people were defeated by the British. The country was laid desolate by Lord Roberts’ scorched earth policy of burning homes, farms and villages.
There had been much bitterness created by the internment of thousands of women and children in pitiable conditions in concentration camps during the war. Out of this humiliating defeat the spirit of Afrikaner Dom was born, a determination to regain the supremacy of the Afrikaans people as a nation and as a political power. In England, Lord Milner planned a federation of the States in South Africa, but he did not take into consideration the feelings and the spirit of the people living there. Even the English speaking South Africans resented the interference of British politicians, and Lord Milner’s plan was a failure. Instead, their desire for independence became a reality in 1906, when the Transvaal, and in 1907 the Orange Free State, were granted self-government. In 1910 General Louis Botha became the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa. General Smuts had been instrumental in bringing this about by his negotiations with Winston Churchill, then in power in Britain. Smuts worked in collaboration with Botha, aiming to forget their past differences and to build for the future in unity. General Hertzog was opposed to this, and so was born the nationalist movement – South Africa for the Afrikaners. In 1914 the outbreak of World War one stirred up conflicting loyalties, as South African soldiers were sent to fight in South West Africa on the side of Britain. After the war, at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, South West Africa was mandated to South Africa under supervision of the League of Nations. In 1939 World War two broke out, and General Smuts as Prime Minister again led South Africa to fight with the British. He earned himself an international reputation as a statesman, and he was involved in the establishment of the United Nations Organization after the war. There was strong feeling against his policies at home, however, and he was defeated in the election of 1948. This was a turning point for South Africa, as the Nationalist Party came to power, under Prime Minister General Malan, and they have been in power since that time, under Prime Ministers Strydom, Verwoerd, Vorster, and P.W. Botha, all enforcing their policy of racial discrimination.
Changes taking place in the world after World War two were to have long-lasting effects on South Africa. The decolonization of African countries took place with startling rapidity. The Organization for African Unity came into being. The Third World became a major power block at the United Nations. The peoples of Africa developed a sense of pride in their own identity. Change in every sphere was accelerated – travel, communication by radio and television, nuclear power, space technology, – all reducing the immense distances between the five continents to the “global village.” There has been a corresponding acceleration in the level of tension and anxiety in Western society, leading to large-scale abuse of drugs, alcohol, sexual license, breakdown of family life. Against this background we look at the birth and growth of the Little Company of Mary in South Africa and Zimbabwe. In 1904 four sisters set out from Sydney harbor for Port Elizabeth, at the invitation of Bishop McSherry. Their journey was long and tedious, lasting five weeks. They travelled frugally, arriving with £20. Their welcome from the people of the area was not warm, as the parishioners were offended at not having been consulted about the arrival of the Sisters. After many difficulties they became established in St. Joseph’s Hospital with a steady supply of Sisters from Ireland. Their transfer to the Irish province took place in 1925, at the request of the Sisters to the Sacred Congregation of Religious, as their attachment to the Australian Province proved unsatisfactory. In 1934 the community extended their services to meet the needs of the poor by opening a small dispensary in Korsten (now Schauder Township) this work developed, and in 1940 the foundation stone of St. Anthony’s Clinic was laid in Korsten. There have been many changes at Korsten since its early days, as the Sisters have endeavored to see and to respond to the changing needs of people. From 1974 to 1979 Schauderville was served by a community established as an experiment in LCM small group living, the Sisters residing initially at Parson’s Hill. From 1979 Schauderville was again served from the community at St. Joseph’s Hospital until it was closed.
Expansion northwards opened up with new foundations in what was then Rhodesia, and later in the Transvaal.
1937 St.Anne’s Hospital, Salisbury
1954 Mount St. Mary’s Mission, Wedza
1957 Little Company of Mary Hospital, Pretoria
1966 Queen of Peace Hospital, Murambinda
1973 St.Peter’s Hospital, Sabi Valley
1973 Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Eersterus
1974 LCM small group living community, Parson’s Hill
During the war the Sisters had to leave the three missions in Rhodesia, but have since returned to Wedza and Murambinda. We live at a critical time, when the accelerated pace of change all around
us presents a challenge to our future. Each generation shapes its own history, as the future continuously becomes the present, then flows into the past. As we look at the past and the present chapters of the story of the Little Company of Mary, and of the people we serve, we will find the courage to face the challenge of the future.