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I would do it again – immediately!

During our visit to South Africa in September 2023, we had the chance to listen to Sr Boscona Schaemann, the oldest missionary in the country, sharing her missionary experience. She turned 91 on 16 October.

Sr. Boscona 2

At that time, when we were sent to South Africa, we travelled by boat. And I was sea-sick from England to Cape Town – two weeks. Only once in this time I went for supper. But okay, I was glad when the whole story was over, and we saw land. At least ten of our sisters were at the harbour to fetch us. At that time, the house in Philippi with the Home for Chronically Ill Children was the central house for South Africa, where the Mission Superior stayed.

I knew only a little English and I had to learn when I came to the country. But until 2000, I was up-country where Afrikaans was spoken. After arriving in South Africa, we had classes, but that was only later, when we already knew a bit of the language.

First, I was in Beaufort West for four weeks to help. The dressmaker sister was sick. But she had made the dresses and everything beforehand. So, I should give the dresses to the right persons, whom I didn’t know at all. And I should get the money from them, which was in a currency of which I had no idea. When people came and bought their dresses, then I had to go to the parish priest and say, she gave me this money, what should I do with it? What should I give back? I had no idea!

Sr. Boscona 3At that time, there was a newly built house for the other convent in the town, in the area for the white people. And I was in the mission station. Sr. Servita came out with me. She was down in town while I was on the mission. She should start the nursery school there. The convent was rebuilt, and the nursery school new. The two of us should furnish the nursery school. The mission station where I was, was a little higher up. It was not even for twenty minutes to walk. So, I went down every morning. When we should buy curtains for the nursery school, there was no measurement tool. So, we measured the windows with our apron and with this we went to the shop and said, so and so many times. But we got it, and we got the curtains made and everything. Then, on 25 January, I went to George, over the mountain.

In January, the new convent in the town should be blessed. The bishop was in Oudtshoorn and should have come for the blessing. Anyhow, it was raining and the way from George and Oudtshoorn to Beaufort West was through a narrow road, with high mountains on both sides. So, it was full of water and the bishop could not come.
Sr. Boscona 6We also could not get from Beaufort West to where I should go now. So, we had to go over the mountain by car! I don’t know how we got over. The thing was, it was January, and it was hot, every few kilometres we had to stop, and we had to see where to get water for the car. Anyway, we came over the mountain.

And I came to George to the orphanage. There I had a group of eighty children – day and night with a baby. Once I had a premature baby only a few days old. Since it was a coloured child, no hospital took her. And her mother died at birth. The grandmother was so shocked that she did not see any chance to look after that very small child. So, we took her in for three or four months till she was a little bigger, then the grandmother took her. – I had her together with eighty other children. And this little one got a little milk day and night, every two hours. I do not know how I managed that, but it was my nicest time. Day and night I had my alarm clock, and next to her I had the eighty other children.

In my group there were only girls. Next door, in another building, there were only boys. They had forty, forty-five boys. In general, our children were coloured. But I had once a black child. This was so in danger of dying from hunger that I was allowed to take her in. But only for a few months. Then we could see that she came to another children’s home with other sisters. There she was looked after.

Sr. Boscona 4Sr. Boscona 14Sr. Boscona 13I stayed there with the children from 1962, in January, until 1976. And during that time the house was rebuilt. That was a terrible time, but we made it through. All in all, it was a nice time, a really nice time. Every day was nice! Of course, it was hard work with my eighty children. I made Christmas dresses for the fifteen or twenty little ones. I cut them, and I sewed them. For the bigger ones, we still got parcels from Germany, and then over the year we collected something for them for Christmas. When I left from there, Sr. Alfonsis took over, who was first in another group of girls. At that time, the groups were divided into smaller groups. Then everyone had twenty. 

Sr. Boscona 11By the end of 1976, my brother came with his wife to visit us. In January I left George with them, and I came to Cape Town where I was with them. From January till July, I was in Cape Town in the Provincial House, which was at the hospital, helping here and there. From there I went to Germany for a one-year sabbatical course. After this course I came back to Cape Town where I stayed for some time before again, I came to Beaufort West, but only to close the convent. One had been closed before and I closed the second one. Beaufort West is in the Big Carroo, and there was more desert than anything else. Once I went to a place because there was one tree to be seen, just to see that tree in this place.


Sr. Boscona 15From there I went to Knysna with Sr Vita. There was a convent before, but the sisters were all very old, 80, 90 years…. They came to Cape Town, and we took over the convent and started with the candidates. There were four young ones. And Sr. Vita was there, who was working in the parish, and Sr. Charlotte, who was in the hospital, and I was working with the young ones. One of the candidates was Sr. Elizabeth. Meanwhile, we built the novitiate in George, a new, separate building. There Sr. Elizabeth made her first profession in 1983, and on the same day Sr. Sylvia and Sr. Margaret were received as postulants. In 1992 they made their final profession in their home parishes – Sr. Margaret in Cape Town and Sr. Sylvia in Knysna.

Since there were not enough sisters, we had to close all the up-country convents, one by one. For a short time I was Superior at St Joseph’s Home, maybe two years, but I could not even make it for one term of three years, and I was called to Pinelands, and then I became Provincial Superior and have stayed here ever since. 

Looking back on my life, all I can say is: I would do it again – immediately!

Sr. Boscona 5

Sr. Boscona 10Sr. Boscona 9Sr. Boscona 7









Interview: Sr. Adelheid Scheloske

Photos: Sr. Maria Landsberger (4) and Sr. Adelheid Scheloske (8)