The founding of the mission in Tanzania of the Pallottine Sisters was a most important event in the history of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters of the English Province. For many years the Pallottine Fathers of the Irish Province had been inviting them to come and work especially with girls and women. Two of their Tanzanian priests, Fr. Basil Ikhula and Fr. George Damball even wrote to the Superior General in Rome and visited the Provincial House of the Sisters in Rochdale, England requesting English speaking Sisters to come to Tanzania.
Sr. Christine Bohr, the Provincial Superior at that time, played a leading role. With great courage, faith and vision she began to organise the new mission. She met with the Pallottine Fathers and in February 1989 visited Tanzania. She was given an introduction to the country and to the missionaries working there by Fr. Basil. In October 1989 she paid a second visit accompanied by Sr. Mary McNulty, a qualified teacher. The decision was then made to establish a community in the Singida Diocese in the semi-desert Region of Central Tanzania.
At the invitation of the Bishop of Singida, Rt. Rev Bernard Mabula, three Sisters, Sr. Hedwig Kaiser, Sr. Mary McNulty and Sr. Stella Barelli, accompanied by Sr Christine, left London on June 25th to work alongside the Pallottine Fathers in the Diocese of Singida.
They received a warm welcome from the Fathers in Makiungu parish, and they began to live in the Father’s old house which had been renovated for their use. The MMM Sisters (Medical Missionaries of Mary), who ran the Mission Hospital in Makiungu, generously supported them with good advice, encouragement and expert medical care.
Even though the three Sisters only knew a few words of Swahili, Fr. Noel O’Connor, the Parish Priest, encouraged them to begin work immediately. During July and August Sr. Mary taught English to the Pre-Form One Class and Sr. Stella taught sewing to the girls of the group. In September they went for a three months’ Swahili Course in Kipalapala, Tabora. Sr. Mary was the Superior of the community.
In January 1991, the Sisters while continuing to learn Swahili, began working full time in the parish, Sr. Mary was put in charge of the Pre-Form One Class and taught English and Religion to the growing number of pupils there. With the help of a local Montessori teacher Sr. Hedwig began a Kindergarten group. Both she and Sr. Mary taught Religion in Makiungu Primary School and later various lessons to the Pallottine Fathers’ Aspirants. Sr. Stella looked after their home and taught sewing to the Pre-Form girls. Little by little they all became more involved in parish activities and took Holy Communion to the sick. In September Sr Jucunda Kutsch arrived and immediately went to Language School. In the following January she began to prepare a Formation programme. Following the advice of Fr Basil, Aspirants who came from Pallottine parishes, came to live with the Sisters and the first five Candidates were accepted in 1993. Four of these joined the Postulancy in 1994 and the Noviciate in 1995 and were professed in 1998. In the same year Sr Rosemarie Steinbach joined the little community and for many years taught in Pallotti Secondary School.
1994 up to 2018
In response to the invitation of Bishop Mabula and the Pallottine Fathers the decision was made to open a secondary school for girls at Siuyu, an out-station of Makiungu parish, 10 km away. At this time there were no educational opportunities for girls in the Diocese. Work on building the first phase of the convent and the school got underway, followed by staff houses and dormitories for the students.
In June 1994 the Sisters and their Candidates moved to Siuyu and the Convent was officially opened and blessed on the feast of the Sacred Heart, 22nd June. For a few months the Sisters travelled every morning to Makiungu for Holy Mass and to collect drinking water. It was a very difficult time until they got their own supply of water at the end of August when wells were drilled. Pallotti Secondary School opened in 1995 with one class of 45 students and in time, a Dispensary was added to the facilities. Following the National Curriculum, the school prepared the students for CSEE, (Certificate of Secondary Education), a four-year programme and since 2000, the ACSEE, a six-year programme to the Advanced-level qualification.
In September 2002 Sr Jucunda, with Sr Adolphina Kilu and six Novices moved to the newly built Formation House in Poli Singisi, Arusha. For the first time, in January 2010 a Tanzanian Sister was appointed Headmistress of Pallotti Secondary School. In July 2013, the Provincial Chapter of the English Province was held for the first time on African soil and the title of the Province changed from English Province to English-Tanzanian Province, placed under the patronage of Mary Queen of Peace. Today, Tanzanian Sisters hold positions of authority and responsibility in all our apostolates and leadership, and since 2018 all the European Sisters have retired to England.
For more information, please visit: http://www.pallottinemissionarysisters.co.uk/tanzania.php
Photos: General Archives Rome