|Pic.(from left to right) Fr. Job, Fr. Benno, Fr. Jeremias and Fr. Ibercio||
Sisters: form left to right, Sr. Bernadette and Sr. Veronica
In 2008 the Comboni missionaries asked the Archbishop of Johannesburg a permanent pastoral commitment in the Archdiocese. We had a commitment before in Acton Park in Benoni, outskirts of JHB, but it was for a short time.
Taking into account that Fr. Francis Manana was already assisting the parish of Holy Rosary, Phiri, the Archbishop entrusted to the Comboni missionaries the parish of Phiri together with Zondi, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and Zola, dedicated to Holy Cross. A community was established in Zola with two priests, Fr. Francis Manana and Fr. Benno Singer who had just finished his service as provincial superior. Fr. Francis was appointed priest in charge of the three parishes and Fr. Benno assistant parish priest.
In 2010 the community changed its residence to Phiri where a new residence was built for the priests. However, the two members continued assisting the three parishes and later on also a settlement called Lufareng, near Phiri. The same year Fr. Aldo Chistè was appointed to the community, and was living in Zola. Later on, Fr. Ibercio Rojas was appointed to the community of Phiri and Fr. Aldo left to Pretoria. In 2013, Fr. Manana was appointed to Kenya as a missionary and Fr. Melese Tumato took over the parish of Phiri.
In the provincial assembly, in April 2014, in line with the six year plan of the Province of South Africa, the Comboni missionaries decided to leave Soweto answering the request of Archbishop Buti to take over the parish of Orange Farm, in the Vaal Deanery, South East of Johannesburg.
Fr. Benno Singer, Fr. Ibercio Rojas and Fr. Job Plinga, who arrived one year ago from Togo, were appointed to form the new community of Orange Farm.
This parish was started in 1997 by the Missionaries of Africa, White Fathers, who had to leave due to the lack of personnel. During the years of their presence they did a wonderful work evangelization and human promotion. In this regard there are some projects started by the White Fahters, running in the parish: crèches, skill centre school with 300 youth, AIDS support group and counselling, home care base (inkanyezi).
The parish is made up of eight Christian communities, in a range of 25 Kms from the Centre of the parish: St. Charles Lwanga, the main parish church, near the community residence, St. Clare, St. Thomas, Blessed Joseph Gerard, St. Augustine, St. Mathias Mulumba, St. Louis, and St. Kizito. All the communities have their own chapels and are properly organized striving to become more and more self-sufficient, self-evangelizing and self-ministring. A community of sisters of St. Francis of Assisi made up of three sisters is working in the parish getting involved in the different pastoral activities of the parish.
Orange Farm is a settlement that is rapidly growing and welcomes people from different areas of the country, but mainly from Soweto, which is now overcrowded, from the Free State Province and also from the nearby Lesotho. It has an estimate population of 350.000 inhabitants who speak mainly seSotho and Zulu. In general the people are poor and the social problems are many with an outstanding record of violence, social uprising and unemployment. There are many young people who look ahead for a better life and trust in the Church in order to find guidance and encouragement.
The commitment in Orange Farm is fruit of reflection and prolonged discernment, listening to the signs of times, involving the whole province and especially the community of Soweto, more directly affected with the change. Our presence here is seen as a blessing and a call to be more coherent with our missionary charism. It is also a response to the cry of the people who are searching for God and who are constantly bombarded by the “prosperity churches” that create unfulfilled expectations in the lives of the poor. The challenges are many, but we believe that this is fertile field of first evangelization and the Lord will accompany this new mission with his presence and strength.