After almost 20 years of presence in the community of Sibasa, in Levubu, South Africa, the SSpS sisters are saying goodbye in order to be able to continue other works; that is part of the dynamics of missionary life.

The sisters who lived and worked in Levubu, held a farewell celebration to give thanks for the mission accomplished. Here they share this moment of farewell by recalling the history of the community.

Celebrating the Shared Missionary Service

There is a time for everything… a time to be welcomed into a community and a time to bid goodbye. As we say goodbye, we gratefully look back at our shared life and mission in Sibasa.

In 2003, the SSpS Sisters arrived, accepting the invitation of Bishop Hugh Slattery of Tzaneen, to administer to the needs of the people of Levubu.

Sr. Marita Kurian (photo above) was sent by the Regional Leadership Team to prepare the place. Initially she stayed with the family of catechist Joseph Nesthikhulwe. Fr. Philemon Thobela was the parish priest who warmly welcomed the sisters.

The Sisters, with the lay mission companions, entered deeper into the realities of the life of people. They started a clinic to attend to people living with HIV and Aids and the first service offered was Home-Based Care, pastoral work and counseling in the different communities of the Thohoyandou Parish.

Sr. Rose Birungi, SSpS, was the Chaplain at St. Joseph’s Clinic in Levubu. She prayed with the patients and counseled them daily.

 

Sr. Bernard Mary Kommattathil, SSpS, took care of the day to day running of the HIV/AIDS clinic in St. Joseph. She also counseled mothers on child care.

 

In response to the emergency HIV/AIDS situation, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of South Africa initiated the provision of Retroviral Treatment (ARV) for AIDS patients. The St. Joseph’s Community Center was one of the sites that offered ARV Treatment and the project was sponsored by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This ARV treatment served about 800 patients from 30 villages across the Vhembe, Limpopo District.

Unfortunately, the Clinic was closed on May 31, 2014. The sisters continued the mission with the care for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC Project), especially the children whose parents had died of AIDS. There was also a garden project which helped the patients and children significantly with the supply of vegetables and fruits.

Sr. Priscilla Tembo, SSpS, cared for orphans and vulnerable children at St. Joseph’s Community Center in Levubu, South Africa. She visited them regularly and also the children received food parcels from the project. (Photo taken in 2013)

 

On the 15th of January 2014, St. Arnold English Medium Pre-School was established where quality education was offered. This was one of the joyful mile stones of our efforts for the children.  The Sisters were involved with the youth, visiting the sick, attending Parish Pastoral Council meetings and reaching out to the outstations.

The children were provided with better facilities in the new building. They were given skill training and capacity building sessions by the sisters which included creation of handicrafts and art work, making the place more welcoming and beautiful.

Levubu community was officially closed on 02 April 2022 in a thanksgiving Holy Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Joao Rodrigues of Tzaneen Diocese and attended by all the sisters of the Region, some priests including our SVDs and our mission companions.

The mixed feelings of pain, sadness and gratitude filled our hearts as we bid farewell to the people we loved and served. We have a sense of satisfaction and immense gratitude as we look back to the fruits of the loving service of our Sisters who were assigned in Levubu.

Counting all God’s blessings and the fruits of the mission, we join the dance of the Trinity, in harmony, for all that has been and that will be for the people.

 

Prepared by: Sr. Bernard Mary Kommattathil, Sr. Catherine Obeng and Sr. Marita Kurian.

 

Why Close Levubu?

This is the first question that arises in the face of such significant missionary work. To understand the decision of the Sisters, it is important to know that the Region currently has only 13 sisters to serve 6 communities (now 5) distributed over 2 countries. Sr. Marichu Gacayan, the Regional Leader explains the reasons why the sisters decided to leave Levubu:

“Due to the long time problem of decreasing numbers of Sisters in the Region, the Congregational Leadership team requested us to discern how many communities we can maintain with the personnel we have and where our presence and service is most needed.

In our 7th Regional Chapter on September 2019, we unanimously agreed to close two communities:  one in Botswana (Kgale community- was closed on February 2020) and one in South Africa (Levubu community).”

Sr. Marichu also explained that was necessary to close the clinic because “the FEFAR Funding came to an end in May 2014 and the Sisters could no longer afford to pay the salaries of the staff, buy medicines for the patients, do the regular tests and other things that the patients would need.” However, the patients were transferred to the government hospital and clinics nearby. The sisters continued to cater for some seriously sick patients till May 2015 until it was sure they were taken care of from the government hospital.

To leave Levubu, the sisters tried to pass the preschool on to the diocese, but because of the financial situation and number of children, this was not possible. Fortunately, the Parish took over the OVC Project.